The king of improvisational comedy Ross Noble is back with his 15th tour, and next month he’s heading to his hometown of Tunbridge Wells with his new show
The new tour’s called Brain Dump. Where does the title come from?
I got it from a customer review on Amazon for one of my DVDs. They wrote, “This is just like a massive brain dump,” and I thought: ‘oh yeah, that’s exactly what my stuff is! I’ll have that.’
Your ‘brain dumps’ are largely improvised. Is it still a risk, no matter how long you’ve been doing it?
No, the ‘risk’ is all relative. It’s like driving a car; after 25 years you don’t get in a car and go, “what if this goes wrong?” If you hit a few bumps in the road you just think: ‘oh, this is fun, let’s bounce around for a bit!’
How do you think your comedy has developed since your started?
The main change is that, because I’ve built up this really loyal audience, there’s more of a shorthand. When I first started, if I was talking about something a bit leftfield people would go, “Oh god, where’s he going with this?” Whereas now that’s what people want, they go, “Oh right! Where’s he going with this!?”
Your acting CV has bumped up in recent years, especially horror movie roles. Do your comedy skills come in handy?
It’s definitely easily for a stand-up to do straight acting than an actor to do comedy. In the horror movie Stitches – it sounds mad because I was playing a killer clown – but I wanted to play it as truthfully as possible. I didn’t want people to go, “oh, that’s just Noble dressed as a clown.” I’ve just filmed another horror, and that’s a straight horror film; there are no laughs in it.
In 2007 you came in at number 10 in Channel 4’s poll of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, but when they revisited the poll in 2010 you were bumped to number 11. What happened?
When they did the first programme, he hadn’t done stand-up. By 2010 he’d started, so he was put in the top 10 which pushed me to 11. Which is fair enough – it was voted by the public, and he’s popular. There are probably 10 or 15 acts that nobody knew in 2007 and are now enormous, so if they do another one I’ll probably end up at 25!
Like Gervais, you have a very loyal fanbase; they see your show multiple times, leave gifts for you on stage… is it sweet or creepy?
99 percent of the time it’s very sweet and very flattering. Every now and then you get one where you go, “okaaaay…That’s a little bit scary…”
Who’s been the scariest?
I was in New Zealand once, and I was on my phone to my wife. I put the phone down and it rang again. I thought it was her ringing back, so I went, “Hi!” and this voice said, “hello.” It was a complete stranger who had rung every hotel in Auckland pretending to be my girlfriend. That was a bit terrifying. The thing is, someone being a fan is very flattering, but there’s a big difference between somebody liking your comedy and someone wanting to wear your skin as a suit.
Ross Noble: Brain Dump comes to The Assembly Hall on November 15. Tickets £25. www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk