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Please welcome Rommusch Ranganathan, his one and the most popular standards around. I'm hosting this, bitch! I think that all comedians are wide slightly different, though. Something happened to them that has made them an outsider in some way. What is that for you? We lived in a nice house, we had a nice car. All the stereotypical things that you mark success with, then a period of six months, it was a complete 180. What was the catalyst for that 180? Well... Shut up, mate! I'm addicted to doing stand-up, and it makes me better at everything. But I've got this inner voice that is horrific. It will say you're not a very good dad, you're not a very good husband. I had one of about six panel shows, and I was in a really bad place, and I turned up to each one of them with the steadfast belief that I was shit at this. What happens when it does go horrifically on this day? It's horrible, man. That's silence! That never gets easier, man. But you learn more from those gigs. I just need to do the best I possibly can at this gig. I'm not in control of anything that happens after that. Don't think about this goal down the line that you're trying to get to. Do this thing brilliantly. If you love what you do, then you do that. You're in a good path. This is such a right time, but... I've got an absolute stitch up. Are you joking? We're having such a nice time. Hello, everybody. Thank you for tuning in to watch this episode. Honestly, an incredible episode, but I have to say thank you before we begin. Because we've hit a million subscribers on this channel now, and it's almost unthinkable. I can't... I'm speaking for our entire team here when I say it's genuinely, genuinely unthinkable. Biggest privilege of my life to get to do this means the world that you guys tune in every week to listen to these episodes. So I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you to all of our subscribers. Roughly 65% of you that watch this channel now subscribe to the channel, which is amazing. If you haven't yet subscribed, could you please do me a little bit of a favor? I can't tell you how much it helps this channel and how much it's helped us to pull in amazing, amazing guests and to expand everything within our operations and how it's also going to help us enable the year that's to come and all the plans we have. Some huge plans which I'm going to be bringing to you very shortly. But if you can just do me the one favor and hit that subscribe button, it will be tremendously appreciated by myself and all of our team here. Really, really hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you for being here. Thank you for helping us reach this huge milestone of a million subscribers. Let's get on with it. I'm so fascinated by comedians because I find it to be an art form that is both genius and terrifying.
Personal Background And Journey To Comedy
So for someone to want to pursue that career, I'm always intrigued by like, why? So can you give me the context that you think from your earliest years might have influenced you taking that path if we go before you're even 10? Well, I did stand up comedy when I was eight, you know, for the first time. Well, I mean, the truth is I fell into stand up by accident. But when I was a kid, I, we used to go to this, my mom and daddy's Texas video store and they'd go, "You can choose something each and we'll all watch it together or whatever." And my mom always used to pick like pink, she loved like Inspector Clucer and like Peter Sellers and all that. So she'd choose all that stuff. And then I discovered Eddie Murphy. I remember like getting out Beverly Hills Cop and I watched Beverly Hills Cop and I was just like, "This guy is like so incredible." And then I started watching everything, Golden Child, Trading Places, all of that. As a kid, I was too young to be watching that stuff and my mom and dad had no idea about age rating. So they were fine with it. And then I discovered Raw, which was like his second special that came out, I think. And I remember watching that. And I'd had watched stand up before on TV, like British stand up. I'd watched a lot of it as a kid and loved it. There was something about watching a guy and he just had a microphone. And he walks out in that leather suit, and not that I'd ever worn a leather suit or ever will, but he walks out like it's a rock gig. I mean like the whole crowd, like this massive crowd, they go nuts and they watch a show of somebody just talking. I just found it unbelievable. Like the low finest of it. The sort of thing of, "I'm going to say things I think will my take on stuff." And that's the show. There is no more than this. But for me, there's no effects. It is just literally, "I am going to just stream of consciousness." The illusion is it's stream of consciousness. I'm just going to like talk. And you're going to, and that's the show. I just found it incredible. And so then we went, my family took me to a punter and a holiday camp, me and my brother for a week. And they had a talent competition. And all I used to do then was read joke books. Everything I read was like 3,001 jokes. Like joke books for kids. That was all I would read all the time. Just joke. Because of Eddie Murphy. I think so. I mean I was just really into comedy. I just loved it. I loved the idea of making people laugh. I loved the idea of doing comedy. I was just so obsessed with it. And so then I entered the talent competition as a stand up. It was horrendous. But I won. I beat this kid playing a kazoo and there was another kid doing a dance thing. And I really loved it. I absolutely smashed it. But like even then I really loved, I like a stand up. But the idea that I would do that for a career. As somebody from like an Asian background or whatever, you know, like my parents are very much like, "You're going to, you know, we've come over to this country for you to follow a path and be successful." The idea of doing stand up as a career was not, we just wasn't ever in there. That stereotype of immigrant Asian parents trying to make you a doctor or a lawyer. Yeah. Was that, did you witness that first hand from your parents as in, did they have that conversation with you at any point? Or was it just kind of there in the background as an expectation? They didn't explicitly say you're going to be, I mean, my dad was pretty laid back to be on a severe. My mum was a bit more, was a bit more kind of dead set on what we were going to do. But, you know, there was, my mum and dad, my mum and dad left Sri Lanka for my dad to finish his studies. You know, it was an economic reason. But also there was trouble going on in Sri Lanka, you know, like my family originally Tamil. There was lots of trouble going on with the Singles and the Indian government and there's like a civil war going on. And that was affecting a lot of my family members as well. So there's like a lot of push and pull involved in them coming over here. But they never sat me down and had a talk. But every single time I made a decision or talked about what A levels I was going to do or anything like that, I was conscious of the fact that they were really worried about what I was going to do. You know, for example, not going to university was not an option for me. You know what I mean? Really? I mean, unless I really decided to rebel. But they just assumed I was going to educate myself to whatever level and then go off and follow this path of being a successful whatever. So yeah, that's kind of it was kind of I felt it, do you know what I mean? But they never had an explicit chat, but I did feel it. When I was reading through your story and going through the notes on your autobiography, it kind of I really could relate to your childhood in many ways because it seemed like your childhood had very distinct opposing chapters.
Your dad’s prison years (07:19)
Right. One might say and from came I came to the country when I was a kid from Botswana and the first chapter was great. Right. But that's the chapter I honestly can't remember. Yeah, because I was below the age of 10 my siblings can remember it with great great detail, but I can't remember that chapter. I'm told about it. I'm told about the presence and everything kind of being normal. And then the second chapter, which I can remember vividly because I was slightly older, is when kind of chaos ensued. Yeah. Everything seemed to fall apart. What was that first chapter for you like? To be honest with you, it's very similar to what you're talking about. I remember being very comfortable and I remember my dad, you know, all the stereotypical kind of things that you mark success with. My dad wore a suit to work. We had a nice car. We never really wanted for anything. We lived in a nice house. The people that my family were like had a big social circle. They were, you know, all of those like external signifiers, that was all happening. So like my kind of recollection, my, to be honest with you, my recollection was being spoiled. Like I had just loads of stuff. Do you know what I mean? Like my mom and dad bought us loads of stuff, but they, we'd go out to eat a lot. You know, my dad was doing well. He's doing really well. Do you know what I mean? And so, yeah, similar to you, I don't have vivid memories of it, but I do have a general memory. I have a general memory of like, you know, if I asked for a thing for Christmas, it was pretty, it was pretty likely I was going to get it. I mean, for the first eight years or so. So it's really super comfortable, you know what I mean? And then it literally was, I would say over the period of six months, everything got completely turned up so I'd done. It was like, it was just a complete 180. What was the catalyst for that 180? Sort of unbeknownst to me, my dad was kind of, was not doing great at work. He was starting trying to do other, he was sort of messing around. What do I mean by messing around? Like, he was just a bit of a loose cannon. I mean, I think it got, got to his head a little bit. He drank a lot. He was a bit of a womanizer. And that was starting to get noticed at his work. And then he started having ideas of like going off and doing other things. He ended up getting, I think he got fired from his job. And then he started trying to do these kind of import export deals, which at the time we thought, oh, that's my dad's new path. But as it turns out, was illegal. But like he, basically we ended up getting out. The first thing I had was that my mum said we're going to have to move out of this house. This house is being repossessed, right? So my mum and dad couldn't keep up their mortgage repayments. And then we ended up moving to this house on this council estate that my dad had got off a friend or was renting off a friend. We were there for a little bit. And then while we were at that house, my mum found out that my dad had been sort of sleeping, regularly sleeping and started a relationship with this other woman. And was intending on leaving us and like leaving us to go and start a life with this other woman. And so that threw my mum's kind of world upside down. And then basically the sort of trigger for everything going really kind of mad was we hadn't seen my dad for a couple of days. And my mum said, I'm going to, it was a mad, I can't remember how old it was, maybe like 11 or 12 or something. My mum said, I'm going to take you to this woman's house and I need you to go to the door and ask where your dad is because I've not seen him for two days and I've not heard from him. So she took me round to this house. We went to the door and I said, where's my dad? And she said your dad was arrested two days ago. And it turned out that they'd been in the middle of doing some sort of deal or something and they were the target of some sort of police investigation in Leicester, the police stormed in or stormed in and arrested them and my dad was being held. They ended up going to prison for, he was sentenced to two years. So then everything kind of went, it sort of went to chaos. My dad was in prison. We ended up being housed in a bed and breakfast by the council because they didn't have enough housing. So my mum, my brother and I were staying in a room in this bed and breakfast in Haulo. And my mum had not been working, she got herself a job as a cleaner and then we were going to school from there. It made me like, it was just like everything completely flipped, man. And so it was kind of, yeah, it was just a complete 180, you know what I mean? The start of that 180, your dad was an accountant, right? Yeah. And then he'd lost his job. Yeah. And then he'd cheated on your mum. Yeah. Gone into sort of financial disarray, ended up in prison. Yeah. In the process of what, six months or something? Well, the house got repossessed, we found out about, I think that sort of appeared from start to finish maybe 12 to 18 months I think. And at that point, at the start of that, you were in private school, right? Yeah. Yeah. So I'd got a scholarship. I'd done this, I was at school and then what I didn't realise is that my mum and dad were struggling to pay. My dad had lost his job and was trying to make his way in other ways and was struggling to pay for the fees. And so the first I realised about it was like accountants from the school were turning up to my lessons with like an invoice going for you. Yeah. To pass on to my parents because my mum and dad were in such a ruse. And then eventually I got one day I came home from school and dad said to me, "You can't, you know, going back tomorrow. Like, we've got to take you off in something midway through, through term." He said, "You can't go back because he was just getting freaked out." Because he was in such a ruse, he was worried about what would happen even if I turned up. You know, just not that they were going to do anything to me, but I think it got to the point where he just had to take me out. You couldn't see a way of paying the money anymore. So then like two days later, I was like enrolled at the local school. Did you say a buy to anybody's school? No. I mean, there was a mate of mine that I'm still in touch with now who I kind of let know what was going on or whatever. But nobody else. Like one day I was there, one day I wasn't. When I look back on my own life, it's taken me maybe like 30 years to realise like the underlying shame. And so when I was looking through your story, I was trying to understand if there was that same feeling of kind of underlying shame.
Were you ashamed of your family? (14:08)
Well, like to give you an idea. So I started at the state school and I really enjoyed it. And I had a slightly opposite experience to you in terms of like when I was at the private school, I was one of the only Asian kids there and I got loads of like, I got a fair bit of racism. And then when I moved to the state school, there were more kids of colour at that school. I still got, I mean, I got into my fair share of scrapes with racists, but like that's good. It's a weird thing. I was really enjoying my time at school and it was actually a respite from being at home because like when I went home, it was just like everything's gone to shit. My mum's really sad. Like, and obviously I wanted to support her in that, but school felt normal. I didn't tell anybody at school what was going on at home, right? So I'd go to school and for all they know, like everything's like totally chill. And to get, like some my dad went to prison on the 26th of March, my birthday's on the 27th of March, right? And I went to my mates, my mates organised like a little like get together, watching films and stuff. I didn't tell them any, I didn't tell them. I didn't tell them because I was just like, I don't want anybody to know about this. So I talked to the, like to this birthday get together the day after because I didn't want to pollute my school experience with that. Do you know what I mean? Absolutely. So I just didn't tell anybody. And like I had really embarrassing experiences where when we moved out the bed and breakfast, we were putting this flat and there's no phone in the flat. There was a payphone downstairs. But I didn't want my friends to know that I, it was a payphone. So I had to like make them promise me they were going to call me exactly this time and then stand by the payphone so that nobody from any one of the other flaps was going to answer it. Do you know what I mean? So stupid. But I was just so wanting to nobody to know what was going on. There's a cost to that there, isn't there? Do you know what I mean? Like that kind of living with the sense of embarrassment almost. Yeah, I guess like there's lots of little things that there is a stress at trying to live a double life. You know, things that would normally be okay, you suddenly panic over. So for example, there was a girl I liked and we were like, we were living on this couch that we were putting in a house, we couldn't have thought carpet. So it was just we just had wooden, like just the wooden floors in there. I think it was fine, but just no carpets. It looked strange. I mean, we're walking around the estate and then this girl that I liked said, "Oh, do you mind if I come in and use a toilet?" I mean... I really had a panic attack. I said, "You can't..." I said, "I don't know if you're thinking like, what do I do here?" I can't say no, you can't use it. I started thinking, what can I say when mom doesn't like girls using the toilet in my house? Like, what can I possibly say? In the end, I said, I think I said we're between carpets. You know how it works? You get the carpets taken out, you just wait for a couple of weeks for the floors to settle and you get the new carpet. I'm thinking. That's actually really quick thinking. But yeah, all that kind of stuff is just so stressful. You described yourself as a lazy kid. Yeah, I really was, yeah. You're not now. You're not a lazy person now, so...
Being a lazy kid (17:41)
I still do think I'm quite lazy. I just was like, all of my school reports said Romish is wasting his ability. Romish doesn't apply himself. Romish doesn't. And that was true before everything. Not to the same degree, but it was sort of true before everything kind of went topsy-turvy, but it was definitely true afterwards. You know, a lot of teachers say to me, you're not applying yourself at all. But I sort of think for a while I went through a phase of just having given up to Vanessa. Because it's sort of gone so... to my mind, my world had been turned upside down so completely. I couldn't really see the point. And I just sort of... I just wanted to have a nice time. I wanted to enjoy myself and that meant not working. Initially it did not give me... You know when you're talking about when you wrote down your list of targets, it sort of had the opposite effect. I just thought I don't give a shit anymore. I've seen my dad work really hard. You know, I didn't know the full details of what he'd done. You know, all of that sort of stuff came out in the wash. But at the time I think, "I've watched a man work really hard." And then he ended up in prison. He splatted with my mum. I mean, they got back together eventually. It was terrible. And I actually went through a phase of thinking... I know that... I went through a phase of thinking that we were just cursed. Because like so many things, so many bad things happened in quick succession. I actually went through a phase as a kid of thinking that happiness is something that will always elude me. Or like I will never be comfortable. You know, this is just what we're supposed to be. You know, like my parents are Hindu. They talk about God a lot in our house. And so suddenly just go, "Maybe God just doesn't like us man." You know, I genuinely had that genuine belief that like, "Maybe this is just how it's supposed to be." So it kind of pushed me the other way. I stopped working. I started bunking off. I just wasn't in the zone at all. What was your opinion of yourself during that time? It's a great question because to be honest with you, what my opinion of myself is now is something I really struggle with.
What did you think of yourself? (19:44)
And I've never thought about the origins of that. But... The truth is... I think when I've come to reflect on it after that, and I remember thinking this at the time, I remember thinking, I don't know what I would have ended up like if we just stayed comfortable. You know, I don't know what person I would have been if I'd have stayed comfortable. And I'm telling you now, if that hadn't have happened to us, I wouldn't be a comedian now. I wouldn't be the person I am now. Like there's so many things that defined who I am. I was so much of me has been defined by that period. But what I would say is my opinion of myself was and continues to be something I really struggle with in terms of it being absolutely like rock bottom. You know, like you just... I just have... I have a prick living in my head that talks to me all the time. Do you know what I mean? And so... And that is something that to this day, as I'm sitting with you now, I have to contend with. I mean, I've got like this inner voice that is horrific. You know, it's like a horrible, horrible person that I've got like, you know, this horrible voice in my head that just like, regardless of whatever external evidence there is or whatever, whatever else happens, I will always have this kind of this inner belief that I'm sort of a bit shitty. Do you know what I mean? Like, I'm not... I can't do this or I'm not good at this or you're getting away with this or whatever. Imposter syndrome, I guess, is an oversimplified way of describing it. But yeah, it's something I've sort of had to do with, something I've dealt with for as long as I can remember really. I've got really... I've got chills all over my body then and I don't really know. Do you know what it is? It's because it really breaks my heart to hear that.
Dealing with a voice in my head (21:55)
Right. Yeah, it genuinely does like, and also I think people don't understand the privilege that they have if they don't have that in their head. Right, yeah. Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, it's such a difficult thing because... Because if you don't have that, you don't understand why somebody would have that. What are you talking about? You snap out of it. Do you know what I mean? Look at your life and go, "I'll test for comedian." Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm 100% you sort of go... And it's not that I'm unhappy with my lot. It's not that I want anything... It's nothing external. I don't need anything external to change. I just have that. You just have that. I've just always mentally had that. And yeah, like what you just said I totally relate to because sometimes I've not... You don't tell people because you just sort of go, "They're going to go, 'What? What you want about? Like, what are you talking about?' But people that get it, get it. I mean, and it's like, I do think... You know, it's something that I've kind of got involved with as much as I possibly can. It's to sort of encourage those... You know, those kind of mental health conversations and stuff. I think we become much more open about it than we were in the past. But when I was at uni, I went to see a therapist that had like these free therapy sessions for students. And I went along to one. And I did like a whole course or whatever. I remember telling my mum about it. And she like freaked out. Because... So what do you mean you're going to a therapist? Like, is there something wrong with your head? You know, like she's like really like... Because to her mind, does that mean you're mad? Like, she didn't have that same... It's like her understanding of it. Now it's completely... You know, she's completely... You know, her attitude towards it's very different. But yeah, it's just something you have to contend with. And like at the moment as I'm talking to you now, I've got coping mechanisms and I'm sort of on top of it. But I'm always sort of this... You know, if I get... If I... It can be something really little like I don't exercise for a bit or I don't hydrate properly for a few days or I don't get enough sleep, I'm back. Do you know what I mean? Like I go dark. I just go dark in my head. You know, like you kind of... The voice comes... You know, the voice comes back. But you know what I mean? You start getting down on yourself. And you have to be on top of all of those things. Like... What does the voice say? It will say you're not very good dad. You're not a very good husband. If I come to do this podcast, it will go, "Why are you bothering to do this?" You've got nothing interesting to say. Do you know what I mean? Like... You're going to try and get away with this. At some point, somebody's going to tap you on the shoulder and go, "We all know." If you leave quietly, we won't say it. You know, that kind of thing. You know, I remember like doing a run of like, particularly busy. I had a run of about six panel shows, like different studio things over two weeks. And I was in a really bad place. And I turned up to each one of them with the steadfast belief that I was shit at this. And I've got to try and get away with it as much as I... You know, like I was just in a bad place. I turned up and I'd be sitting there and like, you know, to be a comedian, you've got to be loose and like chilled out and relaxed. And it's almost like being a... You know, I've read a lot about it, about being in a flow state. You know, being in the pocket, whatever you want to call it. You can't be in the pocket if you've got a voice in your head going, you'll crap at this. So it's like, yeah, you just go through periods of it, I suppose. When you went to see that therapist in school, why did you go? So there was this very specific trigger. So what happened was, is I had saved up, because I've always been reading into music, and I'd saved up to get this like, hi-fi. Yeah. Like this really cool bit of stereo equipment. And I was too scared to take it to uni, because I just thought somebody's going to neck this or it's going to get smashed up with us. So I left it at home in my bedroom at home. And my mum and dad had a lodger, and he was sort of... He was somebody that had come over from Sri Lanka that they were kind of helping out. And he'd been sleeping, I'd been sharing a room... When I came back, I shared a room with him. And they'd moved to that piece of stereo equipment, right? Because he needed to put some stuff somewhere or whatever. My reaction to something quite nothing, it was like I really felt like my mum and dad were trying to move me out, or they didn't care about my stuff. And then I really got pissed off about it, and then later on that evening, realized that that was a massive overreaction, and then recognized that I wasn't in a good headspace. I just felt like, for me to have reacted like that, probably was a sign that was... Because I felt like I was going through some shit as well. You know, you don't feel right in yourself. And then when I reacted like that, I thought, I need to speak to somebody properly. I'm not in a good place. And so I think two days later I looked into it and then started going. You know what really has changed my life is the amount of times I've had this exact conversation with someone who is maybe comedian, maybe not about the voice in their head. And until I started doing this podcast, I had absolutely no idea. I couldn't comprehend the thought that there's people that have a voice in their head that is somewhat against them at time. I couldn't comprehend it. And so for me, this isn't the first time I've heard this. This is maybe not even the tenth time. It's really eye-opening for me. Have you ever... and this is almost an impossible task because you're trying to piece things together in hindsight. Have you ever developed a perspective or an opinion where that voice comes from or why you have it in someone else might not? No, I don't... I don't know. You know, like, why have I got it and other people haven't? I don't know. It's something I've thought about. Particularly when I'm talking to people that don't have it or don't understand why I've got it. And I don't know. I don't know if it's like... I mean, I'm being super, super pseudo psychologist here. I sort of think that... you know, when I said to you about, I sort of felt like everything was against us. And you sort of go through this period of, like, during your formative years of a lot of things going badly or going negatively. You then start to see that as your default. And then if something goes right or something's going well, then that is against type. Or that is against... you're supposed to have shit happen to you. You're like... your bad stuff, or you're supposed to have bad experiences. And so then maybe that son... I'm just freestyling it, but maybe that kind of gets hardwired into you so that even if you have positive things... You kind of... you kind of don't accept them. And I also think of like, sometimes I've reflected on times when I was a kid, like really young. And things that I would consider to be selfish. Or I remember like this, like, I have a vivid memory of being horrible to my brother. And the voice goes to me, "That's you at your core." Like, when you're being nice, that is conditioning. But that is what... you know, I've had that thought where that... you fundamentally is that person, that nasty person. But what you've done is like, social and conditioning has taught you that, you know, you allow your brain to go down those... those thought pathways, you know? I sat with Gabo Matte. He's like considered to be like the leading psychologist that I've pissed on specifically childhood trauma. And he was handed off during the Holocaust when his... because his mum was trying to save him, so she gave him to someone else. And he talks to me about how we interpret... we are narcissists as young children. We think everything is about us. So parents are screaming, that's because of me. And how children are these like great, like, huge narcissists. So even though his mum was doing an act of love, he almost internalized it as an act of abandonment, which meant that he wasn't good enough. So he talks about how he lived with this kind of sense of not being good enough. The other conversation I reflect on, which comes to mind as you're talking, is Steve Peters, who wrote The Chimp Paradox. And he talks about... he wrote it. He was a great book. He talks about two periods. He goes under the age of like 10, you can develop goblins. And he refers to a goblin as something that we can never really shake because of the neural pathways in our brain. A pretty much change for good. And we could often not remember it because we don't even start to form memories until we're like three or whatever. And those are your goblins. And then he goes after 10, it's really your gremlins, which are things we can overcome. So it's interesting that we can have these sort of goblins, but also not remember where they came from. And they can also be just like narcissistic child-like interpretation of events. Yeah, I do sort of agree with that. And I think like... One of the things I discovered is like in conflict and things like that, you know, there was this... David Foster Wallace did this like commencement speech that I read. And it's about like this thing that we're all hardwired to believe that we are the center of the universe. Right? So like when you're going to work and somebody cuts you up or somebody takes ages in front of you at the supermarket. So it's just happening to me. And then as soon as you flip the switch and go, "This isn't happening to me." I'm like, "This person's got their own thing and this person's got their own thing." As soon as you do that, your ability to just chill out is miraculous, right? And I do think that that is part of it like, you know, the belief that bad things happen to me. And what am I talking about? Do you know what I mean? What are you talking about? Do you think you're that important that they've got time for destiny to go now? What are you talking about? You absolute God complex having twat. You know, that's the truth of it. You see what I mean? It's just some stuff happened, man. It's not destiny. You're not on some route. There's nobody's got anything against you. Just like, what are you talking about? Who do you think you are? Do you know what I mean? So it is that. It is that. You kind of like trying to combat that. You said you learnt coping mechanisms. Yeah. What are those coping mechanisms? That sounds like one of them what you just described there, which sounded like perspective. Yeah. One of them is perspective. Another one is just. Is completely. It's completely surrendering yourself to the moment that you're in. So like. If you complete. What I found is is like a lot of kind of your. So this inner voice or whatever or a lot of your worries and stuff of that are things that are not happening to you at that time. You know, it's like, I'm worried this is going to happen. I'm worried I'm shitting this and this is going to happen. One of the things I found is like to just completely. Be of this moment and this moment alone and sort of. Yeah, just just be present. You know, like so if I come here. I could come here going. If this podcast doesn't go well, then people are going to get in touch with social media and then you know. But you know, you can start getting yourself in a thing. You're not good enough to this podcast. They shouldn't have interviewed. Have you seen the other guests? He's got this podcast is not. And why has he done this? Or if you just go, I'm just going to come here and enjoy this podcast and say, you know, and I'm just going to be here in the chat with you. You're just you're the way you experience things completely changes. Do you know what I mean? You just. You just become you just have a different experience of the same thing. You can experience two things completely differently. Like and the truth is all of these things you catastrophizing. A fine, you know, like if I go if I'm if I'm crap on a panel show, I don't get booked for that panel show again. So what like who gives a shit? Do you mean like that's fine? It's totally cool. And then the other thing is to just kind of. Actively be aware of when I'm getting like that, you know, like sometimes you can't necessarily stop it, but I go. I've gone dark. Do you mean you sort of go? This is happening, but this is it's okay to feel like this. I don't need to block those thoughts, but they are irrational. And I just I just know what's happening. Do you mean I need to get my nutrition in order? I need to get down the gym. I need to get a good night's sleep. Whatever I need to do to sort myself out. I need to do a bit of like, you know, headspace or whatever it is. Do you know what I mean? To try and get myself back on an even cure. Whereas before before I had that kind of coping mechanisms, who knew when I was going to come out of it? You know, I just would submit myself to it completely. And then it would be like chance that I would come out of it. You know, when you reflect on your journey with mental health, was there has there. What period of your life was the most difficult in terms of mental health? Yeah. I would say my late my late teens into my kind of early twenties was really challenging because. I remember reacting. I've got loads of memories of reacting really badly to to things. Like rationally, like over the top reactions. Like. I remember like I didn't really do very well in my A levels because I was just like pissing about. And then when the A level results came, I just thought this is the end. I can't carry on with my life. You know, I really like was like, I can't. You know, I was thinking about taking my own life like regularly, you know, like. Yeah, there's loads of times that, you know, there's loads of times during that period. When I thought about it, I did think about it a lot. And I fantasize about it. You know, I'd like to think about how I was going to do it. I think about how easy it would be after that. I think about the repercussions after I'm gone. You know, I think like I'd spend time thinking about it. You know, so. And that was kind of the toughest time. And then as I kind of got older. Yeah, it's sort of got. I still had the same issues, but I started to kind of be able to. To deal with them a bit more effectively. And you know, like I managed to shut off the vote. You know, they'd be long times I don't have any voice at all. You know, like it's just gone. And then occasionally sort of go dark again. But yeah, that was probably the most challenging time. You know, there's a stereotype about comedians and. Them, you know, their perspective of themselves and not not being happy or whatever. There's that like long-enduring stereotype.
Your comedian journey (36:01)
And I've sat here with Jimmy Carr, etc. And he's told me he actually said to me, he said, you should ask, you should ask comedians. Not are they depressed, but like who in their family was depressed? Oh, that was an interesting one. What's your whole observation as relates to you on that like stereotype that comedians are either depressed themselves or their family was or their mum was or their they had someone in their home. They were trying to cheer up. I don't, I don't. I don't know if I think that all comedians are depressed. I've said after a long, good discussion. If it was like I've supplied a lot of evidence to the contrary, but I don't think all comedians are depressed. But I do think that I think that all comedians are wired slightly differently. Certainly all the really good ones. Do you know what I mean? All the ones that like something's happened. They've had something happen to them that has changed the wiring that has made them an outsider. And it might be depression, but it might be, you know, it might be a change in circumstances. It might be a bereavement. It might be whatever. It might be a class shift. It might be the parents. You know, there's something about comedians that just, they're just slightly different. You know, their wiring is slightly different. I do genuinely believe that because I sort of, whenever I talk to comedians who I really like, after a while, I've talked to them, you can't. I've been a while I've talked to them, you go, I've spotted it. I think there you go. There it is. They've all got that. They've all got a little bit of like, you know, yeah, they've all got a little bit of faulty wiring. I don't mean faulty. I mean, why different? Yeah. Yeah. What is that in your words for you? What is that different wiring? That's made you like a like pulled magnetized by the career of being a stand up comic or comedian. A writer. I don't know. I think that like sort of, I think the speed in which. The speed in which everything changed, you know, the sort of my life experiences as well as the fact that I was sort of drawn to comedy anyway. You know, all of my family, a lot of my dad was my family sort of all. Pretty comedically, you know, they're all my, my, my, the love language at my house is taking the piss out of each other. You know, my, my, my, my brother and I just rinse each other all the time. That was, that was what I knew. That's what my kids are like. That's what we're like in my house, you know, and I think that that's kind of contributes to it. But I think that, you know, again, I'm being sort of, I'm speaking from a position of deep ignorance, but like, I think. Having seen the normal trajectory for my dad and the direction that they wanted for me go so spectacularly wrong has allowed me to accept taking a different path. I think had that not happened, I probably would have gone, I need to get like a regular job like and follow this trajectory that my parents want and I need to follow the, the milestones of success that everybody kind of attributes. Whereas this thing allowed me to go, well, do you know what? I'm just going to do the thing I really want to do. And let's see what happens. Do you know what I mean? And initially that was, you know, before I did comedy, that was teaching. I didn't teach him because I wanted to make, you don't do teaching because you want to make money. But I wasn't doing teaching because I wanted like respect from the community. I did it because I love the idea of teaching children. And then I ended up moving into comedy. And I just sort of thought, I actually kind of, I kind of have attached less. Weight to financial remuneration, to like having the nice house to all of that. And I just want to do this. I just want to be driven by wanting to do this thing. Because if you chase the financial thing, it can still go horrifically wrong. So why am I doing that? Do you mean I might as well chase it? That could still go wrong, but at least I'm doing something that I enjoy. And that first, you know, I was reading about your early sort of gigs in like pubs and stuff like that. Like eight people or whatever. That first time a gig went well. Maybe it was, was it, butlins your first? That was my first one. I was like, hey, yeah, yeah. How did you feel up on stage and the minute you walked off stage when it went really well? Well, I can tell you a really specific gig man that like it was quite a bit into it. So I was, you know, you were doing all these pub gigs. And I started to get to a point where I was starting to do well at the gig. I was starting to do well at these gigs, right? And I felt like, okay, I'm starting to get all right at this. You know, for that level, do you know what I mean? You certainly couldn't have put me on at the Apollo at that stage. But like, I was like, I was starting to feel like I was starting to do well in these gigs. And what I hadn't done, what I'd never done is I'd never turned a room. So what I mean is whenever, however the gig was going, I would go on and follow suit, right? So if it was a good gig, I'd probably have a good gig. If it was a tough gig, I'd still do all right, but I'd have a tough gig. The first time I absolutely buzzed my tits off is it was a tough gig. I was on second. And like the host had struggled, the first act had struggled, and then they got me on. And I started and they were quiet. But by the end of the gig, it was like, I was like having a great one. And that, to turn a, like, that was the first time I'd ever taken a room from being quiet to being a great gig. And I lost my mind. I mean, like, I was just like, the adrenaline was just insane. And I came off just like, and you have to hide that, right? Because, you know, you don't want to walk off this guy. Yeah, man. Yes. Absolute smash time. So I had to swallow that down and just go, I've got to leave quickly so I could scream in the car. I felt, I felt, I felt, mate, that I remember like, as the gig was turning, I didn't want to dip out of it. Because as soon as you go, this is going, well, you're out at the moment, right? So I had to, like, just like, just keep doing the gig, keep doing the gig. Like, had a great response. And I was like, oh my God, that felt amazing. It was unbelievable, man. Amazing. And has that kind of been your relationship with stage where that's the real fact, like, that's the, that's the pinnacle in terms of like, feelings and emotions and like, I guess like self, I don't know, a firmment. I don't know. I mean, I definitely enjoy the buzz of doing life stand up more than anything else I do. And like, nothing else really matches up to. I really do enjoy all the other stuff I do, but nothing can really compete with standard. I think it's partly because of the possibility that you could really die on your ass. Like, that is exciting, that it could go horrifically wrong. But this is something I was going to ask is, as someone who said that there's that voice in your head and things can trigger it, what happens when it does go horrifically wrong on stage? It just depends because like, the truth is your mindset changes, right? Because like, when I started doing stand up, if I did badly, it's probably because I was shit, right? Whereas like, now I feel like I'm all right at stand up. And now the gigs that go badly, you need those gigs, you know, like, you start going to the gym. You know, if I'm trying to write a new tool, I've got to write new material. So I go on with 10 minutes of new material and I try it out. If it goes for nothing, I'm disappointed because none of the stuffs work, but it doesn't make me think I'm a shit comedian. I'm disappointed. These people are going to leave thinking Rommesh was crap tonight. I can't do anything about that. But you're sort of going, this is part of the process. You know, I'm going to the gym. I've got to like, you learn more from those gigs. Do you know what I mean? And so it's still, don't get me wrong. It's horrible. It's horrible saying something and then looking out at the silence. That never gets, that never gets easier, man. But you sort of go, this is what you've got to do. It's like when you're, you've got to take risks in the small rooms so that when you do the big rooms, it's better. You know, like, you know, you want to do stuff that's on the, not necessarily on the edge, but you want to do stuff where you might do an act out that you wouldn't normally do. Or you might talk about something you never talked about before. And the risk is you might tuck into a big plate of shit. But when you're in the big room, when you're doing your tour, you go, I wish I'd taken more risks back then, do you know what I mean? So you can't, it's kind of a different, it's kind of a different process. Having said that, I've done a corporate gig where I've died on Mars and I've had absolutely horrific. You know, like, it's, oh, God. It's just so awful, man. There's something really surprising about someone who attests to having that, like, tricky internal monologue with themselves. Yeah. That would then put themselves in such a high risk situation. Oh, no, no, no, no. You'd expect someone would just stay at home and just avoid any chance of reinforcing that negative voice, but... I'm waking that broke up. Yeah. It's amazing, though. The honest truth is, I would have that voice regardless of what I did. So I might as well do something I really love, do you know what I mean? I just absolutely, like, I'm addicted to doing stand-up. I'm addicted to it. Even if I don't have a tour to prepare for, I'll go and do a gig. You know, I can't not gig. And it makes me better at everything. So if I'm doing a travel show, I'm funnier on the travel show if I'm regularly gigging. If I'm not gigging, I'll be worse on that travel show. I'll be worse on a panel show. I'll be worse talking to you now. Like, you know, you're just exercising that muscle, like, being on stage. I just feel I'm addicted to it. Quick word from one of our sponsors. I've never tipped for all of you that will make your virtual meeting experiences, I think, ten times better. As some of you may know, by now, BlueJeans by Verizon offers seamless, high-quality video conferencing.
But the reason why I use BlueJeans versus other video conferencing tools is because of immersion. Their tools make you feel more connected to the employees or customers you're trying to engage with. And now, they're launching one of their biggest feature enhancements to impact virtual events so far called BlueJeans Studio. I actually used it the other day. I did a virtual event using the studio, which I think about 700 of you came to, TV-level production quality, all done by one person with very little technical experience on a laptop. So if you've got an event coming up and you're thinking about doing it virtually, check out BlueJeans Studio now. Let me know what you think, because I genuinely believe, I know this is an advert and I'm supposed to say this, but I genuinely believe it's the best tool I've seen for doing really immersive, simple but high-quality production virtual events. It is that time of year again where my life becomes incredibly reliant on heel. I'm busier than ever. I'm trying to be nutritionally complete in all that I do. I'm trying to make sure I get all of the vitamins and minerals that I need in my diet. And heel has been for the last three and a half years. The primary reason as it relates to my diet that I've been able to be nutritionally complete while also being incredibly productive, I always find that when I'm most busy, when I'm most sort of sucked into my work, my diet falls by the wayside. That's the trend that I've seen in all of my life, especially when I'm stressed. That's why I end up resorting to foods that aren't nutritionally complete or healthy for me. Having heel on hand has been a game changer. Not just for me, I see it in my team. We have two heel fridges in this building that we record the podcast in. And it's become a crutch, I guess, a health crutch, a positive health crutch for all of our team. Thank you, heel, for creating a product that has helped me and helped my health stay intact in my busiest days over the last couple of years. Back to the episode. So you went and became a teacher. Yeah. And at some point you make the decision to reach out and swing onto that next branch.
Your days pre-stand up (47:22)
I'm trying to understand that sort of pivotal moment and what happened, what made you take the leap. Crazy. I mean, I know comedians when they start out don't get paid. I can't doubt my name. No. You run at a loss for a long time. And you had a kid on the way in the process of you taking that leap. Yeah logically it was foolish. There's no getting around that. Well, what happened was I started teaching and I was really loving it. And then I just wanted to do stand up as a hobby. All loads of teachers have got hobbies. How many teachers are in bands? So I just thought this is going to be my thing. I'm going to do stand up. So I just started doing gigs. And then it started to go really well. And then somebody said to me, you know you could definitely do this for a job. You can hardly think when they said that. I just hadn't occurred to me. Well, that's a lie. It had occurred to me. But I didn't think you don't. There's so many people trying to do stand up. Like so many people. It's like what are the chances that you're going to be able to make a living out of it. It's like so slim. And also I just hadn't seen this a career thing. But yeah, somebody comes and goes, it was like it was actually a competition. I did a competition called Say, Think You Funny and Edinburgh. And I got to the semi-final and it's like one person gets through to the final and I made it through to the final. And then one of the judges came up and said, oh, the reason that we put you through is because as soon as you walked and we go, this guy's going to be a comedian. You just look like you're going to be a comedian. You can definitely do this for a living. So there's just something about you. We just go, this guy's going to be a comic. And so that's when I was like, oh, OK. And then my gigging them had a bit more purpose. Because before I just thought I'm just going to try and get good at this. And then now I was thinking, oh, maybe I could do this for a job. And then my agent-- so then I got an agent. And the agent said to me, if you really want to give this a go, you're going to have to leave teaching. And so I talked to my wife about it and we were like, OK, so I decided to leave it Christmas. So you give it like a half terms notice or whatever. And didn't you get caught by this mate? So bad man. But basically, I was head of sixth form. Actually, I was junior head of sixth form. And I don't know why I had to make that clarification. Literally nobody cares. So I'm pretty sure I was just junior head of sixth form in that period of his life. Anyway, why did I make that correction? Anyway. So basically, I got asked to do this show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Every night, it was just like compilation mixed bill show effort. And it's like a big opportunity. But I was supposed to be back for a level result. So I just got in touch with him and I said, my wife's poorly. And so I can't-- I feel embarrassed that I can't make it back. And then I went, OK. And so I said, I'll be back as soon as I can. And then I just was like, OK, that's fine. I've got away with that. And then I came back to school the first day of September. And nobody in the office was talking to me. Like it was like a proper frosty atmosphere. And I thought, oh, God, what's happened here? And then I opened my computer and it said, could you come to HR? So I went to HR. And they said to me, the lady said to me, she's lovely. She said to me, so you couldn't come back because your wife was poorly. And I said, yeah. As soon as I actually said that, I thought this is over. And then she goes right. And then she just opened this drawer. I just pulled out this folder and it had reviews, me appearing on lineups. Like it was a comprehensive dossier of what I'd been up to at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. And it was just so tricky because I just thought, that would be great to have. But as soon as she said that, she was like, what do you want to do? She goes, you can't work with that team anymore because they don't want to work with you anymore because they're like, they feel so, like they're so pissed off of you for what you've done. She said, we can move you to another head of year team. And I sort of knew that I was going to leave to do comedy at that stage. I thought it's not fair to go and join another head of year team only to leave. So I just said, I'll become a master. Like, you know, I'll take a step down and be a master teacher and not have any of that responsibility. And so I just did that for the remainder. But when I left, the thing that kind of turned things upside down again was that like three days before I was due to leave teaching, my dad passed away. So I'm never heart attack. And so, yeah, it was. And so then basically what happened was, is that the period after my dad passing away, we had to sort out my mom's fine. I turned out my dad's finances were a house of cards. He got this pub that he'd been sort of borrowing money from the house to finance and all this. It was like a nightmare. So it just meant that it was like the start of my comedy crew was pretty tough. Like we would just start throwing our time into trying to figure that out. How did you deal with that? How did you process the loss of your father? It was really difficult because.
The loss of your father (52:44)
I was really close to my dad. I mean, my relationship, as you can imagine, was very troubled with my dad because I'd seen this guy kind of want to leave us. And he'd been sleeping around a lot with a lot of different women. And I'd seen, when we were in the bed and breakfast, I'd seen my mom cry self to sleep every night. And it was really hard. That's all because of my dad. So that was really difficult. And I remember like I'd had loads of arguments with him. He tried to be a parent again. I resisted because I felt like he didn't want to be a parent. How could you come back in and start? So you know, there's very difficult, but then as we got, you know, later on in his life, we got really close again. And you know, I'm absolutely just delighted that when my dad passed away, I was I had a really good relationship with him. But it was hard, you know, like my dad was the person that I was most like in my family. My mom and my brother are very similar and I was very similar to how my dad was. So I found it really, really difficult. I found it really, really hard. And the thing that I feel really sad about for him is that sort of when he passed away, he hadn't really got himself into a comfortable position, you know, like everything had gone wrong and he was trying to work his way back up. But, you know, my recollection of my dad right up to the day he died was like, absolutely working his ass off. I'm kind of chasing his tail, you know, so that was that is a bit of sadness in that. You know, I kind of think I wish he'd had it a bit easier in his life. You know, sometimes I think, you know, I'll be honest with you, if my dad was still around, I'd be broke because he would have burnt for all of my money that I'd made from comedy. Like my dad was like, so it was responsible with my life. So, but yeah, there's a bit of sadness. If you could have gone back to Ramesh when your father was alive in his last day, five years, would you act different in any way? I'm always so curious about this because I'm in a position where I'm fortunate enough that my parents are still around. And I spend time often forecasting the things I'm going to regret. Is there anything where you think I wish I'd said this or I should have, you know, yeah, I mean. So, well, no, is the honest answer. I think that you can be in a position where you don't feel that. I mean, look, you're always going to feel like I should have said, I love you more or whatever. But I remember when I was 18, I'd come back from uni and I'd been out, like with some mates getting drunk and I hadn't told my mom when I was going to come back. And I came back later than I said I was going to. And I walked in pretty inconsiderate and drunk. My mom and dad are sat in front of the TV. And my dad said to me, how can you come back at this time? And I said to him, how can you even talk to me about what I should be doing in this house? And then I just launched into a monologue about how he had no right to tell me anything that I did in my life, how he wanted to walk away, how can you come back in here and tell me that I should be doing whatever after what you've done to mom, after what you've done to me and my brother, like what are you doing? Like, what, you know, and I just went into this rant and he sat there, mate, as I'm telling you now, he took it from me. And like, you know, you think about, you know, Asian culture, you don't talk, you know, my dad was very laid back, but you don't talk to your parents like that. Do you know what I mean? But he sat there like he took it. He took every word from me. And I stormed out the house. And my mum watched me have this conversation and ordinarily, like my mum would have picked me up on it, but she didn't. And I never spoke to my dad about that conversation again. So like, I went out for a bit. I came back in the next day when I was spoke about it, my dad never asked for an apology. I never apologized to my dad. We never spoke about it again. And if my relationship with my father hadn't have improved after this point, it would have I don't know how I would feel about that conversation. It would be something that and even now as I'm saying it to you, I made up with my dad, but it kills me that I said that to him. I don't disagree with anything I said, but it does kill me that I said that to him. But when it was his 60th birthday, my dad's got loads of brothers and a sister that a lot of them came over from Canada and Australia and to see him. And I wrote in his card, thank you for being a great dad and somebody I look up to. And my dad opened the card and he said to me, he like read the card and he went really quiet. It was like in the middle of quite a walkers family get together and he opened the phone, it really quiet. And he just said to me, do you honestly mean that? Like he just didn't believe that that was my view of him and like he couldn't like and then I realized up to that point, my dad had just thought we'd not, he just thought we weren't cool because of what had happened in the past. And he said to me, do you honestly mean that? I said, yeah, of course I do. And then I felt, you know, I felt like I feel like now my dad knew what I thought about him, do you know what I mean? And what I think of my dad is that he was a deeply, deeply, deeply flawed human being that had a lot of great things about him and you know, so yeah, when he passed away, I felt really close to him. But you know, there's loads of things like there's things we're like, if I'm being honest with you, when we started to go, when things started to go wrong, I was quite materialistic, you know, can I have this, can I have that? Why can't I have that anymore? What are you doing? You prick. Oh, yeah. You know what I mean? Like, why are you valuing that stuff? I remember like, I've got a really vivid memory of wanting the new public enemy album, right? It was like 899 on cassette or something. And my dad said, yeah, I'll get it for you. And then on the day he just didn't have a tenor. We just didn't have a tenor. But he'd have any money. And I like flipped out. Do you know what I mean? I flipped out. You promised me you get, but at that time, you look at the context of it. You'd be forgiving. If you're if you've been forgiving to that Romesh, everything's going to get us all the way up to the end. And I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. I think that's the way that I'm going to be. Because you go, "I don't want them to get the message. "I don't love them." But they need to run the risk of buying them everything. Do you know what I mean? It's such a difficult thing. I love you. Have it. I love you. Have it. PlayStation. Yes, I love you. Like, "Who do you? Yes, I love you." Trainers. Yes, I love you. And then you go, "Hold on a minute." They say good. These kids need to hear no. So, yeah, it's a tricky one, man. What about your mom? She seems to have been this real warrior throughout all of this turmoil. I was reading some quotes. I know she did an interview where she just said that the center of her universe was you two as brothers.
Your mum's support (59:58)
She would have done anything to you, including becoming a cleaner and taking other jobs and shops and stuff like that. She seems to be a real hero throughout your story. Yeah, I mean... She's amazing. You think about... She came over from Sri Lanka. She was 19, 20 when she came over. She grew up in a tiny village. She gets thrown into this new country. She tries to make her way, make new friends. Her husband is immersed in the world, in the country much more than she is, because she's a stay-at-home wife and mother. And she's like, "You know, making her way." And then her life gets thrown upside down, and she goes for a position where she has to single-handedly raise her two sons, because her husband's kind of dipped out. And on top of that, she's got to deal with a heartbreak of what her husband has done, as well as go, "What I've got to like... "I've got to brush my shoulders off and start "and support these kids." It's like amazing. It's amazing. It's amazing. And so like, you know, she's like a hero of mine, for how she's been for all of that time, and how she can easily be now. I mean, don't get me wrong. She loves spending money, and she loves being recognised, and she loves being a celebrity. She loves being on TV, all of that. But I love, I'm delighted. I'm delighted that my mum's period of life now, after what she went through, is being on TV, being comfortable, having her house paid off, drives a nice, like, great, wicked. Like, do you mean, like, this is amazing? Do you know what I mean? Like, this is amazing. I mean, don't get me wrong. I do sometimes have a goer and go, "You don't need that, mum." Do you know what I mean? Like, chill out. Like, you know, she does things that annoy me. Like, for example, she crashed her car. She wasn't happy with the courtesy car that we're offering. So she then said to me, "Romey, you need to give a guy that works "at the insurance company to tickets to your tour, "because he upgraded my car." So she does stuff like that. And like, but, but, mate, she's like, "What, I mean, she's incredible." You know, I can't, you can't say, "I can't say no to her." I mean, like, she doesn't, well, there's, you know, it's debatable whether she takes a piece on it or not. Like, my mum's amazing. She's amazing. And like, yeah, I owe a lot to her, you know? So she is, she is a hero of mine, definitely. Does she know that? Does she, have you ever said to her what you think and feel about that period and how she behaved? I have said that to her. What I would say is that sits in direct contradiction to how many times our phone are. Do you know what I mean? Like, like, I tell her I love her, but I don't get in touch enough for as much as she'd like. I don't see her as much as she'd like. So, yeah, I probably should sort that out. I mean, that, I should probably sort that out. But, but she knows, she knows what I think of it. Yeah, definitely. I've got no doubt someone might know that she knows what I think of it. When did you make it? And what was the, the catalyst moment? You know, making it is kind of like a, there's so much assumption in it that there was a moment where everything changes. That's why it's a bit of a shitty question if I reflect on that.
Becoming a successful comedian (01:03:26)
But like, when was, what was the first stone that fell? Or the first domino that fell, that created the cascading events? I hear about this figure in your life called Sean Walsh. Yeah. And the impact he had in believing in you and being very patient with you. Yeah. I love that because we can all think of that, I can think in my life of that person that like bizarrely had faith in me. Yeah. A little bit more than I did myself. Yeah. Yeah, well, it's an interesting one with Sean because basically what happens, he saw me at a gig in Brighton and like he liked, liked the set or whatever. And then he was going on tour and I was like, so at that stage, if he was tour support, basically he asked me to support him on tour. If you're tour support, you drive, you drive the act. You drive the main act. So I'd go and pick him up. And at that stage, I was so broke that, you know, sometimes I feel, I don't know, you get paid after the gig, like, you know, after you've done a run of gigs. Sometimes I was like, I don't know if I've got enough money for petrol to like go and get him. Like it was like proper like, I was like really running on fumes financially. And so I was speaking of taking to gigs. And like that money from those gigs was basically keeping our bills paid, you know, if I didn't have those gigs, I don't know what we were done. And then during that time, I, one of the things that he offered to do that I never took him up on was, I couldn't pay the road tax on my car. And I had some money due to coming from a gig. And I said to Lisa, when this money comes in, I'll pay the road tax. - Your wife. - My wife, sorry, yeah. I said to her, when this money comes in, I'll pay for the road tax. Anyway, we came home from the shops and the car was gone. And they'd impounded it for not having road tax. And I phoned up and I said, how do I get my car back? And they said, well, it's a 450 pound fine. And it's 150 pounds for every day that we have the car for. So I said, enjoy the car. And then I put the phone down. And I said to Lisa, I'm really sorry we don't have a car anyway. I don't know what to say. I can't afford, like there's no way. Every day I spend trying to get that 450 quid, we've got to pay another 150. It's just like mad. And then I told Sean about it. And he straight away goes, I'll give you the money to get a car. Because I just lend it to you. Because I know you're good for it. Because I know you'll start making money from common and you'll be able to pay me back. And I never took him up on it. But saying that was huge. Like it was so huge. Anyway, when we were on tour, he started doing the show called Stand Up for the Week. And that was like they did topical material and you had writers working on it. And he said to me, can you write me some, like write some stuff for the show? Like, and it actually what he started doing is he started going to be, what do you think about this story? And I'll tell him, he goes, you know, what comedy angles have you got on this story? And I talked to him and he'd like, go, okay, okay, and little did I know he was trying to help me out, right? So he was trying to test the waters. So he goes, your angles on this, did it. Then he goes, can you send me some stuff? Like send me some stuff you've written. And everyone's sending us stuff and he goes, this is all shit. This is unusable. And he goes, try again next week. I'll send you the stories, have a go. And then I did it again and he goes, some of this is good, most of it is shit. And then I did that for a couple of times. He goes, right, do you want to come into the writers room? He goes, I'll get into the writers room and you can sit in and like do some stuff. So I sat in and then I became a writer on stand up for the week. I sat, I'd becoming a writer on stand up for the week. And then he did a show called Sean Walshworld. And he got me as a writer on that. And then they did a press launch for the show. And they were doing a comedy gig as part of the press launch. And Sean got me on that comedy gig. And I did the gig and the guys that produced live at the Apollo were there for that gig because it was like the same sort of production house that do the show. They, I had a great set and two days later they phoned me and asked me to be alive at the Apollo. And like at that time, the money that you get for doing live at the Apollo basically would pay my bills for six months, right? And so I didn't have an agent at the time. So they had to phoned me directly. We were dropping the kids off at nursery. And like I got the phone call and it's like, Romesh, this is a guy from live at the Apollo. Just wondering if you wanted to be on the next series. And I just went, hold on a sec. I went, I don't know if they're Apollo, man. And I went, yeah, yeah, yeah, I think I can do that. And straight away I go, I can do comedy for another few months. You know what I mean? I can pay bills for the next few months. I don't know, it might come to the end of that few months and I'm still not going anywhere. But I've just bought, I've just, I've got six months in this game still. It was like, it was incredible. And that is, like, you know, Sean got me that man. Do you know what I mean? Like, he was like giving me work that was, you know, I'll never forget that. - Then you did live at the Apollo. - Yes, how did that feel? It was unbelievable, man. It was like, it was such an iconic show. I heard your dad always used to say to you when you were younger about you doing live at the Apollo. - So when I started gigging, I was trying to get stage time. And it's quite difficult to get gigs. Like there was a good open mic circuit. It was quite difficult to get gigs. My dad was running a pub at the time. And he said to me, just run a gig here. And like, you can host the gig and like book people, book your mates or whatever. He goes with dirt like, and I go, okay. So I started running a gig there. And we're like, when I did my first gig there, it'll go to me, I don't understand why you're not on live at the Apollo. I said, dad, I've got like four minutes of gear. Like, and it's not great. It's not, I said, if you thought, if it's that easy to get along with the Apollo, everyone will be doing it. Do you know what I mean? But he was kind of veered between being quite harsh and being like, he always thought I was going to make it. Like he was, he had no doubts. He was like, you are going to make it as a comedian. But then he would come and see me at gigs and he'd go, the first goal was a lot better than you tonight. Like he'd go, you need to think about that. Cause like, you would, like, he'd go, you did fine, don't get me wrong. But that first guy was great. Like that's who everyone's going to remember after this gig. And he goes to think about it. He was like, he would give me like, honest and heartfelt criticism. But within the remit of, within the context of the fact that you are going to make it. But I'm just telling you tonight, you weren't good enough. Do you know what I mean? - So it was a bit sweet when you did love it, the Apollo, for that reason that he wasn't there at that time. - A little bit, I mean, the whole thing, man, is like my dad never saw me really. I mean, I started doing the circus. I mean, like, he didn't, my dad died before I became a full-time comedian. You know, so, he's not seen any of it. He saw like me doing these shitty gigs and he used to come to all those gigs and he started to see me do some circuit gigs, which were like, you know, they were like, you felt like you've made it. You know, you're playing a 400 seat of room on a Saturday night, whatever, feels great. You're like, you feel like I'm in show business or whatever. But he never really saw any of that. He never saw me do any TV. I know he did see me do one terrible bit of TV. I did soccer AM. That was like my one thing that he saw me do. And it went terribly. So he said he ever seen me do a TV ever terrible job on TV. So yeah, it is a bit bittersweet to be honest. - You'll run from that point of life at the Apollo to where you are now. Incredible. As a comedian, I mean, there's very few people that get to sit at that top table, as you said, as you identified when you're a teacher, but to be one of those sort of standout comedians that everybody knows is really, really incredible. Now, when I reflect on, do you take that? Do you take your body language as quite telling you? You were uncomfortable in awkward. Yeah. I just feel like I feel really lucky. I just feel like so much of that is outside of your control. Do you know what I mean? That's why I feel like I feel a bit like I don't want to. There's part of me that doesn't want to accept that. Do you know what I mean? Accept that comment that you make. You sort of go. There's so much luck to this. You know, I think comedy is a meritocracy up to a point, but then you just get lucky. And, you know, so I do feel really lucky, but, and don't get wrong, I'm very grateful, but. Do you work hard now in your estimation? Well, I work a lot. I mean, there's no doubt about that. Whether I work hard or not is another question. I mean, I just like, everything I do is like fun. I know that's such a wanky thing to say, but like, I love doing standup. I love doing panel shows. I love doing troubleshows. Like, so doesn't ever feel like I'm working hard. The only struggle I would say is that I'm away a lot. Do you know what I mean? Like, I'm kind of saying to my family, I'll see in a week. Like, you know, that bit I've had to sort of, I've actually had to take, I've had to sort of take action on, really, because sometimes, when you do a lot of travel shows, it's not really fair, you know, to be away as much as I have been in the past. But I don't feel like I work hard. Like, I really love what I do. Like, I love what I do so much. And I know that's like a really privileged position to be in. And sometimes, I'm going to be honest with you, if I'm working on a script, about three in the morning, because I've got a metadata deadline, I do think, oh, god, this is bullshit, I am working hard now. Do you know what I mean? But it's still fun. I'm still writing a script about some guy. I'm still writing a script being, trying to be funny. You know, that's what all of my day is. - When you've come from where you come from, and you believe that you're lucky, is there not this kind of overarching or this driving force that's like, "Fuck, you can lose this at any minute, if you're 100%. "I mean, you think about it, like, my dad was going all right, "and then it all went wrong. "And then I was a teacher, I took a gamble on comedy, "and then we were broke." So I've had two examples of like, of it going, like, you know, everything going. So definitely there is part of me. I don't consciously think that. There is definitely part of me, you know, when you think about how much, how much you're willing to hustle. I think part of that comes from feeling insecure. - Yeah, a little bit. I do think so. I do think so. But now what I would say to you, sitting here now, if it all went, if I stop being on TV now, or like the phone stop ringing or whatever, I'll be cool, that's fine. Do you know what I mean? I just don't, I'm just not worried about that anymore. You know, like, I will always do stand up, and if TV stops and all that will stop, all that kind of stuff stops. I feel kind of comfortable, I'm all right, you know. It'll be fine. You'll see me down the park, and you go, that guy looks like that guy that used to host legal time. - Are you, are you, I hate this word, but I'm gonna ask the question anyway. Are you happy? - I know that I've talked a lot about my inner voice and all of that, and how I've struggled with that.
Reflections On Happiness
Are you happy? (01:14:25)
But I am happy, yeah. I do consider myself to be happy. I think like I've got a great, I've got a great situation, you know, I've got a beautiful family, I'm happy with being able to do nice things. I'm sort of my, my mum's in a good position, my brother's in a good position. I love my job, you know, all of those things, I do feel happy. Do I have dark moments where I descend into, into like troubled times, yeah, 100%, but that's not, happiness isn't buzzing off your tits the whole time. Do you know what I mean? - What is it? - I think it's like going, I'm in a state of, I mean, generally speaking, it's like, you know, it's like the stock exchange, you know, you're gonna have ups and downs, but generally speaking, you're on a decent trajectory, and I feel like I am, you know. - If one of your boys, Alex Charley Theo, comes to you and says, bad, right, I'm going out into the world, based on your lived experience, what is, what wisdom would do I need to know, dad, to make it in life, to be happy and to get to where I wanna go? What are the things that spring to mind that you would impart on those boys? - Well, you know, you asked me about me being lazy, and I still believe I am lazy, and the way that I have managed to life hack that is to do things that I really do enjoy. So I think for them, choose something that you really feel passionate about, that you really love. And don't, for me personally, don't think about this external, this goal down the line that you're trying to get to. Do this thing brilliantly, do you know what I mean? Do you eat like every single thing you come to do, do that to the best of your ability. So when I do a gig, it doesn't help me to think about what this gig could lead to. I just need to be great at this gig. I just need to do the best I possibly can at this gig. I'm not in control of anything that happens after that. So every single step of the way, you try and do that the best that you possibly can. If you do that, if you love what you do, and you do that, I just think you're on a good path. - They have a relationship, don't they, those two points, in the sense that when you love it, you can become a master because you do it for fun. - Yeah. - Hard, like things that feel like shit stuff, like things you don't enjoy, it's hard to master. - Yeah, but also the other thing is, even if you do enjoy something, like if I do a panel show, and I'm thinking about what the potential career path of that, if I do well on this panel show, then somebody will see me on this and then I'll get booked for that. And then if I start getting booked for that, maybe somebody off of my own show, if you sit in a studio with that in your head, God help you, do you know what I mean? All you've got to do it, I'm not in control of that. I don't, that's so outside of, I can't do anything about that. What I can do something about is being as good as I possibly can in this immediate circumstance. That's all I can do. And then everything else takes care of itself, do you know what I mean? And it might happen, it might not, but why am I thinking about that? All that I'll do is tighten me up when I'm here. I need to be like, I need to be in the moment, I need to just be loose and having a good time, and then not worry about that. - It reminds me so much of what said David Brelsford said to me about the British cycling team. He said, one of the first things he did when he came into that feelings cycling team was get them to stop thinking about the podium. - Right, right, right, yeah. - Because all the emotional impact that has when you're racing, when you're thinking about the medals and even when you're in training, thinking about the podium is not conducive with being productive and focused. His whole thing was like, can we find a way to be 1% better today? - Yeah. - That's controllable. When people, when they find that game, they have that sense of momentum and it's exactly what you've described there. Like focus on the controllables and not the fear that's induced by the anxiety of like, or what happens if next, that you know. - Which 100% man. - Which kind of, which goes against the self-development community who are all like, five year planet, you know. - Yeah, I know, I know, I did think to myself, do I need to do that? But I have no plan. Like, you know, I don't know. I just think like, it's like, you know, when people go, and lots of people I know that are really successful do this, where they go, I want to get a bAFTA by whenever, right? To my mind, I just think there's so many variables outside of your control to get in a bAFTA. Like, why would you give yourself a target that's so outside of your, like, so many things could happen that have nothing to do with your ability or anything to get your bAFTA? It's like, there's a jury. Somebody on that jury might not like, you know, like there's so many uncontrollable, why would you do that to yourself? Do you know what I mean? It's like, what I can go is, I want this show to be really good. I want this show to make me laugh. I want to make something I'm proud of. I can do that. Do you know what I mean? That's inside the realms of possibility. Seems like a much happier psychological world to live in, to live in the controllables, then to be like, because then you don't, we don't get the bAFTA, the unmet expectation of that person on the jury that didn't like you. Yeah. It's like, you're right, it's like, unnecessary torture. Yeah. We have a closing tradition on this podcast where the last guests ask a question for the next guest, not knowing who they're asking it for. And the question that's been left for you is, how will we make progress in solving the crisis of meaning today?
Last guest’s question (01:19:44)
I want an absolute stitcher. Are you joking? That's literally what it is. Should I, should I, I'll give you some context. Yeah, go on, go on. 'Cause I remember this. Oh my God. We're having such a nice time. Oh my God. Yeah, go on. You can pay it forward as to the next person. Basically, the guy was talking about how life expectancy for the last two years has begun to drop. And what he pointed out was that it's to do with sort of a broader epidemic of meaninglessness in people's lives where they're telling to opioids suicide. And those are the things that are contributing to this crisis of meaning. So he's saying, how will we make progress in solving this crisis of meaning where people's lives don't feel meaningful enough so they're telling to opioids, they're becoming depressed, they're going by suicide. He's saying, how do we go about solving that today? Well, I don't know. But what I would say is one of the things that I noticed during the pandemic was like, when people's jobs were taken away or they couldn't do their jobs and people weren't able to socialize, people's identities completely disappeared. Like they just didn't know what they were. Like, you go, if I'd not go into my job and I'm not seeing people or I'm not doing things, what the hell is this? Do you know what I mean? And I think that if people that had other stuff that they could do, I mean, creatives were able to like do stuff and find some purpose and do stuff, not necessarily for people's consumption, but just to sort of scratch that itch. I think if you can get people to allow themselves to kind of engage with things that are outside of this, kind of, I'm doing this for this and I'm doing this, if you can get people to engage in things that are for their own kind of enrichment outside of, you know, outside of a job and outside of all this, then I think that's a way of equipping people sort of more effectively to find that, I guess, would be a freestyle dancer to this stitch on my dream. - I completely agree. - No, I completely agree. We've talked a lot about that a lot, how the arts and realizing that we can all be artists, it's not just a job title. Even if you're a lawyer, you can pursue that. - Yeah. - And the teachers pursuing those bands they're in. And I reflect on the huge impact it's had on me becoming starting, learning to DJ in the middle of the pandemic. But I'm not good. - That's what I did. Really? - Yeah, how are you getting on? - You know. I'm not, I'm not gonna sell out any festivals just yet. I did my first gig the other day. I'm shit, but I'm like the top end of shit. - Yeah, got you. So, well, I do a hip hop show. - Oh, thank you. - I'm ready to, well, I'm sorry. - Yeah, no, but I don't DJ on the show. I just talk and some, like, you know, I just pluck, you know, I don't mix on it. - Okay. - So they gave me a challenge. I'm just giving, I'm just telling this, so I was learning to DJ. They said they knew I was learning to DJ. So they gave me this piece of paper on the show, saying "Romish" by the end of this series, we wanted to do a 20 minute mix for the show, right? And then as we were talking about, they're going, it'd be great. And then you can do like regular mixes, do, do, do, do, anyway, I went off and did the 20 minute mix. I submitted the mix. They played it. I've not been asked to do another one. That, that, that, that, that perceived start of a series of Romish mixes as evaporated after they heard that first. - You got us for feedback. - No, I don't want feedback. If they don't ask you for another one, I don't need that feedback. - No, no. - I know what the feedback is, practice. - Promise. - Thank you so much for your time today. Huge honor to speak to you and your story is, because of the way I can relate to it, it's been incredibly inspiring. And I appreciate your honesty. I'm, like I said, when you were talking about the voice in your head, I literally, my whole body had these goosebumps. And I felt this huge wave of sadness, because I don't think people realize and people that have the privilege of having a positive voice in their head. One, we don't, I don't understand. - Yeah. - You know, I don't understand that the idea that my head can turn against me. - Right. - We need to have that conversation more, 'cause it helps us to understand, like have empathy. - Yeah, yeah. - You know, so thank you so much. - No, thanks for having me, man. I was really enjoying it up until that last question. - Well, you can stitch someone up now. Let's do this. Thank you, man. As some of you will know, Intel have been sponsoring this podcast for a little while now. And this makes the search for high spec laptops super easy, because all you have to do is look for the Intel Evo badge, and you'll have everything you need. The thing that's great about the Intel Evo platform is that you still have so much choice, and that's key for me. There are now over 100 designs that have been Intel Evo certified, so you can quite literally find the perfect laptop for you amongst that vast selection. Now, I've got two in front of me here. One is the Samsung Galaxy Book 360, which rotates over 360 degrees, and is amazing for things like team presentations, meetings, et cetera. Also really great for keeping podcast notes on when you're sat with a guest. But I personally use the Dell XPS, because it's lightweight, super lightweight, and it's battery lasts for over nine hours, even while you have multiple tabs open, which helps to stay at the pace that I run out in my day-to-day life. So to find out more and get your hands on your own Intel Evo laptop, head over to Intel.co. UK/evo right now. Let me know how you get on. Quick one. As you might know, Crafted are one of the sponsors of this podcast, and Crafted are a jewelry brand, and they make really meaningful pieces of jewelry. The really wonderful thing about Crafted Jewelry is it's super affordable. It looks amazing. The pieces hold tremendous meaning, and they are really well made. I think I've worn this piece for almost a year. 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