Ahead of his run at Soho Theatre, chirpy brain-box Nish Kumar conjures up his dream comedy night …
Curating the dream comedy line-up is a daunting task. I’ve not included myself in the list, but only because I’m trying to make you think I’m humble so you’ll come and see my show. If I’m honest my dream line-up would probably be just me in a series of wigs. It would be like Eddie Murphy in Norbit, but somehow even worse.
Anyway, this is the list.
Venue – Up the Creek or the Stand
There are many great clubs in the country ,but these two are great examples of what a good stand-up room needs to be. Low ceilings, and wide rather than deep. If you have both of these things in place then you’re up and running.
MC – Daniel Kitson
An obvious choice but the man is good. He’s probably the only person who can write plays that get put on at the National Theatre and who also regularly uses words like “fuck-knuckle” and “shit-boxed”. He’s like a foulmouthed Tom Stoppard.
Act 1 – Louis CK
Open big. He’s everyone’s hero but he was my hero first. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. My uncle insists that he was the first person in the UK to grow a goatee, and similarly I insist I was the first person to think Louis CK was THE BEST COMEDIAN EVER in this country. Admittedly I only heard of him because Daniel Simonsen showed him to me, but he’s from Norway so doesn’t count. Anyway, he is incredible and the only reason he’s not closing the gig is because we’ve managed to reincarnate Pryor in this fantasy world.
Act 2 – Paul Sinha
Paul embarrasses everyone in comedy. The received wisdom is that club audiences don’t want to see intelligent material and yet he does it all the time. I’ve no idea how he does it. Probably witchcraft. Either that or he’s a great writer who has evolved a methodology that allows him to explore complex subject matters without compromising on the number or quality of jokes. It’s probably better for me if I just pretend it’s witchcraft.
Act 3 – Maria Bamford
There’s so much going on in a Maria Bamford set. You get the feeling that, more than any other performer, the audience is being led directly into her brain. And it’s a scary and wonderful place. Watch her on John Oliver’s stand-up show explain world geography. It’s incredible. She’s so naturally funny, it’s impossible to imagine what she would have done apart from comedy. I like the idea that she would have been a primary school teacher, scaring the shit out generations of children.
Act 4 – Richard Pryor
Numero Uno. El Captain. Mr. Stand Up. The First Avenger. These are all nicknames I have for Richard Pryor in my head. He’s the most complete performer we’ve ever seen. There are times where he almost feels like a character comic, entirely embodying a wino or his own children. There was so much darkness in his personal life and he was unafraid of sharing that with audiences. That he was able to, and make it so funny, is testament to his skill. Just in case it wasn’t clear – I REALLY LIKE RICHARD PRYOR.
Not enough of these lists ever factor in the dream audience. They’re basically great people who put their phones on silent without being told, and have the requisite awareness to piss before the show starts rather than getting up repeatedly. They are also able to survive a whole hour of entertainment on one drink, or if their dependency is that severe, they plan ahead and buy five drinks before things get going and/or bring a hipflask. They don’t talk to each other, but they do laugh out loud and without shame. They never heckle because “it’ll help” or “that’s what happens in comedy”, but because something relevant has occurred to them and they almost don’t realise they’re saying it out loud, and are immediately. Those are always the best heckles.
Why not see if you’ve got what it takes to be a great audience member by coming and seeing my show at the Soho Theatre, January 12-17 2015. Actually, even if you don’t think you’ve got what it takes, come anyway. I just need the bums on seats.