Nish Kumar is a frightened man. He has been ever since the EU referendum, and 2016 has made very little attempt to disabuse him of that fear. The critically acclaimed stand-up received a raft of great reviews at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and he brought that highly rated show – Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Unless You Shout the Words Real Loud – to Coventry as part of his current UK tour.
What’s most impressive about Kumar, who has in recent series been the host of Radio 4 Extra’s Newsjack, is his ability to pair biting satire with silliness, a combination also employed to great effect by acolytes such as Stewart Lee and Andy Zaltzman. That technique was firmly on display here, with Brexit and the US Presidential election understandably dominating, but where other comics tread a similar path, Kumar’s singular voice found fresh angles on well-worn topics, dispensed with winning comic lines and oodles of charm.
Away from those admittedly large topics, Kumar also riffed on social trends such as gentrification – and the far more insidious mid-90s trend of lad culture – to generate myriad jokes with an astonishing hit-rate, firing off gags as part of intricately layered routines that were dense with intelligent humour.
If that all sounds a bit too right-on, his overtly political material was leavened in the first half by regaling us with tales of being an excitable audience member at gigs by David Bowie, James Brown and Prince, and arguing that it’s fine to go to gigs on your own (unless, like him, you can’t be trusted to attend without making a fool of yourself).
This was a rip-roaring, invigorating and hilarious show from one of the most vital voices in UK stand-up at the moment. Kumar’s star is rising fast, so you should make sure you can catch him in rooms this small before he makes the inevitable step up.When it comes, it will be well deserved.