Why Nish Kumar doesn't mind being booed: I'm a comedian – worse things have happened to me
Nish Kumar will be recapping the headlines as his satirical and surreal news show The Mash Report returns to BBC Two on Friday for a fourth season. The comic talks to us about making the hit, and how coronavirus might affect it
THERE'S a video clip of Nish Kumar on Twitter, strumming a guitar and singing a few chords of Bob Dylan's Tangled Up In Blue, but when asked about it, the comedian wants to make one thing clear: this is no attempt to launch a music career on the side.
Not that he needs to – the 34-year-old has enough on his plate, first and foremost the upcoming fourth series of the hit BBC Two satirical news show The Mash Report, which he fronts. The series, which returns on April 3, sees Kumar joined by other comedians who lampoon the week's news headlines.
We spoke on the phone about the upcoming series in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic – before it was confirmed the show would not have a live audience – but even then, Kumar was realistic about that possibility.
"My entire career has been building up to a TV show in front of a sparse studio audience," he joked.
The BBC has also since announced that filming of EastEnders and several other dramas had stopped.
The upcoming series of The Mash Report will see the cast filming themselves at home. Kumar will be joined virtually by guests including Rachel Parris, Geoff Norcott, Ellie Taylor, Catherine Bohart, Desiree Burch, and Ahir Shah.
The Mash Report has cultivated a loyal following and clips such as Parris's sketch titled 'How NOT to sexually harass someone' became viral hits, so far amassing an impressive 1.5 million YouTube views.
Kumar's take on why the series has been a hit with viewers is in part down to, he says, the need for people to have a laugh during dark times.
"I would say that there's been a space for this for a few years; there's certainly an audience for it," he said.
"I think also in the last few years, the pace of change and the intense – at times weirdness – of current events... I think there's an appetite to see people talk in a funny way about things that happen in the news, just because it's been so chaotic the last few years. There's definitely an appetite for people to watch something that engages with current events in a less serious way."
Off the screen, Kumar made headlines when he had bread thrown at him and was booed off stage last year after making a political joke at a charity cricket lunch. The event's organisers issued a statement after the incident, saying they do not "endorse the reaction of a minority of audience members".
For Kumar, the incident was "part of the job of being a stand-up".
"I'm entitled to express my opinion and they're entitled to express their opinion about my opinion," he told me. "I don't really have a problem with people booing me, because I've got my right to my opinion, they've got their rights to their opinion about my opinion.
"I think the guy that chucked the bread roll probably needs to be on an anger management course because I just think anytime as an adult you're flinging bread at someone, you've taken leave of your senses."
The baffling element for him, he said, was the intense media interest over the incident, which he called to as a "storm in a tea cup".
"I found that element of it absolutely baffling. But certainly the actual booing itself, as mad as it sounds, I don't really have a problem with it. I'm a comedian – worse things have happened to me."
Like having to watch himself back on TV, for example.
Apart from hosting The Mash Report since 2017, the London TV and radio star has also appeared on TV shows including Taskmaster and Netflix's Comedians Of The World, but it took him a while to get to the point where he could watch himself in the name of work.
"For a long time when I started doing TV stuff, I refused to watch myself because it's an awful experience," he said.
"Unfortunately, in my experience, the only way to improve is by watching what you've done and trying to build on it and it definitely helped. It's an excruciating process to watch yourself on television, but it is very helpful."
The freedom to be more risque than other shows with how it tackles news events is an "exciting opportunity", he said.
"It's definitely exciting to get things across because sometimes people are more receptive to listening to things if they're presented in a funny and entertaining way. So you definitely understand that there's an element to which you are able to get things across that people might not otherwise want to listen to – as long as you can package them up in an interesting and entertaining way."
:: The Mash Report returns to BBC Two on Friday April 3.