From my front and centre seat, Nish Kumar came across as a most charming exemplification of a stereotype: the wild-eyed, frizzy-haired, shaky-fingered, hyper-caffeinated, frenetic, black-clad British genius, who must naturally be of immigrant background, too. He then opened with words that signal genius-of-the-Constitution-authoring-sort – like “preamble” – and chased this majestic utterance with an actual preamble. In his preamble, he proclaimed his awareness of and respect for the local (latte-sipping) lore. It’s a polite thing to do if you’re an international performer anywhere in the world, and if you’re a British performer, you want to know you’ve got the temperature right if you anticipate stirring the pot at Australia’s expense.
And the pot-stirring came indeed, a little while later.
Nish began his Hour Proper by contemplating that well-known fact in comedy circles, that there most comedians are left-wing, and there are no right-wing comedians. His argument for why that is the case was hilarious and also rather sensible (recall that he is a genius and will rub it in your face). I would suggest, however, that it suffers a tad from a Malcolm-Turnbull-impersonation-shaped puncture wound. Have I whetted your appetite now? Go see the show.
There were jokes about Monopoly, Will Smith, American Pie, successful and unsuccessful movie franchises, and yes, the origin of Australian Prime Ministers. Namely the latest two. Off came the gloves and louder still the laughs, but because comedians are left-wing and people who pay to see them also tend to be left-wing, there was still a very warm, fuzzy love-in feel at this point.
The riskiest and most striking bits were the ones about political correctness, a tough topic for anyone who benefits from it, and an especially tough topic to discuss rationally with anyone who feels threatened by it. Nish took a dig at the men’s rights movement with facts that sound funny on stage but are actually quite sad, and devoted a fair bit of time to examining the bizarre role of ethnic identity in debates about the future of that great English icon, 007 himself. The show reached a tense climax as he ranted about what can and can’t be said on stage, and whether political correctness risks taking all the funny out of comedy (Spoiler: Not in the slightest).
The show ended with Eureka musings about where the left has gone south, and what might be done about it. But make no mistake, there is nothing in this show that feels like a sermon, a guilt trip, or a call to arms. He’s just a funny, earnest, cultivated British guy my age who is smarter than you, and forgives you for it.