Hi Romesh. How are you finding working from home during lockdown?
If I'm being absolutely honest, I find it very difficult. My mindset very much tends to be [normally] 'I have to be in a workspace to work and then, when I'm with my family, I'm with my family'. So now I'm in this weird situation where those things have blended. So trying to separate those things is quite difficult.
I found what's helped is trying to structure the day in some way, so now I say to Leesa and the kids that I work from this time to this time, and I'll go and put myself in the garage and work in there for a bit. It's set up like an office so I'm not just sitting on the floor. Then I'll have a set cut-off time, because the first couple of weeks I was just working, and then every time something occurred to me I'd go back and do it, and it was all getting all mixed up.
We work on rhythm don't we? Being at home the whole time takes that rhythm away and so I think trying to put some structure into it is good. But I think you have to look after yourself. When this first started happening I had started looking at the news just before going to sleep and managed to just get myself into an absolute panic about everything, it's so horrendous. I think you have to just go, "I know that happens."
If I do want to stay across the news, which I do want do, I'll do that in the morning. It's weird things that trigger me off. Any piece of news that reminds me of a film, I freak out about. For example, recently they said that some tigers in a zoo had shown signs of corona, and I freaked out. I completely freaked out. I was like, I've seen this in a film where some animals got some virus and it was the beginning of the end. That was it then, my morning was written off dealing with that mentally!
For those who aren't familiar with the show, could you tell us a bit about how it works, and share any highlights from Series 1?
The show is essentially myself and couple of celebrity guests, looking at news and things that are pricking the British public's conscience, all with the help of 20 members of the British public!
They come from all sorts of different walks of life - we try and get as broad a cross section of people as we can so that we get a full range of views. We basically navigate our way through what's happened in the week. Some of that might be political - like in the last series we talked about the Tory leadership race - but it's more likely to be to be non-political really, just things that are bothering people. For example, there was a survey when we did last series about whether people specifically wash their legs or not in the shower. It turns out that a lot more people than I thought don't specifically wash their legs in the shower; they just presume that it's going to be naturally taken care of!
The other thing we discovered was that loads of the members of the Ranganation slept with a teddy bear. And apparently that's a thing - a lot more British people than you think sleep with a soft toy every single night!
I think one of the highlights of the last series was, well I say it was a prank...one of the members of the Ranganation, Metalhead, revealed on one of the episodes that he got a tattoo of me on his leg since being a member of the Ranganation. Then on the last episode of the show I got a tattoo of him on my leg to reveal to him and it was a lovely little moment. He's convinced that it wasn't real but I can promise it is real. I do have his silhouette on my leg.
Who will it be this series, that's the question?
Oh, listen, the shop is shut on that. I'm not getting a tattoo of every bloody member of the Ranganation. We're done with that!
Can you tell us what to expect from the new 'lockdown version' of The Ranganation?
All of the essential ingredients to the show will be exactly the same as normal. So we're going to have the Ranganation, we're going to have my mum on the show and we're going to have special guests on the show. The only difference will be the setting. We didn't want to change it. We didn't want to make a completely different show. So it is essentially the same but will look very, very different because where doing it from my house basically.
I do want to point out that on The Ranganation set the logo is my face. There's a possibility we're going to have that on our show, but I do just want to make it clear I didn't happen to just have that! That is something that's being sent to me. I'm very concerned that people will think I'm some sort of narcissist with memorabilia lying around the house!
Are you looking forward to being reunited with the Ranganation, albeit via technology? Will we have some new faces this year?
It's going to be a combination. So a lot of the old faces will be back, but we also wanted to bring in new people so there will be new members of the Ranganation. The Ranganation are the reason that I love the show.
I realise it sounds kind of backwards to sort of talk about how the show is about this group of people who you've named after yourself - there's sort of a faux humility in that. But I do think the show stands and falls by them.
Last series they were so great, and I think having people that are just open to express their opinions means we can discuss things properly. Sometimes the conversations and discussions are going in a way that you weren't expecting, or people believe things that you didn't think people believe.
I think that the Ranganation are the reason that I love that show so much, they are what makes that show unique, so I'm very excited about chatting to them again. They always surprise you. Like every single episode last series, something happened that was like a proper moment or that would surprise you, it's really great. The great thing about all of those guys is they're not trying to say anything for the benefit of TV. They're just saying what they think which is always better.
Do you think there'll be many technical challenges working with your mum in these new circumstances?
I just can't imagine how it's going to work! I mean I know theoretically she's supposed to be on the show. She's currently at the stage where she still can't buy stuff off Amazon, and that is one of the most intuitive point and click systems in the internet's existence... so the idea that she is going be able to log onto this thing I find incredible.
I really do think it's just going to be the Ranganation, my guests and a square that says 'Shanthi' on it as we haven't managed to get her connected. I think we're going to have to record her saying things like "I didn't like that", "You should be a lot nicer", "Can you speak more slowly" - just a series of stock phrases that my mum says. Oh and "Shut up!" - that would be a good one.
On that note, will the rest of the family be involved in helping with any of the show? How do they feel about it being filmed from the garage?
Well, they have expressed annoyance at me using various parts of the house to broadcast from. So, for example, I've be doing Facebook Lives and my kids have got the best internet in the house so I've been doing it from their rooms. They've found that very annoying.
I think they're fascinated by the idea that we're going to make a TV show from our house, they find that incredible. I think they're very excited and very interested in how The Ranganation's going to happen. They're sort of going: "You're going to do a TV show from that garage? The garage you and mum were arguing about clearing out a couple of weeks ago?"
I think they're finding it interesting and I think, to be honest with you, they're just grateful that I'm going to be in the garage and out of the house at a regular time every week.
If you could invite anyone in the world to join Series 2 of The Ranganation who would it be and why? No barriers!
I think my dream guest would be Sir Patrick Stewart. I think he's a lovely man isn't he? But also quite opinionated and he's quite a passionate bloke as well. He's doing these poetry readings on social media at the moment, I think it's his way of helping and contributing or whatever. So yeah, I think he'd be great.
How do you get 'show ready' before filming?
I do have this weird mental exercise. I've read about it somewhere, to get yourself mentally sharp you have to, as quickly as possible, think of something that begins with every letter of the alphabet. And then you try and think of ten boy's names and ten girl's names; it's really weird.
You know, like a little jumping up and down before you... like a warm up. 'Warm up'. I can't believe I couldn't think of the word warm up. But that's essentially what I do every single time. Every gig, every time I'm doing a panel show, every time I do The Ranganation or anything like that, I go through that to wake myself up because, by my nature, I'm so lethargic.
Do you have any ideas what topics - other than the obvious - will be covered in Series 2?
One of the things I'd like to discuss is our etiquette on social media. I read a book by Jon Ronson - So You've Been Publicly Shamed. It's about people who've been called up on social media for something they tweeted or something like that and the judgement surrounding that and the hate mobs on social media and people really getting enjoyment out of laying in on someone.
I think that's happened more and more and I think that everybody feels that way. I know that we've had these 'be kind' things where people are trying to stem the flow of that. I feel it, because I've got a profile I guess, and with a certain number of followers you get more of those sort of comments but I'd be interested to know if the Ranganation feel the same way and if they feel there's a need to make social media a bit nicer or something like that. I'd love to discuss that, because I feel it's a bit of a wasteland out there.
How do you hope audiences will react to the new series of the show? What impact do you hope it will have?
I think The Ranganation is the ideal type of show for the times that we're in because you're going to see people discussing the situation and also talking about other things.
The Ranganation essentially represent the British public, so we're going to be talking about what you want to talk about. It's going to be a combination of discussing the situation we find ourselves in but also discussing other things that bother us and we want to chat about. I think it's a combined kind of escapism and also a reaction to what we're going through.
I think that, in a weird way, the context makes it even more important than in the first series, but also you're going to see me struggle to make the same show in a garage. I mean that's the main reason to watch I think!