Romesh Ranganathan has become one of the most recognisable comedians on television, making audiences laugh with his stand-up routines and chaotic turns as host of The Weakest Link and A League of Their Own.

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Yet there were times when the 45-year-old's career looked like it could never get going, let alone reach the soaring heights that it has.

The multi-hyphenate joins the Radio Times Podcast to discuss overcoming adversity, being humbled by his sons and taking over an institution from a certain Anne Robinson.

This interview was originally published in Radio Times magazine.

What’s the view from your sofa?

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When we moved into our house a few years ago, my wife got an interior designer. We watch telly in the snug. There’s a big TV and on either side of it are books that I’ve never read because they’re only there for aesthetic appeal.

You have three sons, so who controls the remote in your family?

My three boys – 14, 12 and nine – all have screens in their rooms, so they rarely watch TV with us. We have to make appointments to watch with them – which we do for Bake Off and the football. We’re Arsenal fans!

Do you ever get together to watch your own work?

I couldn’t think of anything worse… Well, I could, because my imagination is wild. But, no, absolutely not! I never watch myself. I end up thinking of things I should have said that were funnier and my kids have no interest in watching more of the man who lives with them.

There’s nothing like three boys to keep you grounded…

If their main goal is to keep me humble, they’re absolutely overachieving on all of their targets.

You’ve described your childhood as a tale of two halves. What did the view from your sofa look like growing up and how did it change?

It started off in a very comfortable two-up, two-down house. The TV was the centre of the living room – until our house was repossessed. My dad went to prison [for two years for fraud]. My mum, brother and I ended up in one room in a B&B. I didn’t have a sofa – the view of the telly was from the bed.

During that period, you were moved from a private school to a state school. What was that transition like?

My parents had come from Sri Lanka, and they were obsessed with me going to private school. I didn’t enjoy my time there. I was a bit of an outsider. Without getting too dark, I was racially abused. So, I wasn’t that bothered about leaving. I went to a state school, had a great time and went on to teach at that same school – which is where I met my wife [drama teacher, Leesa].

Romesh Ranganathan in A League Of Their Own wearing a cream jacket, smiling
Romesh Ranganathan in A League of Their Own. Gary Moyes/CPL Productions

You left your teaching job to pursue comedy full-time. Do you think diversity has come a long way since you joined the circuit?

It is harder for women, no argument. When I started out, it was harder to get booked as a woman. Audiences would immediately go, "I don’t find women funny," and that wasn’t just the men. If you’re watching a comedian that you don’t find funny, just accept that they’re not for you. There’s no need to be angry about it. We’re trying to offer variety. It’s not all about you! What are you – the Emperor?

You write TV shows, you act, you’re about to do a live tour — do you think your work ethic comes from a fear that on any day it could all disappear?

I’ve been through two periods where I’ve hit rock-bottom financially. One, when my dad went to prison, and the other, when I started doing comedy full-time. My dad had passed away two days before – I hope that’s not a sign of what he thought about my move into comedy… I got distracted and couldn’t afford to pay the bills.

I can honestly say, if it all went away tomorrow, I’d be all right with it. I’ve done so many things I never dreamt I’d be able to do. I’d still do stand-up even if I didn’t make any money – you’d find me in a park with a mic hooked up to a lamppost delivering it to passers-by.

At least you’d still have The Weakest Link to fall back on!

I never wanted to be a quiz show host. I was genuinely surprised when I got that call. But the truth is, the quiz is bulletproof. As long as I can read out loud, I’ll do all right!

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