'Comedy in Liverpool should be hard': Nish Kumar shares disbelief after seismic moment in the city

Nish Kumar's new tour show will arrive at the Liverpool Playhouse in October
-Credit: (Image: Matt Stronge)

Nish Kumar knows doing comedy in Liverpool is supposed to be difficult.

The Scouse sense of humour is renowned across the world and it takes a higher class of comic to prove they should be the one telling jokes on a stage in the city. However, Nish has developed into more than a traditional stand up as he uses his satirical material to scathingly takedown the right wing of UK politics.

The 38-year-old is bringing his new show, Don't Kill My Vibe, to the Playhouse on October 4 and he told the ECHO in an exclusive interview how his political views have always found a natural home with a Liverpool crowd. He said: "You tell me if I go down well in a city that refuses to buy the S*n.

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"What's funny is that people traditionally say it is hard to do comedy in Liverpool and Glasgow, but not for me. It's enjoyable for me to do comedy in a city that is populated by left wing agitators, with a certain political ethos coded into its DNA.

"Liverpool has always been a good place for me. The history of the city, the vibe of the place, it's always been fun."

The stand-up did not start out as a political comedian but knew he always wanted to use his material to tackle more serious subject matter. He has now become one of the most prominent satirists in comedy and the Pod Save the UK host joked how he wished his new tour would contain some lighter material.

He said: "I seem to be addicted to trying to write comedy out of the least funny subject matters possible. The set list often looks like a catalogue of horror.

"When you hear bullet points of what the show is, there's always half a moment when you go, couldn't you have written something funny about sinks?"

Politics is certainly something that will be on the agenda in the upcoming tour and Nish admitted it can be challenging to write satire in a political landscape that has become increasingly more ridiculous over recent years. He said: "You definitely have to add value. There's no point in repeating something said that was deliberately absurd.

"Part of the job is justifying why you're talking about this and why people shouldn't just watch a YouTube video. You have to offer a perspective."

The political landscape could be completely different by the time Nish arrives in Liverpool as current polls suggest the Conservative government will be voted out of power in July's general election. However, the comic has no problem with how this could impact his material as he said: "I couldn't give a f**k about my tour, I'll work around it.

"At this point, I think regardless of your political affiliation, you can see that this government has ground to a halt. They can't legislate to intervene in people's lives, which badly need government intervention. People are really struggling.

"The amount of people with jobs who now need food banks has been skyrocketing and it should be a source of deep national shame. It's a political choice where the tax burden falls and, at the moment, the tax burden is actually falling on people who can't necessarily pay for it.

"There needs to be more weight put on the broadest shoulders in society. These are all things the government could be doing. But, at the moment, Rishi Sunak has no real authority in his party so he's not able to do anything.

"We're just in this holding period of stasis and there needs to be a general election to turf these people out. I would happily take a general election tomorrow and then write more material, it's easy for me to do that."

It's passionate rally cries like this that have meant Nish's voice has cut through, created headlines and sparked discussion on a wider scale. However, the former Mash Report host laughed that his opinions having such an impact points to more fundamental failures elsewhere.

He said: "I always feel if my voice is contributing to the national discourse then that is more a failure of the national discourse because something should have prevented that." He added: "I don't think I've said anything that is particularly contentious or controversial. But I do also understand that sometimes offence is a bi-product of what you do.

"How you respond to that offence is really what gives you its currency. If you're criticised for something, and you feel stung by it, maybe there's a part of you that agrees with that criticism and that's something you have to think about and decide if you want to change your behaviour or material.

"And then there are other people who you upset and think 'well, I'm pleased you don't like me because I actually don't respect you.' I think I would feel sad if you liked what I did."

Nish's stand up has meant he has fostered his own audience across the UK, which he said ranges from "teenagers with dyed hair to men in their 60s still angry about Margaret Thatcher". The stand-up is particularly grateful for how his work continues to reach the next generation of comedy fan as he said: "One of the most familiar things to me is a 13-year-old in the front row looking delighted and, either side of them, their parents are thinking 'he did not speak like this on Taskmaster'.

"That is such a cornerstone of my touring career. The child sat between the confused and disturbed looking parents. I was a kid that dragged my parents to see comedy shows because I wasn't able to get in on my own so I know those kids and I'm never worried about them. I was one of them and I understand them."

However, it was talking to one of his young fans after a show in Liverpool when Nish realised he was entering the next generation of his life as he said: "I was talking to this person and she spoke about graduating university. I was like 'what' because I assumed I was talking to a child.

"I truly thought I was talking to a 15-year-old and this person was actually 22. It was a seismic moment for me because it made me realise I had hit a certain age when just anyone under 23 looks 12.

"There's a point you get to when you're like, 'if they're under 25, they are all just one homogenous blob'." However, Nish is looking forward to following in the footsteps of his comedy icon, Richard Pryor, and seeing how his act evolves with age as he enters the next chapter.

He said: "It would be a strange thing if my material is the same from when I was 22. I also don't think you can be doing a show in a theatre and be talking about how hard it is to be broke.

"People can do maths and know what ticket price they paid so they're like, 'if this guy is broke, then it's completely his fault'. So I think it's by necessity that the material changes."

Although Nish may be getting older and his material may be updating, he envisions his core group of fans will be one thing that always stays the same. He laughed: "Nerds will be nerds, man."

He added: "Comedy nerds are a specific group of people. They come from all different backgrounds but share an interest in comedy and that is the people who I speak to."

Nish Kumar: Don't Kill My Vibe arrives at the Liverpool Playhouse on October 4. You can find details of how to get tickets here

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