Romesh Ranganathan has sneaked up on the British public to take his place amongst the leading stand-up comics of the day.
Regular spots on panel game shows Play to the Whistle and 8 Out of 10 Cats, and a presenter role on prime time ITV’s It’s Not Rocket Science have shot the ex-maths teacher into the mainstream.
His gig at the Grand showed that it surely won’t be long before Ranganathan is selling out arenas, rubbing shoulders with the Peter Kays and Michael McIntyres in the pantheon of British stand-up.
Seriously, he’s that funny.
For much of Romesh’s set on Friday night, I was in a fit of belly laughter.
This doesn’t happen to me often. It certainly hadn’t happened while his warm-up act Phil Jerrod was on stage, providing one solitary titter in a bland 20-minute routine.
But Ranganathan has all the attributes of the great comedians.
Like Eric Morecambe, Miranda Hart and Tommy Cooper, Romesh looks funny just standing there without saying a word.
With his quiffed hair, bushy beard, specs, long jacket and trainers combo, and pearly-white gnashers, Ranganathan is a walking cartoon.
He has extraordinary timing and delivery, and his ad-libbing banter with the audience is so scathingly slick you’d swear it was rehearsed.
As he walked on and noticed the Grand’s ‘royal boxes’ overlooking the stage, he asked “What is this, The Muppet Show?”
Then he engaged in hilarious repartee with an audience member who revealed he’d travelled to Lancaster from Birmingham. “You do realise I’m in Birmingham tomorrow night, don’t you bruv?”
I expected much of his material to play on his Sri Lankan heritage and while Ranganathan does use his cultural background to poke fun at himself, the race card never dominates the act.
His envy of how his mum became an unlikely star during his own BBC documentary last year is a theme. Towards the end of the show, Romesh even claimed his mother was watching from the wings. The audience cheered in expectation of Mrs R coming onto stage, only for Ranganathan to gleefully reveal he was lying.
In between, the 38-year-old father of three rattled through his feelings about Starbucks, Facebook, Wagamama, Madonna and Donald Trump, his insecurity with middle-aged spread and his long-suffering relationship with his wife and kids, with the kind of deadpan cynicism that Jack Dee made fashionable.
But Ranganathan combines his middle-aged man rants with charm. He lays his foibles bare in a way that makes you root for him.
Romesh’s rise to prominence has been rapid. Based on this performance, it won’t be ending any time soon.