Stand-up comedian Romesh Ranganathan is starring in the second series of Asian Provocateur on BBC Three - and this time his mum's travelling with him. He tells Ella Walker about her upstaging him and why he made a terrible maths teacher With Romesh Ranganathan, you know he's joking, but you also know he's being serious beneath the drollness.

After all, this is a man who makes a living out of being honest, but funny with it.

"I don't really like other comedians, they are competition at the end of the day," he says wryly. "It's not one of these things where we work as a team - we're not rowers. Other comedians' success is not something I enjoy. Ideally, they would fall to the wayside, leaving the way clear for me to ascend to my rightful place at the top of the tree."

The problem is, the stand-up, who regularly appears on panel shows like 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week, is now up against potentially his toughest competition yet: his mum.

In 2015, the Crawley-born comic travelled to Sri Lanka - he's of Sri Lankan Tamil descent - to meet his extended family for BBC Three docu-series, Asian Provocateur.

For season two - a grand six-week all-American tour of the US, meeting and greeting resident Ranganathan relatives - his mum, Shanthi, decided she was coming too.

"Obviously, she is a breakout star of the show. You work at a stand-up career, and she shouts at you, and apparently that's better than what you're doing. That's what I have to deal with," Ranganathan deadpans.

"She mothers me a lot," he says, explaining how, even though he's 38 years old and a father-of-three himself, she can still embarrass him. "So we'd be getting ready to go and do something, and I'm in front of the director and the camera crew, and she's telling me I haven't moisturised..."

In theory, the trip could have been an emotional roller coaster, a spiritual journey with Ranganathan discovering different corners of his soul with each new relative, bonding with his mum throughout like never before.

Instead, he says, it was full of "horribly awkward moments" where "things didn't pan out", culminating in one particular moment where he wound his mum up so much, she stormed off and missed the only thing she'd genuinely wanted to experience.

"Yeah, she really missed the gospel choir," splutters Ranganathan, lapsing into hysterical, can't-get-the-words-out giggles. "But, but - I don't want to ruin it - but we make it up to her."

Despite being a show hinged on reconnecting with family, Ranganathan says it wasn't emotional for him in the way you might expect.

"I had to do some wrestling training and the guy was really shouting at me because I was so unfit, and that made me emotional," he says sheepishly, recalling how his brother (their mum invited him along too) coerced him into training at a feeder school for the WWE in New Orleans. "It makes sense that my brother does it. He's good looking, fit, lean, really good at stuff like that - and I'm not. So we did a day's training and I found it horrendous. It's one of the worst things I've ever done.

"That was a real low point, I had to go outside and have a moment."

Following the show though - and the gospel choir incident - Ranganathan has decided he's going to be a new and improved person from now on.

"My mum and I are close, but I'm not good at getting back to her texts. She'll text me and 10 minutes later text again to ask why I haven't replied. So I did enjoy spending that time with her, and I'm going to try and be a better son. I'm going to return calls.

"You take your mum for granted, don't you? So I'm going to do that less, that's my resolution."

Before braving the world of comedy, Ranganathan was a maths teacher and head of sixth form in Crawley, where he met his wife Lisa, but he doesn't miss it too much.

"I loved working with kids - I think kids are great - so the bit in the classroom I enjoyed, but everything else, I hated. So marking, staying on top of paperwork and all that stuff, I just wasn't good at it," he says, self-deprecatingly. "When you're rubbish at something, you don't like it."

However, he was certainly a better teacher than he was a freestyle rapper...

"I had a go at it, in the same way you might have a go at salsa classes," he says with a chuckle, recalling an 8 Mile-style rap battle he entered in London.

"To give an example of how bad I was, there were people in the crowd that, during the breaks, were offering to battle me, because they could see an easy victory.

"And then my mates realised they were backing somebody who was rubbish at it, and it was actually quite an awkward train journey home."

Although a panellist on last year's spin-off show, The Apprentice: You're Fired!, Ranganathan, who's on tour until Christmas, can't confirm whether he's been signed up for this series (The Apprentice series 12 starts October 6), though the rumour is, he's left the show 'for now'.

"I do love the show," he buzzes. "Basically, Apprentice and Bake Off are the only two shows that my wife and I are not allowed to watch separately. Every other thing - because I'm away so much - we just watch whatever we want, but we're not allowed to watch Apprentice or Bake Off without each other.

"The problem with that is, if I'm on tour, it means they'll be backed up and my wife will be having a go at me, saying, 'I'm gonna start watching it if you're not back soon'."

Next up, following the tour and filming an accompanying DVD, Ranganathan is planning to take some well-deserved time off.

"I've been away all year touring, so I'm going to reacquaint myself with my wife and children, and then, who knows?"

:: Episode one of Asian Provocateur is available on BBC Three from 10am on October 12 :: To book tickets to see Romesh Ranganathan on tour, visit