Hardeep Singh Kohli asked if I was flirting with him. And reflecting on my line of questioning, I’m not entirely sure I wasn’t.
In my defence, the title of his current tour – Hardeep is Your Love – conjured up a plethora of romance-based questions during my preparation for the interview: what are you like on a date? Is Punjabi food good for sparking desire? Any tips for finding love?
Thankfully, the Scottish comedian, writer, cook and TV reporter proved receptive to our “interview date” and gamely accepted my advances.
The stand-up show, which visits Aberdeen next week, Hardeep explained, is slightly outwith his comfort zone, but it has been a natural step for someone who has made a career of putting his heart on his sleeve.
“I’ve done cooking and comedy shows in the past, but I’ve never done straight stand-up, and I just thought it was time to have a wee go,” he said.
“Everything I’ve done in terms of live shows has always been 100% experiential – it’s always been based on truth and reality. I just happen to be a middle-aged man who seems to be pretty bad at romance. So, bingo. Lucked out.”
From a failed marriage to a series of botched attempts on the dating scene and plenty of wisecracks about being the “hairy, fat, brown man from Glasgow”, Hardeep, 45, has a lot of material to choose from. Honesty is the linchpin of his work, and it’s what people like about him. Apart from the couple who walked out of his recent gig at Guildford when he began talking about the naughtier sides of relationships.
Perhaps they expected his pre-watershed, BBC’s The One Show roving-reporter persona, I asked?
“Maybe,” he replied. “The show’s not rude at all. But there are necessary things you have to talk about if you’re talking about love and sex. I’m not so insensitive that I’m setting out to cause offence. If people are offended, I’m wholly apologetic, but I haven’t set out to do that. So it’s a tricky balance.”
For the more sensitive members of the audience, Hardeep’s show isn’t afraid to address the lovey-dovey stuff. Love, he philosophised, is both “everything” and “nothing”, meaning different things for each person, and at each stage of life. But that’s the extent of his understanding, he admitted.
“I don’t quite understand how we wake up one morning and we’re in love. But there’s that lovely quote from P.G. Wodehouse, which goes something like: ‘You’ll never mistake an angry Scotsman for a ray of sunshine.’ So basically, when you’re in love, you’ll know. It’s more difficult to explain than to do,” he said.
Philosophies aside, the last thing Hardeep wants to do is sound like a relationship guru. Yes, he’s experienced enough of the subject matter to have some great soundbites, but the only bit of sincere advice he offers is to come to his show and learn what not to do.
But by that very same token, he can offer up some advice on the pitfalls. First and foremost? Vanity.
“Much as it makes for great material, it makes for bad love,” he said. “In a sense, it’s all about vulnerability. If you aren’t vulnerable, you won’t let people in, and if you don’t let people in, how can they possibly bring a revolution to your life?”
Deciding the conversation had become a bit deep and meaningful, we shifted to discuss lighter matters – specifically if he has been on any dates recently.
“Do you know, I don’t really have dates. The thing about a date is it needs a flow of information to get to know each other. And people know who I am, so it’s a bit one-sided,” he said.
But do they actually know you?
“No they don’t, but they think they do, so I can spend more time explaining who I’m not. I just think dates are hugely awkward. I hate dates. I think: just come back to mine and listen to Van Morrison, and we’ll see how we get on from there.”
Having famously taken part in Celebrity MasterChef, Hardeep has shown his talent in the kitchen – a skill which he must have put to good use when wooing a lady. Surely the hot and spicy food he has grown up with is a good way to spark desire on one of these home dates.
“It can create a spark in your backside, depending on how many lentils there are,” he joked.
“But seriously, any food that you get down and dirty with and eat with your hands is good. And any food that you are passionate about has got to be good, because someone can understand that passion might relate to other parts of your life.”
At that point, Hardeep paused for a second. I imagine his mind quickly reviewing the topics we’ve gone through during our chat. Love, sex, dating, Van Morrison – some pretty hot and heavy topics for a Friday morning.
“You’re pure flirting with me, aren’t you, by the way,” he said with a half smile.
“Me? Absolutely,” I laughed.
Hardeep Singh Kohli will be at the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, on Thursday, April 17. Tickets are available from www.aberdeen performingarts.com or by calling 01224 641122.