Comedian Ross Noble to perform at The Assembly Hall Theatre
by Eileen Leahy | 31st October 2018
Geordie comic Ross Noble, who lives in Kent, is coming to Tunbridge Wells with his new tour, El Hablador. Ben Williams talks to him about Christmas albums, giant skulls and working with Mel Brooks in the musical Young Frankenstein
This is your 16th UK tour, with 68 dates. After 20 years on the road, do you still enjoy all the travelling?
It would be hard work if I didn’t! But, yeah, I do still love it. The great thing about stand-up is you’re face-to-face with real people.
You said when you started touring you ‘didn’t really live in the real world’. Has that changed?
In the beginning all I did was tour. 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 one eye on the past, but live in the present.
How would describe your stand-up act now, compared to your early days?
‘When I started out, 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?
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 go 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.
And you recently showcased your singing talents as Igor in the musical version of the Mel Brooks’ comedy classic ‘Young Frankenstein’?
And my dancing! I was Olivier nominated, you know! But I don’t like to talk about it, he laughs.
How did you find working with comic 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 a What’s On Stage Award and an Olivier nomination, 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 do it. 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 your new tour, El Hablador. What do you have in store for the audience?
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.