In the New Year Ross Noble once again graces the stage of the Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells. Here, he tells SO what we can expect from his Tangentleman tour when it comes to the town on 23rd and 24th January.
You’re visiting Tunbridge Wells again on your 15th tour. What is it you enjoy about touring so much?
Is it my 15th? I’ve no idea. It depends what you class as a tour. I started doing stand-up when I was 15, and I’m 37 now. And I’ve pretty much been gigging relentlessly that whole time. It was 1999 when I stopped doing the comedy clubs and started touring on my own. But when you tour the UK and Ireland, and then go off and do the rest of the world, and then go off to Australia for six months, is that all one tour or not? I’ve just released my 9th DVD, and most of those have got a couple of different shows on them. I suppose I’m a bit like Bob Dylan, I’m just on one never-ending tour.
Anyone who’s ever seen your work before knows it’s not exactly what you’d call structured. Is there any point in asking what people can expect from Tangentleman?
I think what I try and do is do the show that I would want to see if I went to see somebody live. I like to keep it interesting for the audience, and I like to keep it interesting for myself. I’m naturally quite playful in the way I approach life, and that’s what I try to bring to the live shows.
What that means is your show is basically different every night. Do you get people who come back again and again?
Yeah, some do. The way that I work, I go on stage and I improvise stuff. Somebody might say something that will spark five or ten minutes or more of improv, and then out of that ten minutes, there might be one nugget of an idea that I like, which I’ll maybe expand and kick around next night. The best way to describe it is some comedians write out lists of words, to remind them what to say, whereas my show is like taking a bucket full of cartoon characters and melting them, then taking that melted cartoon sludge, putting it in a water pistol, and firing it into the air.
With a scripted show, comics will often leave their best material to the end. Do you ever worry that you might finish on something that doesn’t work?
That’s why my shows are so long. “No, that’s not good enough to end on. I’d better do another five minutes.” “Is that good enough? No. Five more.” But in terms of ending the show, I’ve probably started ten different stories, so I’ve got to try and get back to them to wrap them all up. So the problem I normally have is remembering all the things I’ve started.
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and think “I didn’t finish that bit…”
Oh, all the time! The great thing about twitter is that now people will just tweet me and go “You never finished talking about that thing…” Very often I’m in the hotel bar or a Nandos or a petrol station the day after the gig, and someone will come up and go “I was at the show last night. What was that you were going on about?”
You get really involved with the audience. Do people ever come up with something that throws you?
Yeah, all the time, but that’s the fun of it. Sometimes stuff happens that you think would completely ruin the show. For example, I did one gig where the fire alarm went off. That could knacker the whole thing. The audience had to be evacuated. But I went outside and just continued doing the gig while everyone was standing around. And there was a little kid there, probably about 12, with the fire engines behind me, and got people to take pictures of me, so it looked like I was saving a child’s life. Then we all went back in, and I came onstage and brought the fire brigade out with me like a chorus line, and we all took a bow. And I was thinking “The firemen will be loving that,” and one of them just went “Don’t go thinking you’re special, I’ve already been onstage with Goldfrapp.”
People have also taken to leaving items on stage during the interval that you interact with later on. What kind of stuff do they leave?
I have no idea where it started, but people just started giving little gifts on the stage. Then it just became a thing where people tried to outdo each other. There are some nights where there’s so much I have to get a broom and just push it all off to the side. When people make stuff themselves, that’s amazing, the best one I ever had was somebody made me a proper suit made out of bubble wrap. It was great. And people leave vegetables that they’ve carved into the shape of my face, stuff like that. But I have to be careful, otherwise I’ll suddenly discover that I’ve done an hour of just talking about the stuff people have left onstage.
For tickets to see Ross Noble’s UK 2014/15 Tour ‘Tangentleman’ visit www.rossnoble.co.uk