Nish Kumar – Edinburgh Festival review

A sunny, funny hour from Nish Kumar that strongly suggests a bright future

Nish_Kumar2There are so many ways to snazz up a comedy show, as the thousands of flyers will attest. You can wear a costume, you can sing a song, you can have a game show, you can make lots of Blue Peter props, you can wear a hat. Nish Kumar does none of these things.

However in an uninspiring box room lurking at the back of Underbelly’s Bristo Square Pasture (or whatever the hell it’s called), once a day in all-black suit and tie, Kumar is putting on a cracking show.

Who Is Nish Kumar?, as the name suggests, is the traditional autobiographical debut show, and he spends most of the time slagging himself off for being an unsuccessful comic, a former teacher’s pet, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanatic still, having an irritating voice (not 100% untrue) and being hopeless with girls. Again, this is the sort of stuff you can find anywhere, but quite simply Kumar has the comedy chops few others have, to turn this into laughter.

Everyone loves Kumar, that’s part of the reason why. He’s got bundles of charm and more than enough top-quality lines, scattered liberally among his set, to make this an hour that flies by. Stand-out routines include watching films with his dad and the non-racially motivated fight he gets into. He’s also one of the finest MCs around, and he takes his opportunities to display this with some extremely quick wit when interrupted. When a fleeting intruder interrupted at the killer point in the run-up to his final gag, he swatted the problem away with tremendous skill. 99% of comics would have ended up finishing on an anti-climax, but he turned it to his advantage.

A few minor grumbles – the number of “erms” in the first ten minutes was not exactly pro, and he has a tendency to over-emphasise, almost bellowing a punchline, when his material and the goodwill in the room is robust enough to do the heavy lifting. His closing thoughts about his identity as a British-Asian were very interesting and there’s room at the inn for more of this. A bit more engagement of the brain, and looking outwards as well as inwards, will take Kumar higher. He’s an incredibly intelligent chap, so perhaps he’s wary of alienating people and wants to keep things light.

But these are all minor adjustments. It’s about as ground-breaking as a Bran Flake, but it doesn’t matter, Kumar’s got a sunny, funny hour and an even brighter future ahead.

4 stars

Who Is Nish Kumar? is on at the Underbelly Pasture at 8.20pm

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