Romesh Ranganathan: 'I assumed that people would just know that I love and treasure my kids'
- Brian Donaldson
- 1 October 2019
As The Cynic's Mixtape tours the nation, we catch up with the comedian to find out more about the show, ongoing controversies and audience reactions
Former maths teacher Romesh Ranganathan is now a top-class act in British comedy. As The Cynic's Mixtape tours the nation, he discusses some reactions to his material about the environment, Michael Jackson, veganism, and his own children.
In your new show, you discuss the environment. How has that gone down?
I didn't realise how passionate people are about it to the point of being offended. I was doing a work-in-progress show in north London a few months ago, and in the middle of this routine that wasn't fully formed a woman said 'excuse me, I can't listen to you talking about this anymore: the environment is a very important issue and you're undermining it and making people think it's something to joke about when it's not.' She then got up and walked out. I think she thought other people would get up and leave with her, but no one did. There had been a lot more offensive things that I'd said up to that point, but there you go. People do get offended, but I found the confidence she had quite impressive. Impressive and sad at the same time.
You're a high-profile comedian who has always been upfront about your veganism. It's a hot subject at the moment with vegans the butt of many other comedians' jokes. Does that bug you?
People talk about saving the planet, and being vegan is one of the things that is highly recommended to achieve this. So I just don't understand why people don't like vegans and I tackle that a little bit. I'm trying to put it across without being sanctimonious because vegans get it in the neck from everybody: they hate us and think we're humourless and smug and I feel I have to do something about that. But I do get into trouble with vegans as well because you try to represent it in a humorous way and people who are maybe a bit more militant think that you're slightly taking the piss. But I think it needs that approach, because a day doesn't go by where one of my Facebook friends is making a crack about veganism.
You also tackle the ongoing controversy about Michael Jackson and those stark revelations in the Leaving Neverland documentary. Have you had any audience feedback on that routine?
After one of the previews, some people stayed behind to tell me they weren't very happy with what I said about Michael Jackson. They felt he's being unfairly persecuted after his death, and that it's an example of another black man being tarnished when we don't know the facts. And this is true but they don't know the facts either, and there's a difference between thinking definitely that he's innocent and just wanting him to be innocent. I can't say that speaking to them has softened what I say about Michael Jackson but it did make me think more about it.
Previously you've talked on stage about your children, and not always in the most flattering of ways. Any of that kind of stuff occurring in this show?
I have in the past talked about my children and assumed that people would know that I love and treasure my kids. But after things that people have said to me, I'm not sure that's the case, so in this show I try to clarify my position a little bit. When I was a teacher, one of the things I was told was that if the kids believe that you like them and want the very best for them, they will accept whatever punishment I'd give out to them. I think that's the same for comedians and the audience. So if the audience believe that you're coming from a good place and that your intentions are right and they trust you, then they won't believe that you're truly a horrible person. For me, it's a matter of playing with that line.
Romesh Ranganathan: The Cynic's Mixtape is on tour until Wednesday 20 May.