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It's an excruciating process to watch yourself on TV, says Nish Kumar

Nish Kumar will be recapping the headlines as his satirical and surreal news show The Mash Report returns for a fourth season. The comic talks to Kerri-Ann Roper about making the hit, and how recent developments regarding coronavirus might affect it

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Mashed up: Nish Kumar will be back on our screens early next month

Mashed up: Nish Kumar will be back on our screens early next month

Mashed up: Nish Kumar will be back on our screens early next month

There's a video clip of Nish Kumar on Twitter, strumming a guitar and singing a few chords of Bob Dylan's Tangled Up In Blue, but when asked about it, the comedian wants to make one thing clear: this is no attempt to launch a music career on the side.

Not that he needs to - the 34-year-old has enough on his plate, first and foremost the upcoming fourth series of the hit BBC Two satirical news show The Mash Report, which he fronts.

The series, which returns on April 3, sees Kumar joined by other comedians including Rachel Parris - as the team lampoon the week's news headlines.

We speak (on the phone) about the upcoming series in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic - before it was confirmed the show will not have a live audience - but even then, Kumar is realistic about that possibility.

"My entire career has been building up to a TV show in front of a sparse studio audience," he says light-heartedly.

His tone shifts within seconds and he explains: "I mean, listen, there's a reason that we have studio audiences for these shows - it creates an atmosphere and gives the feeling in the room, but it's a public health issue, isn't it?

"So the lowest priority for everyone at the minute is (going to) a TV record, so we'll obviously just work around it as best we can."

The BBC has also since announced that filming on EastEnders and top BBC dramas including Casualty, Doctors, Holby City and River City has been halted amid the coronavirus outbreak.

As such, the upcoming series of The Mash Report will see the whole cast filming themselves at home. Kumar will be joined virtually by guests including Parris, Geoff Norcott, Ellie Taylor, Catherine Bohart, Desiree Burch and Ahir Shah.

The Mash Report has cultivated a loyal following and clips such as Parris' sketch titled 'How NOT to sexually harass someone' became viral hits, so far amassing an impressive 1.5 million YouTube views.

His take on why the series has been such a hit is in part down to, he says, the need for people to have a laugh during dark times.

He explains: "I would say that there's been a space for this for a few years; there's certainly an audience for it.

"If I wasn't hosting the show, I'd be watching this show. I'm exactly the audience that has been cultivated on American late-night topical shows, and there's been a real thirst for something that's done in that same format but that's aimed at a British audience.

"I think also in the last few years, the pace of change and the intense - at times weirdness - of current events... I think there's an appetite to see people talk in a funny way about things that happen in the news, just because it's been so chaotic the last few years. There's definitely an appetite for people to watch something that engages with current events in a less serious way."

Apart from hosting The Mash Report since 2017, the Wandsworth-born TV and radio star has also appeared on numerous other TV shows including Taskmaster and Netflix's Comedians Of The World, but it took him a while to get to the point where he could watch himself in the name of work.

"For a long time when I started doing TV stuff, I refused to watch myself because it's an awful experience," he says.

"Unfortunately, in my experience, the only way to improve is by watching what you've done and trying to build on it and it definitely helped. It's an excruciating process to watch yourself on television, but it is very helpful."

The freedom to be more risque than other shows with how it tackles news events is an "exciting opportunity", he says.

"It's definitely exciting to get things across because sometimes people are more receptive to listening to things if they're presented in a funny and entertaining way. So you definitely understand there's an element to which you are able to get things across that people might not otherwise want to listen to - as long as you can package them up in an interesting and entertaining way," he explains.

Speaking of entertaining, it's time to get back to his impressive music skills.

He describes himself as "an incredibly amateur musician" and explains he was asked to do a "couple of things" some two years ago for a podcast and a friend then asked him if he'd play the guitar on his album, which he did.

"And then on Taskmaster, a task came up that involved me playing the guitar, so it does look like I'm trying to force a second career as a musician. I want it made absolutely clear that it's not the case," he says.

More recently, there was also the Dylan video which saw him appear on a podcast about the singer and play the guitar, a skill he reckons he's been honing for around 15 years.

However, he is insistent that music is "something that I absolutely love doing, but I'm aware that I'm pretty terrible at it".

The same can't be said for his Mash Report prowess.

The Mash Report returns to BBC Two on April 3

Belfast Telegraph