Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan reveal the secrets of their hit Sky One show, Rob and Romesh Vs.
Comedy is hard graft. But comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan made light work of an RTS session that turned the spotlight on the pair’s hilarious Sky One entertainment documentary series, Rob and Romesh Vs.
In the series the likely lads gamely take on unfamiliar worlds and situations. It could be basketball or more unlikely still, ballet.
They even underwent the agonies of colonic irrigation for the benefit of the cameras – an experience Ranganathan told the RTS he still regrets – while in LA getting the lowdown on the NBA.
Having TV stars doing ridiculous things is a telly trope that goes back at least to the BBC’s In At The Deep End featuring Chris Serle and Paul Heiney.
In the third season of Rob and Romesh Vs, to be shown on Sky One later this month, the duo grapple with the worlds of tennis, drag performing and art.
A previous show had them joining the Birmingham Royal Ballet, an experience that led to them performing Swan Lake live on stage. Yes, really.
Let’s just say that Romesh wasn’t a natural.
“Everything we do, we’re hoping we find some undiscovered ability and it hasn’t happened for me yet,” he says. “The ballet revealed a really annoying trait of Rob where he’s happy to say we’re doing this as a team until he spots any kind of distance between us in ability.
“Once he knows he’s better than you, he’ll cut you loose in a heartbeat.”
“If I’m half good at something, I’m like a rat up a drainpipe,” agrees the ever-enthusiastic Beckett, a perfect foil to his comic partner’s deadpan style.
The one thing that all these settings have in common is that the pair – or at least one of them - are completely ignorant of them. This is where the comedy comes in.
It helps that the pair’s friendship is genuine, something that was abundantly clear during this good-natured Zoom session, which like the series itself was a perfect pandemic pick-me-up.
“In this show when we go and do mad things where we’re so out of our comfort zone, especially something like ballet…I don’t think I could do those things without Romesh,” says Beckett.
“Often when we’re about to do something really terrifying one of us will look at the other one and go ‘This is going to be OK, isn’t it?” adds Ranganathan.
They met on the UK comedy circuit just over a decade ago. “I remember my friend saying ‘I’ve seen this Romesh and he’s pretty good.’ I thought I’ll be the judge of that,” recalled Beckett.
He added: “I went to see him at his dad’s pub and I thought ‘Yes, he is good.’ I was quite annoyed at that point because I wanted to be the only good one at comedy.”
Their careers as wannabe stand-up stars found them both on an upward trajectory on the comedy circuit at the same time.
“I’d seen Rob perform. He was a bit obvious, but he smashed it,” remembered Ranganathan, a former Maths teacher.
“Coming up through comedy and telly, which is quite a middle-class world, we bonded because we both felt we didn’t belong,” recalls Beckett.
“We really did get on…Having a mate that you can share the madness with was great,” he added.
Today they are familiar faces on TV thanks to panel shows like 8 Out of 10 Cats, Have I Got News for You and A League Of Their Own, and BBC Two’s Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan, winner of a BAFTA in the features category last year.
“We’d first met in a pub playing to about eight people and in 2019 we co-hosted the Royal Variety Performance. It’s nice to have a mate alongside you for that ride,” says Ranganathan.
Beckett recalled how the pair wrote their script for the RVP over a cold apple juice at a pub in Crawley he’d driven to in his battered Nissan Micra.
One reason Rob and Romesh Vs works, they explained, was because their friendship was genuine: “It resulted in the show rather than the other way round,” says Beckett.
He added: “I like to think that we’re such good friends that we’ve never been competitive. We’re never competing for the same job.”
They revealed that the show was created by its producer, CPL Productions when Sky Sports wanted to find an original way to promote one of Anthony Joshua’s big fights.
“I’m a big boxing fan,” says Beckett. “They wanted to put together someone who knew about boxing with someone who didn’t know anything about it.
“Sky Sports said you’re really good friends with Romesh. Why don’t you lead him on this journey showing him boxing?”
The programme was a one-off but the on-screen chemistry between Rob and Romesh was so potent that a series was commissioned.
“Originally the idea was just to do sports, but it soon became clear that if we immense ourselves in any kind of world you’re always going to get something from it,” explains Ranganathan.
Having said that, sports do feature in Rob and Romesh Vs. The pair had to watch five days of Test Match cricket, something Beckett found akin to watching paint dry - and the new series reveals what happens when Ranganathan is introduced by Beckett to the joy of golf.
The programme avoids taking short cuts as the pair immerse themselves in the situations. “We properly commit to it,” says Beckett. “We don’t just fake it for telly. We’re not going through the motions.”
Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan were In Conversation with Caroline Frost, an RTS event held on January 5.