COMING TO AMERICA
ROMESH RANGANATHAN takes his family to los angeles to crack the american comedy scene
Just Another Immigrant Wednesday, Sky One HD, 10pm
FOR STAND-UP COMIC Romesh Ranganathan, 2018 was a busy year, what with a BBC travelogue series, new Sky One sitcom The Reluctant Landlord, his Judge Romesh show for Dave and becoming a regular panellist on
Sky One’s A League of Their Own.
Somehow the 40-year-old has also managed to squeeze in a six-part documentary series, Just Another Immigrant, which starts with a double bill this week and follows Ranganathan as he transplants his family – wife Leesa and three children, plus his Sri Lankan mother and eccentric uncle – from Crawley to Los Angeles in a bid to crack the US comedy scene.
Besides settling himself and his loved ones into a new lifestyle, he has just three months to sell out a gig at a famed outdoor venue, the 6,000-seat Greek Theatre.
Here, the comedian sets the scene for his stateside adventure…
‘There were challenges taking my family, but we just decided to do it, warts and all…’ ROMESH Ranganathan
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THIS SERIES?
It’s always been my ambition to try my hand at comedy in the States and it felt like the right time. I thought: ‘How do I do this? How do I tackle it in the States?’ It all started from those questions.
ARE YOU A FAN OF US COMEDY?
When I first started watching stand-up, I fell in love with US comedy before British comedy. Richard Pryor is one of the main reasons I got into stand-up.
ARE AMERICAN FANS AWARE OF BRITISH COMEDY TALENT?
America doesn’t really know who the big British comics are – or comics from elsewhere. But now that’s changing. People are putting stuff online, which has made everything more accessible.
SO HAS IT GOT EASIER TO ATTRACT AN AUDIENCE IN COMEDY THESE DAYS?
It’s easier in terms of you getting your stuff online. The difficulty comes from the fact that people now have more choices. But if we’re watching more comedy and there’s more access to comedy, that’s great.
WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO SHOW THINGS GOING WRONG AS WELL AS RIGHT ON YOUR TRIP?
In Britain, we’re used to being self-deprecating and embarrassing ourselves. In the series Asian Provocateur, where I went to Sri Lanka to connect with my roots, things went wrong and I’d get genuinely upset – but those moments made the series better. Hopefully it’s the same with this show.
HOW WAS IT UPROOTING THE WHOLE FAMILY FOR THIS VENTURE?
There were challenges taking my family over there, and the stress that it caused, but we just decided to do it, warts and all, and see what would happen. It would have been a lot easier if I’d been a single guy who was trying to do it.
YOU VISIT THE COMEDY CLUBS IN LA. WHAT DIFFERENCES STRUCK YOU BETWEEN THE US AND BRITISH STAND-UP CIRCUITS?
When Americans introduce a comedian, they give them a list of credits. I didn’t realise that was a thing. British audiences are so against things like that. If you start telling people: ‘You’ve seen him on this thing or that thing,’ a British audience will think: ‘Who does he think he is?’
HOW DO THE LIVE AUDIENCES DIFFER?
There is a lot less heckling in the US. In all the gigs I’ve done in the States, I’ve never seen somebody have a discussion with a drunken idiot for nearly the entire show. But it happens all the time in Britain.
STAND-UP COMIC ROMESH RANGANATHAN
ROMESH SHOWS OFF HIS COMIC SKILLS