Nish Kumar on turning a bun into a comedy show
There can’t be too many comedy tours this year around a bun launch. At Nish Kumar’s Your power, your control features strongly this time he was the recipient of a baked goods launch at a charity concert. For a time he was an undisputed rising star of the UK stand-up scene with one excellent Edinburgh Fringe show after another and media appearances ranging from hosting Newsjack on radio and The Mash Report on TV, to appearances on everything from Question time (twice) for Sunday brunch (five times).
Eventually, it planted itself firmly near the top of the country’s comedy pile. That, of course, doesn’t mean Nish will be free to have non-admirers, one of whom saw fit to throw an oblong loaf in his general direction during an anti-Brexit routine he was delivering over lunch. Lord’s Taverners Christmas 2019. .
This flour-based outrage allows Nish to find plenty of humor in an already silly incident with his audience anticipating how it will all pan out (pan, of course, being almost the French word for bread). “I looked to my right and saw him rolling past me and I just had to say, ‘Did someone throw me a bun?’ There was a comedians table over there and I saw Tim Key’s face in the dark he was just nodding at me I think Chris Addison was arguing with the bread thrower but the identity of this person is not clear to me.
While Your power, your control, Nish places the bun incident in the context of his five worst gigs of all time, which also finds a place for one night on his Edinburgh Fringe debut in 2012 when a seat was taken in his venue. 50 places by a certain Victoria Wood. For all intents and purposes, not only was this national treasure not particularly rolling down the aisles, but she also looked extremely unhappy.
“It’s like your nightmare day,” Nish recalled with a grimace. “I saw her when I got on stage and in that room she was too famous for all the attention in the room not to be obsessed with her. I’m not in the pantheon of culture by any means British and she’s one of the most beloved comedians of all time, but if I go to a show and know I’m very visible, I definitely do my best to make sure I have the Looks like you’re having a good time.”
Nish is keen to point out at this point that Victoria Wood is among those whose work he has long adored and still fully respects her as a comedy icon. “If you look at Acorn Antiques, there’s something Garth Marenghi about it. But then you look at the dinner parties, and everyone – my parents, my grandparents – we all loved it. So obviously she having a bad time at my gig is a career low point for me.”
So far it seems that Your power, your control focuses on people who have not been admirers of Nish’s comedy, but the thousands of stand-up fans who will buy tickets for this tour will attest to the fact that his work is widely admired. His sharp political commentary and fierce intelligence are both combined with a solid sense of fun, which will be on full display in a routine where he rams a pointed, albeit metaphorical, stick straight down the throat of the national anthem.
It would be unfair to reveal exactly how this plays out except to say it’s the closest Nish to Stewart Lee’s confrontational tactic where a repeated phrase or gesture goes on long enough. “It gets longer every night [in his work-in-progress shows] because I’ve never had so much fun on stage. But I don’t have the stones or the iron will of Stewart Lee. This man has balls of steel and he would continue with that.”
And we should talk about Your power, your control as a title, a note of relative brevity from a man whose show names have so far included Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Unless You Shout The Words Really Loud and Long Word…Long Word…Blah Blah Blah.. I’m so smart.
“The never-ending title is my job, it’s my brand,” admits Nish. “I had longer titles in mind, but there was a light bulb moment where I thought ‘yes, that’s it.’ My therapist used the phrase when he said ‘you gotta focus on what’s in your power and under your control”, and I thought “that’s a good title for something”. The phrase appears throughout the entire series and I thought this would be nice to have a title from a phrase that appears in the series at some point. Power, corruption and lies would have been nice, but New Order had already taken that”
Your power, your control may not be pinned to a one-way street but it’s a title that will come with more than meaningful comedy. Clever, sharp and not afraid to be a little silly: this could be Nish Kumar’s ultimate mark.
Nish Kumar: your power, your control visits from February to May 2022. Info & tickets