How to survive a family christmas with Romesh Ranganathan
Don’t book anything between Christmas and New Year. Next thing you know, you’ll be back at work so make sure you keep it free.
Pretend drinks at a party are ones you’ve bought. It’s a money-saver. Take carrier bags and claim the drinks as your own.
A BIT ABOUT ME
My first gig was a talent contest at a Pontins Holiday Park when I was nine. I entered and did stand-up – jokes from the book: 3001 Jokes For Kids. I did the act in a Sri Lankan accent and won. I was up against a kid playing a trumpet. That was my first gig and, years later, because I’d always loved comedy, I decided to give stand-up a go.
To survive the family at Christmas, go big early on. As people walk in, I chat: ‘Hey! How are you? Can I get you a drink?’ Go big; advertise. Put in 10 minutes and you’ve bought yourself a day of doing nothing, as people have ‘seen’ you.
SHIELD OF SHAME
This is going to sound bad but I use my kids as a human shield. If a kid starts talking to me at a party, I call over one of my sons and say: ‘This boy wants to play!’ Then I’ll shove my kid over. It looks like I’m engineering an environment where kids can play together, but I’m just protecting myself.
Pick up a few drinks and walk around. People won’t talk to you for very long if it looks like you’re on your way to give the drinks to someone else.
My veganism means I can opt out of Christmas dinner. Everyone else gets turkey, while I have curry. The only problem is when people take vegetarian things when they’re
not vegetarian. The rage I feel when I see a pair of tongs heading for the nut loaf is unreal. So hoard your food. It’s territorial.
Pranks are good. I’ve given my kids an empty box, then later on presented the real gift. Another thing is to never ask my mum what she wants for Christmas. Most people, when you ask what they would like, say: ‘I’m all right.’ My mum doesn’t do that. She’ll go: ‘Mercedes.’ The number of times I’ve been stung… so now I don’t ask her.
Do my plans work? No. I like to think that if I do as much as I can over Christmas, it reduces the number of interactions I have to have with family over the year. But others think it’s a social starting point. It can actually raise the bar, whereas I want the bar closed until next year.
3 TIPS TO GET STARTED IN STAND-UP
1. Go for it
I phoned the Comedy Café in London when first starting out. You needed to have done 20 gigs, so I lied. I died that night, but stuck at it.
2. Generate new material
I didn’t know how much writing you were supposed to do, so for my first five gigs I did new material each time. People thought I was prolific, but I wasn’t – I didn’t know that’s how you weren’t supposed to do it. It actually put me in good stead, though.
3. Let the work speak for itself
Don’t schmooze. I got invited to an industry event when I was new. I stood there for 20 minutes, watched others talk, then left. I can chat to people, but can’t schmooze as part of my job. If you’re red-hot, but a bit awkward, you’ll still get signed up.
Romesh’s stand-up show Irrational is out now on DVD and digital download.