Welsh comic A-lister Rhod Gilbert shelved the standup lifestyle. Then he returned to it. Then his new show, The Book Of John, was pandemically suspended for two years. Now he’s back in biz again. And that’s why he spoke to Carl Marsh!
What’s it like being on this never-ending tour, then? What with lockdowns, it started over three years ago now…
It really is never-ending. I started this tour in Wrexham in February 2019. And here we are three years later. I mean, I’d had a fairly significant break in the middle, it has to be said! It’s a big tour as well, and we are now, I think, pushing above 160 dates on it so far. So, by the end, we’re getting close to 200 shows. By the time I get to Cardiff for that one, I think that will be show 190.
Is that a record for any comedian’s ongoing tour?
I don’t know whether that would be a record, but it is certainly a huge tour. I guess most people probably do about 30 to 70 dates, something like that; but the last one I did was massive, and it went on for a year – it was 127. That was 2012’s The Man With The Flaming Battenburg Tattoo. I don’t know what the record would be; I haven’t looked. I’m not going for the record. It’s not what I’m going to do. [Laughs]
I guess it’s a case of, if you’re still selling out these venues, then why not keep extending it…
Exactly, really. It is a bit of that. I think I’m still annoyed at myself because, in 2012, my show was about three hours long. I’m still kicking myself for why I did that – you don’t need to. Audiences don’t want three hours: it’s too long for me, for them, the venues, and the staff. Nobody wants it. And yeah, I kept doing it – and I kicked myself because I didn’t tour again for another seven years. I could easily have made that one into two tours and be touring again, say, three years later. So, I’m making up for it – for the lost tour.
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A lot of headline comedy sets I’ve seen over the years have been about an hour long. So by that reckoning, you could have done three tours, let alone two.
Yeah, there were possibly three shows in it. I could have toured again and again a couple of years later. I was stupid. The Book Of John is an hour and a half – I think I’ve learned my lesson. But I’m also a bit older, so it’s a bit harder to do.
What was the story behind that seven-year gap between tours? Work commitments around Radio Wales?
Just a lot of life stuff happened, to be honest. I got married and got a dog, but then my mum died. I had a stroke. So, there’s a lot of life stuff that just got in the way. This show is about the life stuff that happened to me in that period. I was also doing a lot of TV work, but it was nothing to do with the Radio Wales show – I’m sorry to have left that.
I do miss live radio. I cancelled it – stopped doing it because I went back to touring and found it was too hard to get in at 3 am and then be up and do the radio show live on a Saturday. But we’ve got a podcast [The Froth] now, me and my wife, which has a very similar vibe. We’re on a break while I finish the tour, but I’ve done the podcast to compensate for missing the radio show really – because we do miss the radio show.
And also the radio show wouldn’t pay as well as the tour!
No, no. There’s… very little money in Radio Wales live radio on a Saturday morning. Absolutely. [Laughs]
Rhod Gilbert: The Book Of John, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Fri 17 June. Tickets: £37.90. Info: here
Theatr Clwyd, Mold (Fri 24 June), Theatr Hafren, Newtown (Sat 25 June) and Swansea Arena (Thurs 14 July) are all sold out.
words CARL MARSH
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