Welcome to Ross Noble’s Jibber Jabber Jamboree! The Newcastle comic may be an old hat on the touring circuit, but with lockdown in his rearview mirror, he’s fixated on the future. And as he tells Billy Edwards, it’s a bright one where standup is concerned.
Ross Noble is “full of beans” ahead of his first gig this year, which takes place in Cardiff on Mon 29 Jan. Discussing Jibber Jabber Jamboree, his 21st tour, he demonstrates much of the expansive elaboration that characterises his jokes. “It’s quite fashionable now to have a big theme, but I get easily distracted! ‘Jibber Jabber’ is perfect because it just goes off all over the place. And it’s delightfully alliterative…”
Ross is particularly energised to host “the coming together of people,” with lockdown still in recent memory. However, he coped well without an audience. “If anyone’s equipped to deal with it, it’s standup comedians. People will go, ‘I woke up at lunchtime; I was in my pyjamas all day, and I didn’t know what day it was’: ask any stand-up comedian, that’s their life!” It proved to be productive, he hints. “I’ve got various scripts I created during that period that will hopefully see the light of day soon.”
Free from lockdown, Ross – a frequent visitor to Australia – finds the country’s variety of audiences invigorating. “If I play in Sydney with more of a young hipster crowd, it’s got a different vibe.” It’s evident in conversation that he is constantly brimming with stories desperate to be shared.
“My favourite thing is going to all these country towns, right in the middle of nowhere. Kingaroy is the peanut capital of Australia. They produce peanuts, process peanuts, and package peanuts, and everybody in the town is connected, apart from the one guy in the front row: he’s got a big swollen head because he’s had a massive allergic reaction!” It’s a land full of characters, springboards for unusual comedy. “I might get 20 minutes out of peanuts.”
With so many larger-than-life experiences, Ross considers whether his fortune favours unusual situations. “I tend to take mundane things and kind of make them fantastical. In a surreal painting, everything is weird: melting clocks, tigers on stilts… whereas it’s far more interesting to start with a clock, melt a bit of it, and then have the tiger. I like starting in the real world before taking off in a direction that you’re not expecting.”
A thoughtful perspective of the world informs his amusement. “I like to go out and live my life. Sometimes things happen, and you think, ‘I’ll talk about that tonight’. To be on stage is just daydreaming out loud.”
To return to Wales comes with an opportunity to live life tearing up the valleys. “I have so many memories because I used to come down a lot. As I’m into motorbikes, I used to deliberately do as many gigs down there as I could!” A lifelong biking fanatic, he has even completed the gruelling Scottish Six Days Trial. “I’d be up in the hills riding, and my tour manager would say, ‘The soundcheck’s on in 20 minutes…’”
With such a persistent presence on the UK’s comedy stages, he’s got much to say about its evolution, arguing now is a better time than ever for the budding comedian. “Before the internet, things developed reasonably slowly. American comedy would appear on TV, but you only really got the best of it. With YouTube, you can see any comedy. The whole thing sped up.”
Though digital platforms have upended the conventional gigging framework, an enthusiastic Ross is hopeful for the next generation. “Some people rail against it, but I like the fact that things are coming along like a timelapse. When you see a new building getting built – ‘ooh, I like that’ – that feels like what’s happening to standup comedy. It’s exciting!”
Ross Noble, New Theatre, Cardiff, Mon 29 Jan
Tickets: £33.75. Info: here
Grand Theatre, Swansea, Sun 11 Feb.
Tickets: £31. Info: here
words BILLY EDWARDS