Comedians Romesh Ranganathan and Rob Beckett on art, golf and lockdown life
Best mates Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan are always up for a challenge. That much has become evident in the hilarious Sky One show, Rob & Romesh Vs, in which the comedians push themselves to the limits as they learn about unfamiliar worlds – boxing, basketball, ballet – from experts in the field.
And the skills the stand-up stars try their hand at in the new series – the third – are arguably the most entertaining yet. There’s golf, in which they have lessons with Olympic Champion Justin Rose, before teeing off at the world-famous BMW PGA Championship; art (culminating in each of them having to present an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery); and, finally, drag. And, yes, we really do get to see them perform their very own drag routines in front of a live audience.
Here, Londoner Beckett, 35, and Crawley-born Ranganathan, 42, tell us more about stepping out of their comfort zones together…
Can you tell us about a moment from the new series that stands out for you?
Rob: I was so hyped up and stressed out about doing the drag performance, so the comedown after the adrenaline high was so big. We had to film the end scene, of us on Brighton Beach, and just before we filmed that I was told we were going into Tier 4 – all the shops were shutting at midnight, I couldn’t get my wife’s Christmas present and Christmas was cancelled! So, for me, that was probably the most stressful scene we did. I’ll remember that forever.
Tell us more about your drag routines…
Rob: I actually fancied Romesh in drag!
Romesh: Yeah, I found Rob very, very attractive in drag.
Rob: We were both quite desperate to be sexy. We’re never in ‘Weird celebrity crush’ or ‘Torso of the week’ … And I think we found a way to be sexy.
Romesh: I would say, with Rob and I in drag, it’s a thin line between sexy and terrifying. You’ll have to make up your own minds as to which side of that line we fell.
Romesh, you shaved off your beard for the performance. What did your friends and family make of that look?
Romesh: Well, I got carried away in the moment is what happened. We had our initial drag makeover to see what we’d look like, and the plan was always that Rob was going to shave his beard off. I got excited, grabbed the clippers and did my beard… and in that moment I just forgot what my face looked like. And, as I did it, it was so horrific. Leesa, my wife, was furious. And then I went home and my youngest son wouldn’t come near me. He said, ‘You don’t look like my dad!’
How long is the list of stuff you’d like to try for the show?
Rob: Golf might not have been top of the list but it proved to be so funny and so interesting, and it made us realise that we don’t have to be really passionate about it individually – or really hate it – in order for it to work. We don’t have to have that dynamic – it can just be us two exploring stuff.
Romesh: It feels like, as long as there’s something to get our teeth into it, we’d pretty much have a go at anything.
Rob: I’d quite like to join a cult! That would be a good episode.
How do you think you would cope in lockdown if you had to live together?
Rob: Even if on the surface we seem very different, we’re both essentially quite similar, I’d say, wouldn’t you, Romesh?
Romesh: I think the reason we get on so well is because we are quite similar underneath it. But there’s no denying we have different energies, and I do think it complements each other. I love Rob… we have spent loads of time together. But we hadn’t been away with each other a lot and when you do this [TV show], it brings you together for intense amounts of time under quite stressful situations. We actually agreed that there was a good chance we were going to fall out and possibly come to blows with each other and we’d just accept that as part of the show… but it hasn’t happened, touch wood!
Have either of you started any new hobbies at home during the pandemic?
Rob: I’ve started walking. I’m from south-east London and I own two pairs of walking boots now, which I never thought would happen to me.
Romesh: Rob had been talking about doing colouring during the art episode. I was cynical, and then he kept on saying, ‘Honestly, you’ve got to try it’. So, I bought a colouring book for my wife and we thought, ‘We’ll put on a little podcast, have a glass of wine and do some colouring’. Feels like a zero jeopardy way to spend your evening… Until she started commenting on how quickly we were each colouring our pictures and made it into a competition. So, she actually managed to inject anxiety into colouring!
Is there anything else you’ve learnt about while filming the show that you’ve carried on doing?
Romesh: I’ve now got a full DJ set-up in my garage. My target – when we’re allowed to – is to actually go and play a set somewhere that isn’t embarrassingly bad.
Rob: Now I would actually go to art galleries when I’m on tour – which I wouldn’t ever have done before. Sometimes, when you’re from a working-class background, you feel quite alien and a bit like you’re in trouble going there. It feels like a school trip and you’re going to get told off and stuff… But I think I’d feel a bit more confident going to galleries.
Rob and Romesh Vs series 3 airs on Sky One and NOW TV from Thursday, February 4.