Writer and Performer: Romesh Ranganathan
Romesh Ranganathan returns to his hometown of Crawley to film a Netflix comedy special. It should be a big deal for the town where the comic grew up and still lives, so he cannot understand why the whole place isn’t talking about it and why his own family – mum, brother, wife and sons – aren’t more excited for him. This is the premise of the very funny 30-minute mock-doc that accompanies the release of The Cynic, an entertaining double bill that captures the hour-long show and the build up to it.
Although billed as Episode Two, for those less familiar with Ranganathan’s material, the documentary gives a great insight into his family life and childhood using the lightest possible touch, much of which underpins his comic storytelling in The Cynic. Visiting their former home as well as the school Ranganathan attended as well as taught at, his mother Shanthi thinks nothing of telling a class full of teenagers that her son was a fat child, while their father’s tendency to cheat is clearly a long-running family joke.
Elsewhere Shanthi proves quite the TV personality herself conducting a very silly interview with her son along with filmed discussions with his wider family as they discuss the build-up to the comedy special. This is 30-minutes well spent and makes great preparation for the comic content of The Cynic which uses material largely focused around parenting three small boys, trying to keep a marriage alive and cutting observations of a man transitioning from the freedom of his 30s to the settled responsibilities of his mid-40s – reflections that seem even funnier having seen these interactions first-hand.
A daytrip to Brighton is the spine of the show in which a child goes briefly missing and from there Ranganathan spins out into all kinds of digressions and offshoots that take the audience on a whistlestop tour of middle-aged angst and domestic drama. The skill of The Cynic is to always return back to the beach at Brighton – about which the stand-up has plenty of choice words – and to pick up the strands of the story exactly where he left them, leading the audience through the next chapter.
Along the way there is plenty of Ranganathan’s trademark cutting humour, directed as much at himself as at family and friends. And he doesn’t hold back, suspecting his son of orchestrating a disappearance in order to get an ice-cream, commenting on his wife’s opinion of Idris Elba who they later meet at an Awards ceremony and the failure of most men to recognise and accept their own attractiveness.
Across the 60-minutes, Ranganathan is in tight control of the material and the audience never waits too long for another joke, which is the main measure of a successful routine. Despite the underwhelming reaction in the jokey documentary, the Crawley auditorium is packed out for The Cynic and now Netflix viewers also get to enjoy the latest insights into Ranganathan’s family life.
The Cynic is availableon Netflix from 29 November.