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January, 2003
Larking about with Ross Noble - page 2
Audience participation: Would you talk to this man?
Ross Noble tells us about inspiration, audience intimidation and making friends.
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You are renowned for being able to ad lib for most of a stand up show. Do you look to the audience for inspiration?

I’m not a big fan of shows that are just sort of reading off a script. I have an idea of what I want to talk about.

If somebody says something or catches my eye and they’re interesting, I’ll kind of like talk to them and make friends. Whatever happens there becomes one of the threads that weaves through the show.

Have you ever encountered an audience that just weren't interesting?

I did a gig in South Africa in a theatre in Cape Town and they were probably the most sort of reserved crowd. They just weren’t up for it.

I think it’s 'cos they don’t have any history of stand-up comedy and it was a bit kind of weird for them, y’know. They were just sat there going "oh this isn’t theatre."

Pic:  Ross Noble.
audio"Everyone I talked to just looked away, like I'd committed some sort of hideous crime." (Real, 28K)

What did you do with that audience?

I sat on the side of the stage because I was on there going "Right then, la da da..." I was talking to this woman and she was just ignoring me and I was going "I’m talking to you." She just wouldn’t make eye contact with me.

I actually stood right in front of her and said "I’m saying hello, I’m not meaning you any harm," and she still wouldn’t make contact so I went to talk to somebody else - nothing.

Everyone I went to talk to just looked away, like I’d committed some sort of hideous crime. So I sort of sat on the edge of the stage and talked about the fact that they were basically being a bunch of ****s and the laughter came from that. By the end of the night everyone was rolling about.

You sound like a naturally friendly bloke who’s interested in people. Are you like that in real life or do you go to the other extreme?

I am a naturally friendly person but I have a bit of a snapping point if I think people are taking liberties.

I do quite like getting into conversation with random strangers, but I also do like disappearing into my own head and I do get quite annoyed if I’m just trying to daydream a bit and it’s interrupted.

Do you get up and tell them? Does the comedian persona take over?

Yes very much so. Y’know if you’re sitting in a nice quite bar and somebody puts on the jukebox and then turns it up really loud? That just drives me mad.

So what are we going to see from you in the future? A show called 'mind your own business and speak quietly'?

I think be considerate to others would be the thing. I’d quite like to fly a kite in the city centre, but I don’t.

What’s going to be your next move?

As soon as it finishes I’ve got a day off, then I go to Australia and New Zealand. Then Fiji is my next. Then I’m going to be doing various gigs around the place in the summer.

I’m doing Regents Park and playing the outdoor gigs there - you know where they usually do the Shakspeare. Then off to the Edinburgh festival and the West End and then touring again.

You did actually study performing arts didn’t you. Given that your comedy is very natural and improvised, do you think it’s something that you can learn?

No I don’t think you can, you’ve either got it in you or you haven’t. That course that I did was the equivalent of an A Level, it was a 6th form college. And that was quite interesting.

I realised when I did that - I went to my careers teacher and said "I want to be a comedian" and the teacher said "okay then, why don’t you go to college and do a performing arts course.

It wasn’t till I got there that I just sort of realised they were teaching all the different names for curtains, what was stage right and stage left and stuff.

But in terms of it having any effect on the standup - no. You can go on a course and somebody can tell you to hold the mic like this. Somebody can tell you the way plays work and it doesn’t make you a great actor. You’re either funny or you’re not.

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