Interview with Ross Noble

ROSS NOBLE

‘EL HABLADOR’

UK TOUR 2018

Q&A

Ross Noble likes to keep his fans on their toes. For more than 20 years the Geordie comedy wonder has been spinning spontaneous stand-up, regularly touring the globe and playing to packed houses.

In a Ross Noble show, the mischievous comic takes his audience on a meandering journey full of ridiculously funny stories, whimsical tangents and offbeat observations – and his unique brand of semi-improvised stand-up has won him a legion of fans.

But just when it feels like the 42-year-old comic’s career is becoming predictable, he steers into completely new territory. Quite literally, in the case of his Dave TV shows – ‘Freewheeling’ and ‘Off Road’ – that follow him on motorcycle adventures. But more recently in Mel Brooks’s West End musical, ‘Young Frankenstein’, which saw him nominated for an Olivier and win a WhatsOnStage Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.

Now, Noble’s ditched the choreography and is back on the road with a brand new stand-up tour, ‘El Hablador’. I talked to him about Christmas albums, giant skulls and working with Mel Brooks.

This is your 16th UK tour, with 68 dates announced so far. After 20 years on the road, do you still enjoy travelling the country?

‘It would be hard work if I didn’t! Is that how many shows it is? That seems like a daft number – I’ll put on two extra dates, just to make it up to 70. But, yeah, I do still love it. The great thing about stand-up is you’re face-to-face with real people.’

You’ve said that when you started touring you ‘didn’t really live in the real world’. Has that changed?

‘When I started all I did was tour – I was just a vessel. I’ve got more of a balanced life now, but I can still retain the essence of being in the moment. I realised quite early on that stand-up can teach you everything you need to know about life, which is: have one eye on the future, and have one eye on the past, but live in the present.’

How would describe what your stand-up now compared to your early days?

‘When I started people said I was “surreal”, and that’s a bit of a lazy description, because it sort of implies that anyone could do it. Now, I think I take the building blocks of the real world and then stretch and manipulate them. It’s more like “magic realism” than “surrealism” – that’s the way I see it… And that’s the most pretentious thing I’ve ever said!’

You recently recorded a spoof magazine show for Radio 4. How did you find writing that compared to stand-up?

‘I enjoyed the discipline, and creating something that is incredibly detailed and precise. Some people get writer’s block, whereas once I get an idea of something I want to do, I just got for it.’

In your Dave TV show ‘Ross Noble: Off Road’, you put yourself and your motorbike through the gruelling Scottish Six Days Trial. Did you take much convincing to do it?

‘That was something that I was doing anyway! We went to the channel and said, “We’re doing this, shall we film it?” and they went, “Definitely!” Hopefully we can do another series. I’d like to, but we can only really do it if we can up the ante.’

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you recently showcased your singing talents in ‘Young Frankenstein’.

‘And my dancing! I was Olivier nominated, you know? But I don’t like to talk about it… [Laughs]’

How did you find working with a living comedy legend, Mel Brooks?

‘Mel was phenomenal. He constantly tinkers with everything, changing punchlines around, cutting entire scenes…’

He’s 92 now. Did he show any sign of approaching retirement?

‘Not at all. The last time I spoke to him he was talking about projects that he passionately wants to do. Even though he’s got this incredible body of work – and he’s aware of that, because he keeps reminding you that he’s a living legend – he’s not hung up on the big picture, he’s all about the detail. He’s just as bothered about the nuance of it all.’

After singing and dancing, how have you found transitioning back to solo stand-up?

‘It is nice to be doing it again, because I feel like I’m exercising different muscles – still comedy muscles, but different types of comedy muscles. On stage the transition’s been fine, but off stage it’s been a bit weird.’

Because you’re no longer part of an ensemble?

‘Yeah, but not just an ensemble, a real world-class team. Going back to being just me, making all the decisions – in one way it’s the ultimate freedom, but sometimes giving yourself a restriction can be quite liberating in itself.’

After an Olivier nom, have you thought about incorporating any songs into your other work?

‘What, like releasing a Christmas album? I’d like to do more musicals, if the right thing came along – I enjoy it. But just because you enjoy singing doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Though I do have a couple of ideas for things that are not quite musicals, but sort of musicals, which I’m working on, but I won’t say what because it’ll jinx it or something!’

That sounds wise. Something you can talk about, then, is ‘El Hablador’. What do you have in store?

‘I’ve got a giant inflatable skull on stage: its mouth fills up with smoke and I walk out of it!’

Outlandish inflatable sets have become a trademark of your stand-up shows. How did they start?

‘The sets have always been a bit “Spinal Tap”, there’s no need for them, it’s just funny to have these big, over-the-top creations on stage. People turn up and go, “Woah!” and then I don’t really mention it.’

Can you see yourself still working at 92, like Mel Brooks?

‘Having spent time working with Mel, I can, actually. Sure, he’s had more success than any other comic on the planet, so you could say, “Of course he’d still be going!” But I do look at him and think: there really is no reason to slow down.’

Ross Noble: El Hablador is on tour, Sep 9-Dec 14. www.rossnoble.co.uk.

Interview by Ben Williams.

LISTINGS INFORMATION:

September – December 2018

Recommended 15+

ROSS NOBLE EL HABLADOR TOUR SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER 2018

 

SEPTEMBER

SUNDAY 9TH GLASGOW THEATRE ROYAL 0844 871 7647

WEDNESDAY 12TH EXETER CORN EXCHANGE 01392 665938

THURSDAY 13TH YEOVIL OCTAGON THEATRE 01935 422 884

FRIDAY 14TH SALISBURY CITY HALL 01722 434434

SATURDAY 15TH SHANKLIN, IOW SHAKLIN THEATRE 01983 868000

SUNDAY 16TH BOURNEMOUTH PAVILLION 0844 576 3000

TUESDAY 18TH SWANSEA GRAND THEATRE 01792 475715

WEDNESDAY 19TH BARNSTAPLE QUEENS THEATRE 01271 324242

THURSDAY 20TH SHREWSBURY THEATRE SEVERN 01743 281281

FRIDAY 21ST SHREWSBURY THEATRE SEVERN 01743 281281

SATURDAY 22ND CHELTENHAM EVERYMAN THEATRE 01242 572573

MONDAY 24TH NORWICH THEATRE ROYAL 01603 630000

TUESDAY 25TH SWINDON WYVERN THEATRE 01793 524481

WEDNESDAY 26TH SWINDON WYVERN THEATRE 01793 524481

FRIDAY 28TH BELFAST ULSTER HALL 028 9033 4455

SATURDAY 29TH DUBLIN OLYMPIA THEATRE 353 818 791 330

OCTOBER

TUESDAY 2ND CRAWLEY THE HAWTH 01293 553636

WEDNESDAY 3RD CARDIFF ST DAVIDS HALL 029 2087 8444

THURSDAY 4TH BASINGSTOKE THE ANVIL 01256 844244

SATURDAY 6TH OXFORD NEW THEATRE 0844 871 3020

SUNDAY 7TH STAFFORD GATEHOUSE THEATRE 01785 619080

WEDNESDAY 10TH BUXTON OPERA HOUSE 0845 127 2190

THURSDAY 11TH HULL CITY HALL 01482 300306

FRIDAY 12TH LINCOLN ENGINE SHED 0844 888 8766

SATURDAY 13TH LOUGHBOROUGH TOWN HALL 01509 231914

TUESDAY 16TH BRISTOL HIPPODROME 0844 847 2325

WEDNESDAY 17TH HIGH WYCOMBE WYCOMBE SWAN 01494 512000

THURSDAY 18TH NORTHAMPTON ROYAL & DERNGATE 01604 624811

FRIDAY 19TH HARROGATE ROYAL HALL 01423 502 116

SATURDAY 20TH SHEFFIELD CITY HALL 01142 789 789

SUNDAY 21ST YORK GRAND OPERA HOUSE 0844 871 3024

TUESDAY 23RD DONCASTER CAST 01302 303 959

WEDNESDAY 24TH HALIFAX VICTORIA THEATRE 01422 351158

THURSDAY 25TH COVENTRY WARWICK ARTS CENTRE 024 7652 4524

FRIDAY 26TH COVENTRY WARWICK ARTS CENTRE 024 7652 4524

SATURDAY 27TH COVENTRY WARWICK ARTS CENTRE 024 7652 4524

SUNDAY 28TH DERBY THEATRE 01727 844488

TUESDAY 30TH ST ALBANS ALBION ARENA 01727 844488

WEDNESDAY 31ST ST ALBANS ALBION ARENA 01727 844488

NOVEMBER

FRIDAY 2ND CARLISLE SANDS CENTRE 01228 633766

SATURDAY 3RD EDINBURGH FESTIVAL THEATRE 0131 529 6000

TUESDAY 6TH PORTSMOUTH GUILDHALL 0844 847 2362

WEDNESDAY 7TH TUNBRIDGE WELLS ASSEMBLY 01892 530613

FRIDAY 9TH LONDON PALLADIUM 020 7087 7747

SATURDAY 10TH LONDON PALLADIUM 020 7087 7747

SUNDAY 11TH BIRMINGHAM BIRMINGHAM ALEXANDRA 0844 871 7660

TUESDAY 13TH KINGS LYNN ALIVE CORN EXCHANGE 01553 764864

WEDNESDAY 14TH IPSWICH REGENT THEATRE 01473 433100

THURSDAY 15TH LEICESTER DE MONTFORT HALL 0116 233 3111

FRIDAY 16TH CAMBRIDGE CORN EXCHANGE 01223 357851

SATURDAY 17TH SOUTHEND CLIFFS PAVILLION 01702 351135

SUNDAY 18TH BRIGHTON BRIGHTON DOME 01273 709709

WEDNESDAY 21ST NEWCASTLE CITY HALL 08448 11 21 21

THURSDAY 22ND NEWCASTLE CITY HALL 08448 11 21 21

FRIDAY 23RD NEWCASTLE CITY HALL 08448 11 21 21

SATURDAY 24TH NEWCASTLE CITY HALL 08448 11 21 21

SUNDAY 25TH BARROW IN FURNESS FORUM 01229 876557

WEDNESDAY 28TH CREWE LYCEUM 0127 036 8242

THURSDAY 29TH CREWE LYCEUM 0127 036 8242

FRIDAY 30TH MANCHESTER APOLLO 0844 477 7677

DECEMBER

SATURDAY 1ST NOTTINGHAM ROYAL CONCERT HALL 0115 989 5555

SUNDAY 2ND SCARBOROUGH GRAND HALL 01723 357869

WEDNESDAY 5TH GUILDFORD G LIVE 01483 369 350

FRIDAY 7TH LIVERPOOL EMPIRE 0844 871 3017

SATURDAY 8TH MIDDLESBROUGH TOWN HALL 01642 729729

TUESDAY 11TH LLANDUDNO ARENA 01492 872000

THURSDAY 13TH LEEDS TOWN HALL 0113 224 3801

FRIDAY 14TH LEEDS TOWN HALL 0113 224 3801

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