Listening to Romesh Ranganathan rant about life’s little inconveniences (that in the first world equate to problems) is somewhat cathartic. And there’s a kind of joy to be had in his exposition of the frustrations and infuriations of the likes of Wagamama, Starbucks and android smartphone users. As with any good observational humour, it works because we relate to what he’s saying and his irritated cynicism works because it balances with an endearing warmth and vulnerability. This is particularly noticeable in his relentless criticism of his family – his mother (now somewhat of a star in her own right, following her appearances in Ranganathan’s TV programme Asian Provocateur) and second “feral” child take the biggest hits, but it’s so well underpinned with love and fondness, it gives room for hilariously brutal honesty while in no way alienating the audience. In fact, it does the very opposite, bringing added dimensions to his material. Ranganathan doesn’t limit his disdain to external influences either, much of it is self directed and self deprecating.
There’s a good mix of pre-written material and forays into audience participation, the latter proving him quick thinking and sharp. As an ex-teacher, he takes no nonsense, shutting down hecklers with a pedagogical authority, honing in on comments shouted from even the furthest end of this large audience, like a teacher honing in on whispers at the back of a classroom. The topics aren’t limited to the banal or flippant either. His observations on homophobia are astute, as he reflects on how film and TV subtly condition viewers: extreme violence and speaking animals are both prolific on screen, whereas the comparatively few same sex relationships send a distorted message that the former are more “normal” than the latter. It’s a very good point and he makes it well.
Romesh may joke that his TV success is a result of BBC race and disability quotas, but his performance shows this just isn’t the case. Both on screen and here on stage, he proves to be an undeniably and reliably funny, original comic. There are moments of his material that aren’t quite as riveting as others, but they are few, as Irrational is well constructed and packed with laughs, from a comedian who certainly deserves his increasing ubiquity in the comedy world.