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24 October 2018

Romesh Ranganathan Q&A: “I’d only have my portrait done to ceremoniously burn it“

The comedian talks Justin Trudeau, smartphone addiction, and being an expert on Public Enemy.

By New Statesman

Romesh Ranganathan was born in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1978. Alongside stand-up, he is a regular on comedy panels and has two TV shows: “Just Another Immigrant”, about moving to LA, and the BBC travelogue “The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan”.

What’s your earliest memory?

Tickling my mum’s foot and her moving it and smashing me in the face. She nearly broke my nose, it was pouring blood.

Who is your hero?

My mum. She single-handedly raised me and my brother for a long time. I say she’s my hero, but I don’t call her enough. I don’t  treat her as a hero. I’m hoping this answer will stop her being annoyed with me.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Some of it I agreed with, some of it I didn’t. But it changed the way I look at race relations.

Which political figure do you look up to?

I like Justin Trudeau. He’s good-looking, so has no need to be good at his job. If you’re attractive, you’ve got no reason to develop a personality, but he’s managed to do that.

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Any time pre-smartphones. I’m an addict. Just this morning, my nine-year-old son told me I’m on my phone too much. The only way I’ll change is if I travel to a different time in which phones don’t exist.

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What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

The life and works of Public Enemy.

What TV show could you not live without?

Rick and Morty. I love it. It’s so good it’s depressing. I watch it, then think about my comedy career, and how crap I am.

Who would paint your portrait?

I want to see my face so little I barely use a mirror. I’d only have a portrait done to ceremoniously burn it afterwards. But if I had to choose, I’d pick my wife. I don’t think I’m attractive, and we keep arguing about it: she says I’m good-looking, but that’s because she’s trapped by a marriage and children. She can barely draw with the kids, but if she got the training, I’d like to see what she thinks my face looks like.

What’s your theme tune?

I’d like Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” to play every time I leave and re-enter a room. I’d feel like such a don.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

My dad told me not to worry too much about anything: nothing is make or break.

What’s currently bugging you?

Environmental issues. My wife is obsessed. It takes an hour to take the bins out, because we have to alphabetically sort it and do a prayer over each bit of rubbish. But we’ve done nothing about it for years, and now suddenly because my kids put their yoghurt pot in a different bin the world’s not gonna burn? I’m just not convinced.

What would make your life better?

A teleportation device. I do a travel show: I could instantly get there, film, pop back. But that might undermine the premise.

When were you happiest?

Right now, in this conversation. It’s also probably the saddest I’ve ever been.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I was a teacher before I was a comedian, and I would have happily carried on doing that.

Are we all doomed?

There’s no doubt about that. But there’s liberation in accepting it. We need to smile as we head towards the apocalypse.

Romesh Ranganathan’s memoir, “Straight Outta Crawley”, is published by Bantam Press

This article appears in the 24 Oct 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit crash