Nish Kumar: preaching to the converted

Tom Slater
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After 10 years on the circuit, stand-up Nish Kumar is on the cusp of bursting into the big time. He’s a firm Fringe favourite this year, playing to sold-out crowds, lining up extra shows and getting rave reviews. But there’s one person who’s not so pleased with his progress: his mum. At the beginning of Long Word… Long Word… Blah Blah Blah… I’m so Clever he recounts a conversation with her in which she accused him of being a ‘left-wing comedian’ who only preaches to the converted. Over the course of this accomplished hour he more or less proves her right.

He stays on the liberal-left script throughout – attacking the privatisation of the NHS and the railways before launching into a routine on the role of Monopoly in indoctrinating kids into the ways of capitalism. Kumar’s a skilled comedian, combining pitch-perfect punchlines with an affable charm, but his political material can come off strangely staid and banal. This is political comedy with a small-p – full of statistics, factoids and riffs on PFI contracts.

Kumar is still a whipsmart observer. The way he sends up the emotionalism of the modern left is spot on. And a routine on why comedy is left-wing, and that’s no bad thing, is similarly hilarious and insightful. ‘I wouldn’t want to see a left-wing action film’, he says, explaining that, while Guardian readers have comedy, there’s plenty of culture to go around.

What Tory voters or Kumar’s mum might think of his politics is ultimately irrelevant. His job is to make us laugh, not sign us up to the Labour Party. And, in those stakes, he hits far more than he misses.

Tom Slater is assistant editor at spiked.

Nish Kumar: Long Word… Long Word… Blah Blah Blah… I’m so Clever is at the Pleasance Courtyard until 30 August.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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