‘FOR EVERY NUTTER WHO WANTS TO STAB YOU IN GLASGOW THERE'S SOMEBODY WHO REALLY BELIEVES IN THE MELTING POT CULTURE'
the characters sort of ran away with it.'
Kohli may have thus far enjoyed an exemplary relationship with (‘hannel 4. but his career path from trainee director with the BB(‘ to sitcom auteur was a lengthy one. paved with incident. llaving originally studied law ('My mum still sometimes tells her friends I‘m a lawyer. I‘m not jokingfl Kohli drifted between jobs for a few years before applying for the old BBC Graduate Trainee Scheme. where he cut his teeth on children‘s programmes. winning a BAl’l‘A and an RTS award in 199-1 for a science programme called I! '/I Never ll'ur/t‘.
Still. the ambitious Kohli was not satisfied with his lot and. while negotiating a new job as a producer on Record Breakers. was secretly harbouring a career in comedy — his first love. So. had he ever considered stand—up'.’
'.\'ot really.’ he says. ‘Though I say so myself.
I‘m dead funny over a goat's cheese salad. I‘m
just not that funny when you take the goat's
cheese away. Also. I write well for physical comedy and what TV comedy allows you to do is present really strong visual images.’
While the rest of the 90s proved frustratingly fruitless for the young director in realising his comedy ambitions. he eventually struck gold with a short film The Drop. which found its way onto the global ﬁlm festival circuit and led to the Comedy Lab commission. As Kohli recognises. his time on television's directing treadmill. however torturous. brought him the valuable skills he needed for taking on his triple role at the helm of The Magoons.
‘l’m a natural collaborator because I started out as a director. so I've acquired that ability to say "No" without pissing anybody off. while listening to other people‘s suggestions. I‘m very much a collaborator as a writer and I'm such a shite actor that l have no choice but to listen to other people‘s opinions.‘
The self-effacing comic certainly seems to be doing something right as. recently. Kohli‘s star has been very much in the ascendant. In a return to his roots in children‘s telly. he's completed a series for 4 Learning. entitled llardeep Dues . . . which looks at controversial subjects including race. sex and religion. He also wrote and starred in the refreshingly positive multicultural investigation. In Search aft/1e 'larian Turban in which he set out to discover what was funny
The Magoons at work (from left to right): Hamish (Hardeep Singh Kohli), Paul (Paul Sharma), Nitin (Nitin Ganatra), and Surjit (Sanjeev Kohli).
about modern. multi-ethnic Britain. ‘You can dwell on the negatives all you like.‘ he says. ‘lior every nutter that wants to stab you in (ilasgow there‘s someone who really embraces the melting pot culture and believes in it.’
The only thing that seems to jar with the congenial Kohli at present are the inevitable spurious comparisons of his sitcom to (Jam/Hess (iraeiaus Me or The Kit/nary. The writer rejects the notion that comedies featuring Indian entertainers are necessarily comparable and consistently cites Rab (' Nev/rill. The Two Rannies. .llareemnbe and ll'ise and the films of Bill l‘orsyth as influences. rather than anything which just happens to share the Indian subcontinent as part of its source material.
‘No one asks Matt Lucas and David Walliams whether they owe a debt of gratitude to Monty Python. although you could argue there's a link between them. (lrowing up in (ilasgow. I’ve been more influenced by Bill l‘orsyth or the self- deprecating (llasgow comedy of Billy (‘onnollyx l'ltimately. though. llardeep comedy is what it is. and I hope no one else can do it.’
For Kohli. over-analysing his comedy output is far less important than the bottom line of the viewers' reaction.
‘The fundamental question is “Did you find it funny?" Tick the box "Yes". Thanks very much. I'll have a recommissionf
Channel 4, Fri 19 Aug, 9.30pm. »‘t...: :'~ THE LIST 9