Photograph by Brian J Ritchie
Ross Noble is comedy nobility. For the past 21 years, he has been one of our leading stand-ups. Over that time, he has proved himself a comic tour de force. He has been responsible for 13 sell-out tours and seven top-selling DVDs. He came 10th in Channel 4’s 2010 poll of 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
But he is not just popular in this country. Ross has also undertaken six smash-hit Australian tours and performed everywhere from Singapore and Hong Kong to Montréal and Budapest. At the age of just 36, he is already a stand-up legend.
The tremendous news is that Ross currently on his first major nationwide tour for two years. The Geordie stand-up, who is known as “the king of improvisational comedy,” is arriving just up the road in Bristol’s Colston Hall venue with an entirely new show, “Mindblender.” One word of warning, however: book early – tickets for Ross’ shows always fly off the shelves.
What distinguishes his comedy is his completely unique and vivid imagination. He possesses a peerless gift for wonderfully funny and innovative streams of consciousness. This highly original talent means that no two Ross Noble shows are ever the same.
It’s not just me who thinks so. Reviewers have for years been lining up to lavish praise on Ross. The Daily Mail has commented that, “His first act last night was one of the most brilliant hours I have ever spent in the theatre… and the second even better.” Time Out has observed that, “‘The entire show is a series of you-had-to-be-there moments’.” Meanwhile, The Sun has raved that Ross provides, “Brilliantly inventive, quirkystand-up… see him and marvel.”
I met with Ross in a central London bar in the lead up to the tour. You will be very glad to hear that he is as naturally hilarious in person as he is in a theatre.
The shaggy-haired, Newcastle comedian, who has also made memorable appearances on such TV programmes as Have I Got News For You, Q I and That Sunday Night Show, begins by revealing that he has just had a year off. During that time, he indulged his passion for riding dirt bikes by taking part in an extreme off-road race in Transylvania (I kid you not!)
Ross laughs that, “I had been gigging solidly for 21 years, so I thought, ‘I’ll take this year off. I won’t tour, but I’ll spend the time doing normal things like an off-road motorbike race through
Dracula’s home state!’”
The comedian admits that at first he was nervous about returning to the live arena after his year away. “I began performing again in Australia earlier this year. When I started, I was thinking, ‘Do you have to be match fit like a boxer? What if I’ve forgotten how to do it?’
“But the moment I walked on stage and the light hit me, it came flooding back. It was like getting back into a warm bath. The fact that I have not been so caught up in stand-up means that I’m now in my best form for years. The break has given me a new hunger. I have recharged my mental batteries and come back with fresh energy. Having the year off has made me appreciate how much I’d love stand-up. Going back to it has just been such fun.”
Ross’ shows have a rare energy because he is such a dazzling improviser. The comic, who recently made his debut as a leading actor in a feature film, a horror movie entitled Stitches, explains that, “What a lot of comedians will do is write a load of jokes, see which ones work and then hone them.
“But I simply go on and improvise stuff. That might spark the seed of the next idea, and that in turn might spark the seed of the next idea. I’m so keen to explore new ideas that I don’t keep the original idea. My show is a constant work in progress. I’m not working towards something. It’s continually fluid.”
Isn’t that approach incredibly scary, though? “No,” Ross replies. “The best way to describe it is to say it is like driving a car. When they first start driving, most people are nervous. They have to look
at the gear stick and don’t know which pedal is which. But once they get to the point where they can drive without thinking, that’s when they can go much faster and really start to fly.
“Stand-up is exactly the same. Playing a rough club is like driving in heavy traffic – you’re constantly negotiating obstacles. If you skid off the road, you just deal with it. Yes, you might drive up a cul-de-sac, but then you can show off, do a handbrake turn and get back on the road!”
Ross, whose latest stand-up DVD will be released later this year, never plans much before going on stage. He says, “That gets in the way. The way I do things is easier, because it allows me to play. If
you get too caught up in the mechanics of what you’re doing or over-think it, that takes away from enjoying it. When reviewers say that I just talk very amusing nonsense, I see that as the biggest compliment because you can’t make an audience laugh for two hours unless it’s funny. If it
looks easy, then job done!”
The comedian, an electric live presence who can spin a whole show out of the hairdo of someone sitting in the front row, will never tire of the experience of making an audience laugh.
He says that, “You know when you’re having a drink with a few mates in the pub and you say something funny and everyone laughs and says, ‘That was a good one!’ Making an audience laugh is like that, but multiplied by two thousand.”
Ross continues that, “What I really love is creating images in people’s minds. It’s like reading a book – everyone sees it differently in their own head. I get a real buzz of that. When you’re creating something in front of people, there is a real sense of joy as you can see them picturing the story in their head. It becomes something more than a joke. I love that shared experience when everyone has an image in their mind of what’s going on.”
“When they’re telling colleagues about my show at work the next day, people should be saying, ‘You really had to be there!’ I want to create something new every night which is only for those people who are there. Then they feel they are part of something special, rather than just watching the show passively. That’s my goal.”
There is no comedian currently at work who is better at involving the audience in the show. Ross, who has a huge and devoted fan base which follows him around the country, concludes that he really relishes that side of the job.
“Bouncing off the audience is the most amazing sensation. Sometimes you can see that people who haven’t been to my show before are freaking out when I start talking to the audience. They’re worried because a lot of comedians rip audience members to pieces for other people’s entertainment.
“But I don’t do that. I just want to get them involved. I don’t pick on anyone or make anyone feel excluded. My audience gets me. They realise there’s no malice in it. That allows me to go a lot further because people aren’t terrified. I want to say to the people who are
coming to my show, ‘Don’t worry, it’s all going to be fine.’ That should be the title of the tour!”
You can find more information about Ross Noble’s “Mindblender” Bristol date at www.rossnoble.co.uk
or by visiting www.colstonhall.org
ARTICLE BY JAMES RAMPTON