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Rob Beckett versus Romesh Ranganathan: comedians in lockdown

Comedy dream team Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan have an onscreen rapport that is not fake – they really are the best of pals. They've missed working, and each other, during lockdown. With their second series together about to air, we eavesdropped on the pair getting their frustrations out

Rob Beckett: Speaking personally, I think it was nice to have a little break because our schedules are insane. But after about two weeks of sitting down and having that break, I’m gagging to get out and work again. I love gigging and I miss it. Don’t know about you Rom?

Romesh Ranganathan: Initially it was a great but it turns out my wife doesn’t like me as much as I thought she did.

Rob: And you never thought she liked you much anyway.

Rom: Yeah, the gloss has very much come off this relationship.

Rob: My wife did something that was quite dark. She was watching my Instagram videos and I said, ‘Why are you watching that when the real deal’s right here?!’ And she said, ‘Because I can turn this one off.’

Rom: The novelty of being at home’s gone and we’re just trying to slow the descent into madness. We check in with each other quite a lot because every now and again one of us will post something online that makes the other one concerned – ‘Just seen you singing with your top off again, everything alright? Little tip mate, not quite as funny as you thought it was, actually quite bleak.’

Rob: Why are we such workaholics? Some deep psychological worry, but that is a bit bleak to put in print. Our upbringing though, we’ve both got hardworking families.

Rom: We both come from families that had their struggles. My parents worked constantly. It was difficult for us growing up and I think it was the same for Rob. You have it in you that you want to work hard, but on top of that, you’re trying to work hard in an industry that’s difficult to break into. You start off accepting any gig, wherever it is in the country to try and get your name out there and get paid work. And we just haven’t lost that attitude, I guess.

Rob: My dad used to drive a lorry for 12 or 14 hours a day. So how can I not do this?

Rom: We both do a job that we love. I don’t ever dread work. I dread getting up, I dread being away from home, but I don’t ever dread what the actual job is.


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Rob: I find it difficult just now because I basically can’t do the thing that I’m good at. I’m rubbish at everything else. I’ve tried to clean the windows and I made them worse. I keep wandering around my house making everything worse.

Rom: Doing live stand-up is so addictive. I mean, we are doing stuff online but it’s not the same as being in front of an audience. You riff off them and hone your material, so to not have that does feel like you’re not exercising a muscle. Comedy is quite a lonely job, going on tour is stressful. So to have people that you can chat to is important.

Rob: Like any industry, there are people you get on with and people you don’t, but people who aren’t nice you won’t have heard of because they’re not normally very good at comedy. We started out together 10 years ago so we’re proper mates, not just TV friends where they throw people together and they pretend.

Rom: That’s the official line. On paper, if you were to put our characteristics into a website, we wouldn’t come up as a match. We’d actually be advised to stay away from each other because, on the face of it, we should not be friends. I would describe Rob as an acquired taste, but once you’ve acquired it, oh, it’s beautiful. He’s like a horrible olive.

Rob: We feel comfortable doing things that you may not do on our own or with someone else. There are no egos involved. Because we trust each other, we can push each other to do more ridiculous things.

Yeah, there are definitely some things we’ve done in the show [Rob & Romesh Vs, which sees them enter the world of NBA, ballet and cricket] that I’d never do on my own. Ballet I would describe as combining an artistic and cultural high point with Rob and my own dignity’s low point. Pouring ourselves into ballet outfits was degrading. Rob: Lumps and stuff that none of the other dancers had. I know I don’t have a great body but I found out my back was fat. We also did a colonic irrigation together… Why did we do that?

Rom: Both of us dropped the ball there. An absolutely horrendous series of decisions. It’s something that’s stayed with us.

Rob: I’ve not been the same since. It’s like a sleeve on a jumper, pull it up to your elbow and it’s never tight around your watch again. Did they keep the button mushroom bit in?

Rom: They did, Rob, they did. That might be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. Cameras rolling and a mushroom emerges from inside you and passes through an exhibiting tunnel.

Rob: Could’ve been worse, could’ve been a field mushroom. The bottom rule is, if it’s funny, do it. It doesn’t necessarily mean I will enjoy it, or it will be pleasurable. But if it’s funny, it’s our job, innit?

The new series of Rob & Romesh Vs returns on May 5 on Sky One and Now TV

Support The Big Issue! This article originally appeared in Big Issue magazine #1407. You can buy that edition, or any other one-off issues or subscriptions from The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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