Romesh Ranganathan talks about lockdown, mental health and comedy!

Romesh talks to Nicholas Goldwin about life in lockdown.

Romesh talks to Nicholas Goldwin about life in lockdown. - Credit: BBC

Romesh Ranganathan, for several reasons, considers himself very lucky. He is fortunate enough not to be without income during these uncertain times, and able to continue filming his TV programme The Ranganation from the comfort of his own home, a fact no doubt celebrated by many of his fans and viewers.

“I was in the middle of a tour when the first lockdown happened," he said.

"I’d been touring for a few months at the end of 2019, and we were going into 2020. I was just about to start a run at the Hammersmith Apollo and I think I was two nights in, and then we went into lockdown. All the live work disappeared, so obviously we can’t gig or anything. That was probably the main way it affected me — my tour got effectively postponed until whenever.”

He laments, however, that unhappily not a lot of comedians are as lucky as he has been, as stand-up is the only income stream for many of them.

“A lot of comedians that I know who only rely on live work for their living, their incomes are totally taken away. The effect it’s had on me is fairly minor, and the truth is the production teams have been really really good at making us be able to make TV safely. It’s harder, it’s more expensive, and it’s much more difficult to generate the atmosphere and stuff like that, but I consider myself to be very lucky, because I’ve been able to stay busy so I feel very blessed.”

In addition to the aforementioned Ranganation in which Romesh discusses relevant and topical issues with a panel of guests (many of whom are also comics), Romesh also has a travel series entitled The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan, in which he travels to places where the general public may not often travel, or have misconceptions about due to the media.

“The truth is when we started doing the show, the idea was we were going to go to the most dangerous countries in the world and see what they were like — that was the original idea, but the problem is you can’t get insured to go and film in those countries.

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"So we decided to change it to places that people don’t tend to go to, and places where people might have misconceptions of. That’s what we talk about when we’re deciding which countries to go to; it’s always of the beaten track, it’s always people wouldn’t think about going. The typical Brit goes to Spain and Portugal and America and stuff like that — they won’t necessarily go to places like Ethiopia or Zimbabwe or Bosnia”

“I think that going and seeing different cultures and different countries, and putting yourself in relatively alien environments is always going to be good for you. It just changes your outlook on things — it’s made me feel less uncomfortable after different situations . I’m more open to travelling to different places, trying different food. It does widen your horizons.”

However, Romesh has experienced many of the same struggles shared by parents in lockdown, most notably the struggles of online learning. It has been particularly difficult striking the balance between keeping his children up to date with their school work and preventing them from worrying about everything and becoming stressed.

“It’s been difficult. My wife and I both have teaching backgrounds, but the truth is that people think that that helps — it doesn’t massively, because our kids don’t see us as teachers, they see us embarrassing people that they live with. We don’t quite have the authority that a teacher does. It’s been quite difficult in the first lockdown, we were trying to figure out how to keep their education going without stressing them out so much.”

Romesh has been writing regular weekly articles for The Guardian for the past couple of years, after receiving an initial invitation to write for them on what was originally thought to be a one-off basis. He attempts to discuss both public issues and his own personal problems in these articles, including his mental health struggles, his political views and most recently the pandemic.

He has particularly spoken about his struggles with Imposter Syndrome in the past, and how it takes the form of a critical inner voice that has only become louder as time has gone on. Fame hasn’t made it any better, but despite this, Romesh does not regret becoming famous.

“I don’t regret becoming famous. The aim was never to become famous, the aim was to become a comic, and the fame thing has come as a side effect. You need a bit of it, because I want people to come and see me on tour, and people are more likely to pay money if they’ve heard of you. T

"hat’s why I started doing TV, because I wanted more people to come and see me on tour. I’m very privileged that I’ll be walking around doing my shopping, and somebody will come up to me and say ‘I really like your work’. Most people don’t get that, so I’m very lucky to have that. I think I would have had that inner voice regardless of whether I was famous or not.

"I don’t think that inner critic comes from fame. I think that inner critic comes from spending our lives training to be horrible to ourselves. I’ve got coping strategies for it, things like trying to engage with your compassionate voice a bit more, being more forgiving of yourself, being kinder to yourself.”

“I think that the easiest thing to do is to talk to people. If you’ve got friends and family, then that means talking to them. Even if you just google ‘someone to talk to...’ — I think talking is paramount if you’re feeling insecure, upset or disconnected, that is vital. I think we can all do better at checking in with our friends and making sure they’re alright. Some people find mediation helpful. Some people find colouring helpful. Some people find listening to podcasts helpful. You’ve just got to find your thing.”