Like all Indian parents, Nish Kumar’s too nudged him to pursue a meaningful career. “They wanted me to become a lawyer. Most of my friends pursued law. And everyone who studies English or History ends up doing something in law,” says Kumar. But for London-based stand-up comic, who grew up on a diet of comedy shows such as Goodness Gracious Me and The Simpsons, and listening to Hollywood actor Chris Rock, it was different styles of comedy that won the argument.
In the UK comedy circuit for six years now, Kumar is known to look at the funnier side of racial discrimination and issues concerning ethnicity. On his maiden comedy road trip through India, as part of the third season of the RAW Comedy India with Teamwork Arts, Kumar will judge new talent and perform with a troupe of stand-up comedians — Dave Williams, Kate Mc Lenan, Ronny Cheing and Elbow Skin — from Australia, all of whom are regulars at the Melbourne International Comedy festival.
Much of Kumar’s material in the initial years came from his childhood in a predominantly south Asian community of Croydon, south London. His parents moved from Kerala in the ’70s and while his father shuttled between business in the UK and Bangalore, Kumar grew up amid a clash of cultures between his parents’ generation and his own. “My first comedy acts were to do with identity ethnicity and were autobiographical. I was interested in how Asians were growing up in the UK. People of my generation are first-generation Indians there and did not experience the same kind of struggle our parents did,” says Kumar.
Kumar relied on the stereotypes for his acts, such as “every Indian runs a curry shop and smells like curry” or “How Indians are like hardworking mules”. Once he was compared to a coconut, an inference to his brown complexion and being like a white man from the inside. “My jokes affirm that the world sees us in a flattering light whereas many other cultures have negative stereotypes. I celebrate Indianness through my jokes,” says Kumar, “I am in my head a lot of the time. I write notes obsessively,” he says.
Kumar has been regularly performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival since 2012. His set for the 2014 season titled Ruminations, for the Fringe Festival, looked at the idea of identity theft from the Internet. He is currently working on a “long term goal” for a solo production in India.
The RAW Comedy 2014 National Finals will be held today at Fat Lulu, Gurgaon, 8 pm onwards. Kumar will be performing on November 22 at Summer House Cafe, Hauz Khas,8 pm onwards. Tickets available at: http://www.bookmyshow.com