Outspoken Scottish comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli is heading out on the road with brand new show Hardeep Is Your Love – his first-ever straight stand-up tour.
On the eve of the first gig, he spoke to Mark Butler about relationships, the terrible state of modern TV, and why he agrees with Russell Brand about the need for a revolution.
Hi Hardeep. First of all, let me congratulate you on the title of your new show. It made me laugh out loud.
“I’ve had that as my email address for about 15 years now, so I’m glad it’s still funny after all this time.”
Your tour, dealing with the ins and outs of love, kicks-off tomorrow. It’s actually pretty timely considering it’s Valentine’s Day this week…
“I hadn’t even realised that! You’ve just given me five minutes of extra material there. Thanks.”
No problem. This will be your first ever straight stand-up tour. How are you feeling about it?
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly nervous, but I love being on stage. I’m really excited.
“With the last tour I built up to bigger venues, but it’s lovely to go back to intimate shows in small venues. I prefer that. When you go to an arena and you’re watching someone on a big screen, you might as well go home and put on the video.”
I was surprised to learn that this was your first ever go at straight stand-up. Why did you decide to take the plunge now?
“I’d done the cooking tour, and really, really enjoyed it, but I was looking for a challenge. Comedy is quite competitive, and a lot of comics don’t regard me as comic.
“Doing this lets me get back to intimate crowds, gig more, and it’s an elegant way of doing a lot more.”
How did you prepare for it?
“I had to write gags, and I don’t normally do that. I’m normally much more story-based – and there are still anecdotes there – but having to work out gags was quite interesting.
“I don’t like stand-ups where they just talk at you. I like to have a narrative, so working one out for this show was a fun experience.”
What prompted the choice of topic?
“You want the truth? OK, the truth is I wrote this show because at the age of 44 I met a woman 17 years younger than me, and I fell in love with her. And then we split up. It’s bizarre doing this show as a single man.
“I think a middle aged man in love, with all his ego and vanity, is hilarious. I strutted around thinking ‘I look good’, and I really didn’t. I never have.
“I like how it forces you to think about yourself in a different way. And everyone can relate to issues surrounding love – positive or negative.
“Let’s be honest as well: sex and love are just f***ing funny.”
As we were saying, it’s all quite timely with Valentine’s Day this week. Have you had any particularly bizarre or painful Valentine’s experiences in the past?
“How many thousands of words have you got?
“Funnily enough, when I was at university, me and a girl made a pact that if we got to 40 and were both single, we’d get together. I was single at 40 – but she wasn’t.
“Mostly Valentine’s Day memories consist of hotel rooms where the girl hasn’t turned up, and I’m just left there on my own with red roses and champagne.”
What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?
“Gosh. It wasn’t that long ago – about two weeks ago I think? There’s this myth that men don’t communicate and women over-communicate, and there’s probably some truth in that.
“If your companion says you aren’t an item when someone asks, that’s one thing. But when the waitress asks ‘would you like any bread?’, and she blurts out: ‘We’re just mates! We’re not on a date!’, that’s quite another.”
You previously dedicated a lot of time to exploring culinary delights, of course. Are you a firm believer that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?
“I’d actually say the best way to a woman’s heart is through the stomach. That’s a particular change. They’re so much more into their food these days.
“I cook and eat out a lot, so I’d say the way to my stomach is through my trainers.”
What are your aphrodisiacs?
“Horlicks. Mixed with a bit of KY Jelly? Phwoar, yeah.
“Champagne’s always good, because it makes you a bit giddy. Oysters don’t make you feel any more up for it than after a naan bread though. Having said that, I’d actually recommend a peshwari naan, because the sugar rush makes you happy anyway.”
You’re well-known to a lot of people for your TV work. Do you prefer being on stage, or on screen?
“If I didn’t have to do telly again for the rest of my life I wouldn’t be bothered. Generally speaking, TV in this country isn’t terribly good.
“It’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The whole reality thing creates stars, uses them, burns them out, and then sends them packing – instead of having people who are good at what they do ending up on the screen. There’s something fundamentally wrong there.
“If you have two-dimensional people desperate to be on TV, they’re not going to be asking difficult questions. You end up with something so empty there’s barely any point in watching. That’s why I don’t really watch TV anymore. I bumped into a guy from Downton Abbey last night – and I had no idea who he was.
“If you look at The Voice, X Factor and all those shows, we’re trying to short-circuit the real world. I like being involved in the real world.”
You’ve made a number of interesting documentaries in the past. Which experience did you find the most rewarding?
“The documentary about Scientology was amazing. Being involved in the film about homelessness was also incredible. I like doing television where I’m finding stuff out, and exploring things.”
I remember being particularly struck by the one about homelessness. What was your most startling realisation during that?
“I realised how ready we are to judge people, and how much our generosity is qualified.
“If you’re going to give a homeless person money, give them money. Don’t tell them how to spend it. Wouldn’t you do drink and drugs if you were on the street? You’d do anything to escape.
“Also, a lot of people I spoke to wanted interaction more than money. It’s the loneliness that gets to them. God, this is a really funny comedy interview isn’t it?”
What other issues would you be keen to explore going forward?
“Where we are with faith is fascinating, and where we are with capitalism, consumerism and the free-market too.
“We haven’t had a post-industrial revolution in this country. We haven’t felt able to take to the streets and wrestle power back from unelected corporations. What’s wrong with us?”
Russell Brand talked about a revolution recently of course, and a got a lot of flak for that.
“Yeah, but who were the people who shot him down? The common man and woman generally agreed with him.
“Everything he said I agreed with, from start to finish.”
Our core team is based up in Edinburgh, and they wondered what your thoughts were on Scottish independence? Which side of the fence are you on?
“We require independence. The restoration of the nation. Westminster is threatening to pull us out of Europe.
“I don’t understand why people are against a nation that has been established for a thousand years running its own affairs. I happen to believe that if we lack a security in ourselves to be able to govern ourselves, we need to look at our psyche as a nation.
“But I don’t look at it as being on one side of the fence or the other – it’s more complex than that. The biggest recipient would actually be England, because there wouldn’t be any reform in Westminster without this.
“People keep talking about England and Scotland being equal partners, but if we were equal partners there would be the same debates going on in England right now. There aren’t.
“We walked into the union with open eyes, and we’ll walk out with open eyes.”
On a closing note, I remember you once walked out of an extremely awkward local radio interview that went belly up. I hope this has been a bit more tolerable?
“[laughs] You won’t believe this. I’m sitting 12 yards away from the studio where that happened as we speak! I’m about to go into another interview now.
“You know, Les Ross was a great broadcaster, who has done great work, and he just had a bit of a meltdown. It was hilarious at the time though. I remember the video going crazy on the internet.
“I’d say this has gone a bit better, really.”
Hardeep Singh Kohli tours from tomorrow:
Feb 13: Leicester, Crumblin’ Cookie
Feb 24: Newcastle, The Stand
Mar 3: York, Hyena Lounge
Mar 4: Leeds, The Wardrobe
Mar 5: Hull, Fruit
Mar 7: Guildford, G Live
Mar 15: Glasgow, Oran Mor
Mar 21: Edinburgh, Festival Theatre
Mar 29: Bath, Cricket Club
Mar 30: Maidenhead, Norden Farm
Apr 13: Kirkcaldy, Adam Smith Theatre
Apr 17: Aberdeen, Lemon Tree
Apr 19: Norwich Playhouse
Apr 26: Dundee, Gardyne
May 31: London, Stratford Circus
Jun 6: Didcot, Cornerstone
Jun 13: Nottingham Playhouse
Sep 5: Uppingham Arts Theatre
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