Romesh Ranganathan: ‘If someone says “did you enjoy that?” I know I’ve died on my arse’

The comedian, 40, talks about being a maths teacher, a near-death experience and trying to be funny when he met Jack Dee

Being a comedian wasn’t ever the plan. I loved stand-up, but I never thought you could do it as a job. It’s like saying: “I’m going to be a Hollywood actor.” It doesn’t feel like a career path. The ambition was to be a teacher who had comedy as a hobby.

I chose to be a maths teacher because I thought the marking would be easy. You’d just tick and cross, whereas if you’re an English teacher, you’ve got to read essays. Then they said I had to analyse the methodology. It takes an eternity, it’s insane!

I have a real obsession with being slighted by restaurants. I look around and if somebody else has bread and we don’t, I think: “What’s going on here? Am I a mug?” It’s like a persecution complex. I convince myself that everyone in the restaurant has decided they don’t like me.

I’ve tried to tackle my fear of spiders because I don’t want my children to have that phobia. It hasn’t worked because they now realise that if a man sits rigidly still with a single teardrop rolling down his cheek, and he’s soiled himself, he’s probably scared of spiders.

People assume that your audience is full of people who love you. But, typically, it’s one person in four who’s chosen to come and has convinced some other people to go with them. I was doing this show and there was a woman in the front row with a look on her face like she was witnessing an atrocity. I came back out to the second half and she had gone. I said to the guy in the next seat: “Has she gone, or is she coming back?” And he said, so everybody could hear: “She said it’s the worst thing she’s ever seen in her life.”

My greatest regret is the way I spoke to my dad when I was 17. My parents had a few problems in their marriage, then they reconciled and things were OK. But I was angry with him after he came back. The way I spoke to him during that time was awful. By the time my dad passed away our relationship was great. But I regret never apologising to him. I just left it. We never spoke about it again.

There’s nothing less funny than somebody trying to be funny. I loved Jack Dee, then I met him and I became the least funny human to exist because of my desperation to say something amusing.

The worst thing you can say to a comedian right after they come off stage is: “Did you enjoy that?” If somebody says that, I know I’ve died on my arse.

My dad told me that nothing is make or break – a single moment to change the rest of your life. He said to me: “It doesn’t work like that. If you have a moment like that and you think it’s gone, just keep going. You’ll get another moment.”

The closest I’ve come to death is when I was hit by a car. My mum had let me bunk off school, I went to cross the road, ran before looking and got hit. It felt like poetic justice.

I suffer from imposter syndrome. I’m constantly waiting for a tap on the shoulder and someone to say: “I’m sorry, but you’re rubbish. We watched your stuff a bit more closely and it’s become clear you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing. If you could just pack up and go… ”

The Reluctant Landlord will air on Sky One and Now TV at 10pm on 30 October


Hayley Campbell

The GuardianTramp

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