Paul Sinha - Dave's Leicester Festival, Citizenship Test and Beyond
Paul Sinha, qualified GP/stand-up comedian, is a more than familiar name, most recently thanks to his appearance on ITV’s fourth series of ‘The Chase’. Paul gained massive critical acclaim at 2006’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe with his second full length solo show “Saint or Sinha” which was nominated for the if.comedy award (formerly the Perrier). Since then there has been no looking back and 2013 looks set to be his biggest year yet. First up, he has been commissioned by Radio 4 for his first series with them. This, a four episode series, going by the name of ‘Paul Sinha’s Citizenship Test,’ is slated to be broadcast some time this summer. Paul also makes a welcome return to your TV screens for Stewart Lee’s brand new show ‘The Alternative Comedy Experience’ on Comedy Central.
This Saturday (9 Feb) will see Paul performing his solo show ‘Last Christmas’ at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival so we thought what better a time to catch up with him to find out what 2013 has in store.
Most fans of the show will know you as one of the resident Chasers – the man in the white suit – The Sinha-man (sic) (ITV have it as Sinnerman) – whose formidable general knowledge regularly shatters the dreams of the normal contestants (if their dreams are all about winning a reasonable sum of money in front of millions of viewers and be there-forever-after asked to get the next round in). Do you think they’ll be more shocked to find out you’re a qualified Doctor or a successful and well established stand-up comedian?
I’m really not sure. I suspect the latter. I do think quite a few people underestimate me because they assume that someone who plies their trade as a comedian can’t be knowledgeable about the weightier stuff like history and culture. But actually they are among my stronger areas.
Did you go in for the medical degree because you thought “well it worked for Harry Hill”?
Of course not. Though coincidentally my medical school was Harry Hill’s alma mater. No, I went into medicine for the obvious reason – my parents would have had me killed otherwise.
Is there a link between comedy and a good quizzing knowledge? After all we’ve seen a fair few comics winning celebrity versions of quiz shows like Mastermind for example. Does good comedy come from a strong appetite for knowledge and a wide range of interests or is it purely because comedians often have nowt better to do most of the day than watch TV, read or surf the internet?
In most formats of quiz there are more questions about the world of entertainment than any other subject. As comics we are already in that world. So that helps. I agree that an awful lot of comics are into quizzes. I think it is a nerdishness issue. A disproportionate number of comedians that I’ve met have a nerdish enthusiasm for their pet subjects.This obsessiveness lends itself well to quiz ability.
You sharpened your quiz canines in pub quizzes. Did being a regular member of a pub audience with a group focus prepare you in any way for the mentality of the stand-up crowd? And if it did, would you care to share any nuggets of observation?
Not one iota. My preparation for the mentality of the stand-up crowd evolved from going to a lot of comedy gigs before I did my first gig. The pub quizzes I used to go to were far more mild mannered than the average stand-up gig.
Is your trademark white suit on ‘The Chase’ consciously or unconsciously in diametric opposition to the title of your 2010 Edinburgh Fringe show “Extreme Anti-White Vitriol”? Did you get punters turning up for that show leaving disappointed when it became apparent the title was ironic and a reference to a ludicrous accusation made of you by a member of the BNP?
It was a risky title, and maybe its abrasiveness lost me some potential audience members. But I can live with that. I didn’t choose the suit. However the production team that did choose it had seen the show. Until you asked, it had never occurred to me. Perhaps the producers were subconsciously reacting to it.
Race and related subjects and issues are obviously a part of your comedy, hence your upcoming Radio 4 show ‘Paul Sinha’s Citizen Test.’ Do you think there is an expectation and even pressure on comedians of a certain race to cover that topic? And going back to your radio show and on a lighter note (no racist pun intended) how well do you think yourself and/or your typical audience do on the Citizenship Test?
I don’t think there is pressure. One of the glorious things about stand-up comedy is that you’re free to talk about whatever you like. I do think there is expectation. And there is also misconception. Race is a very small part of what an average stand-up set from me would contain. And yet I am sure there are people who think that I talk about little else.As for the Citizenship Test, I am pretty sure from what I have seen that I and most people I’ve met would fail the test unless we had specifically revised.
What can we expect from your new stand-up show?
Jokes. Stories. Opinions. The usual mix, but now done from the perspective not of a curious outsider but of a daytime television star.
And to leave on a flippant note, when you buy services or goods from people do they expect you to offer them a high amount of money and then a low amount of money? And something I’ve always wondered of shows like ‘The Chase’ and ‘Mastermind’ – does that chair get a bit bum-smelly?
The only profession I know with that level of negotiation is thankfully not relevant to my life. As for the chair – most of ITV’s budget is spent on an army of chair wipers who make sure we are never in any sensory discomfort.