ROSS NOBLE: THINGS
BY LOU PARDI
Ross Noble is considered one of the world’s best comedians. He’s been in the game twenty years and still delivers a new show every single time he walks on stage. Best of all, he still loves what he does, he tells Lou Pardi.
Ross calls in from his Manchester home where it’s late at night and the heating is up just a tad too high. Those who know his work will be familiar with his particularly imaginative mind, tonight, it’s lulled by the heat and matter cruises around effortlessly, rather than bouncing off the walls.
Because Ross improvises his comedy, titling his shows and resulting DVD, ‘Things’ was a rather crafty way to leave the breadth of topic wide open. The recently released DVD is packed with extras, making up two hours of entertainment over two DVDs. It’s a large body of new material for a comedian. Part of the way Ross can be so prolific is that rather than writing material, he takes to the stage and through his particularly animated story telling delivers original, spontaneous entertainment.
Broad options might seem to be a theme in his life. “The way that most people carry on in their lives is they try and do things in an efficient way, which is all very well, because that gets things done,” he says. “But from my point of view, I’ve never even had a job and I’ve never really been that bothered. I’ve always been more about enjoying myself and being happy rather than being bogged down with the way that you’re supposed to behave and work. I just think that there are a lot of things that kind of get in your way if you’re trying to do stuff properly.”
It’s an approach which has served him well. “Planning is ok really, as a concept, but what I do is something will happen to me in the daytime and I’ll think that might be good fodder and in my head I think, ‘I’ll tell that story about what happened to me today.’ But by the time I get around to talking about it, I’ve got distracted or the thing I thought I would talk about, on the way to talking about that, there will be something along the way that’s far more interesting,” explains Ross. Each show can also feed into the next. “On the night after, I’ll go, “oh, actually, I’ll go on and talk about the thing that I talked about instead of the thing that I was going to talk about,’ and then that thing will lead me somewhere else. I don’t sit down and write a load of jokes and then just repeat them it’s about playing and seeing where it goes.”
Where the show goes is often well into the realms of the imaginary. Ross is also a fan of setting up latecomers to his shows. Unsuspecting victims have found themselves stroked by the audiences members in adjacent seats, or had their seats constantly taken up by whole rows of people shuffling back and forth.
While it may seem that Ross has led a charmed life, it was in fact particular limitations which inspired his less structured approach. After a brief romance about joining the circus (he even rode a unicycle to school for a while, to and was duly tormented by his classmates), Ross saw a stand up comedian and decided it was the career for him. “I was crap at school. I was dyslexic, so I wanted to do something that was kind of creative, but without having to rely on reading and writing. That’s quite a difficult one. There are actors who have to read their scripts and learn their lines, and people that write who sit down at their word processors, even [radio] DJs have got to sit in front of a computer and read notes that are being flashed up on your screen while you’re talking. The idea of here’s a job where you just walk on stage and make people laugh and it’s that simple – if they’re laughing you’re winning and if they’re not, you’re not – that to me, I love. If I was an actor how would I know if I were any good? I like that instant feedback. It’s like any job, isn’t it, you don’t know if you’re doing it well, whereas with stand up you find out every 15 – 20 seconds.”
While it has certainly provided many challenges, Ross says also sees his dyslexia as an opportunity. “I think you’ve always got to make the best of it. Anything that you would view as something that’s holding you back could equally be turned to your advantage. If you’ve only got one eye, right, then, you know, become a pirate.”
For now, living in Manchester with his wife and two year old daughter, Ross seems content. “Exactly the perfect state in life, I think, is to get paid to do something that you love doing, even if you’re not paid brilliantly (that sounds terrible doesn’t it because I’m paid very handsomely for what I do).” Ross will be back performing in Australia next year, meanwhile, there’s plenty of entertainment on Things to keep you entertained.
This article first appeared in triple j mag.