Nish Kumar: 'Brexit secretaries are like Spinal Tap drummers'
- Brian Donaldson
- 13 August 2019
Comedian discusses feeling ambivalent about his status as a political commentator, helping people laugh away their anxiety and his potential next move
Alongside the rest of the country, it's fair to say that Nish Kumar is pretty fed up talking about Brexit. Though in his case, the main reason that discussing the B word with It's in Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves has got him down is the lack of rewriting he had to do over the show's year-long tour.
'People kept saying to me that I'd have to rewrite it heavily, but there have only been superficial changes over the course of the year,' he states, ahead of the show's final dates which will be performed where it all started a year ago, at the Fringe. 'There's been a bit of shuffling of the pack, but beyond that, fuck all has changed. Theresa May is no longer prime minister while the Brexit secretaries are like Spinal Tap drummers: I don't even learn the names of new ones because there's no point. Fundamentally we have not progressed with Brexit.'
It might seem like a world away now, but Kumar arrived on the Fringe with shows that explored issues of identity and social mores in the UK, but which also dipped into his often awkward relationship with pop culture. There was the story of how he inadvertently went to see the sex-addict movie Shame with his dad or the one where he made a fool of himself at a David Bowie gig. The issue of Brexit, though, focused his mind firmly on political matters.
'I've always been politically engaged, but I struggled to make that fully work. It was always easier to explore issues of race through personal stories, but the politics started to creep in because I felt I finally had an angle on it, and it has slowly taken over the show.' With his activity on Twitter often marked with a political highlighter and being the host of BBC satirical show The Mash Report (due to return in September), the inevitable invitations to appear on Question Time rolled in.
'Things have certainly taken a turn on that front because I don't think I ever thought I would have done Question Time. In the live show, you'll see that I have a deep ambivalence about my current status as political commentator. I'm doing all this with some discomfort. Which is probably fine because if I was in a situation where I genuinely thought I deserved to be on Question Time, then I'd be a psychopath.'
Even the material of It's in Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves that isn't directly political still questions underlying societal structures, and movements that challenge the establishment. #MeToo crops up with a withering attack on public figures, particularly comedians such as Louis CK, who Kumar can't help but feel let down by. 'Obviously, it's not been a great period of time for male comedians, and there's a profound disappointment that you feel when you've admired someone who turns out to be a piece of shit,' he notes. 'There are more and more women in comedy at all levels and that emboldens people to speak out, and hopefully #MeToo and Time's Up are positive things by creating a climate in which people can report incidents of assault or inappropriate behaviour. You have to believe that this is a turn for the better.'
As Kumar prepares to perform It's in Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves for the final time, he's set to take stock on what he does next in stand-up. 'After a solid year, I'm not really thinking about the next one because I go straight into The Mash Report. I love doing stand-up and I can't envisage a time when I don't do it. Regardless of what else I'm doing, there's something a bit freeing doing stand-up. I would love the next show to be all about something like … crisps.'
Nish Kumar: It's in Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves, Assembly George Square, 19–25 Aug, 9pm, £16–£18 (£15–£17).