Wishin’, prayin’ Nish is stayin’ [by Matt Baker]
Nish Kumar has been performing comedy for 10 years, and it shows – in the best possible way. From board game politics to the liberalism of society, Kumar is an incredibly intelligent comedian whose observational comedy is rich with political and social relevance, while all the time avoiding condemnation and delivering in hilarity. It’s Kumar’s debut performance in New Zealand, and even though he slightly misread the opening night audience – in that we laughed when he least expected it – he ingratiated himself quickly to the Kiwi crowd, even managing to deliver a quick quip at John Key, an accurate observation as opposed to the more generic jokes by international comedians trying to pander to the locals.
Political satire makes up the majority of his material, however, even while Kumar is an admittedly left-wing comic, he doesn’t labour the fact, or the jokes, at the opposition. He immediately acknowledges the demographic of his audience, although, ironically, there were a few of the upper age and apparent economic echelon who were thoroughly enjoying even his more crass material. It is for that reason that I would not consider Kumar to be a controversial comedian, if only due to the fact that the anger he projects is one more of bewilderment than aggression. It’s easy to see the John Oliver comparison that has appeared in other reviews.
Kumar powers through his material with articulatory agility at breakneck speed, the 50-minute show feeling more like 20, which, considering the pace he settles into during his final bit, makes me wish venue scheduling had allowed him a slightly longer set. The only problem with Kumar’s NZ Debut is that the season is far too short to allow the wider New Zealand public to engage with him. Best to get along quickly and acquaint yourselves with this newly adopted Kiwi treasure.
Nish Kumar plays as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival at the Classic Studio until May 9. For details see Comedy Festival.