FREEWHEELING Geordie comic Ross Noble will spin his web of nonsensical improvised comedy on his return to the Grand Opera House, York, on Wednesday (15/11/2023).
“It will be a playful experience for young and old,” he says. “Imagine watching someone create a magic carpet on an enchanted loom. Oh, hang on… magic carpets fly, that would smash the loom as it took flight. I haven’t thought that through…That’s what people can expect. Razor-sharp observations on things I haven’t thought through.”
Ross, who cut his teenage comedy teeth in York compering Comedy Shack gigs at the Bonding Warehouse, is settling into his 21st stand-up tour, talking genial Geordie gibberish on his Jibber Jabber Jamboree itinerary from October 25 to March 17 2024.
“I’ve got significantly better hotel accommodation,” says the Newcastle surrealist, reflecting on the contrast with his first tour. “That’s the main thing. Also, there are people coming to see me now who came with their parents when they were kids. That messes with your head a little bit.
“I still think of myself as being like 22 or 23 years old, and now I’ve got grown men going, ‘I saw you when I was 15. And now I’m a professional comedian’. Not even people going, ‘I want to be a comedian’ – like actual, established performers.”
Does that make Ross an elder statesman of comedy at 47? “I wouldn’t go that far! The people that get described as ‘elder statesman’…some of them are a little bit too confident in their opinions, you know? They start going: ‘Well, the thing about comedy…’. No! Shut up!”
Just as Bob Dylan sang “All I’ve got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth” in All Along The Watchtower, so Ross Noble once said his plans for a show ran to “about four words on a scrap of paper”. “That was actually taken slightly out of context,” he clarifies. “What I would do is go on and improvise, and then afterwards, I would write down things I could do again.
“I didn’t sit down to plan, think of four things and write them down. It’s the same today, really. Except I just don’t write them down – I feel like I should be able to remember four things!”
As ever, Ross will have no support (no, not even a chair) as he tucks into two hour-long sets on Wednesday. “The thing that gets me is comics who sit down,” he says. “Whenever I see a comic with a chair on stage, I just think ‘If you need that chair, do a shorter show! Get up and put some effort in’.”
How does Ross on stage contrast with Ross off stage? “The difference is that when I’m on stage I show my working out. As I’m talking, my brain is constantly interrupting itself, so I’ll be saying something and then that’ll spark another thing, and then something else will come in – and I explain all that as it happens,” he says.
“Those thoughts still happen when I’m off stage, but I don’t say them all out loud, so if you meet me in the street, I can seem kind of distracted. I’ll often get halfway through a sentence and just stop. It drives my wife up the wall.”
Come the interval on Wednesday, as is customary at a Noble gig, audience members will leave items on stage for Ross to weave into his wild imaginings in the second half.
“Somebody once left a pin from a ten-pin bowling alley and then a few nights later, somebody left another one. So, I tweeted about it, and over the course of the tour, I got all ten and we set up a bowling alley in the dressing room,” he recalls.
“Somebody did an oil painting of me as a centaur: full horse body, long flowing hair, rippling muscles like Fabio. Then above my head, there’s a Mr Kipling French Fancy with a rainbow coming out of it, and wings like a snitch from Harry Potter. That blew my mind.”
Before Wednesday, check out Ross’s YouTube channel, where he presents a spoof nature documentary series, The Unnatural History Show With Ross Noble, as a rather riskier retort to the Beeb’s Winterwatch.
“I love Winterwatch and Countryfile, but there’s a very British, very cosy way that people like Michaela Strachan and John Craven present,” he says. “It’s all people in jumpers and Berghaus jackets sitting around being very ‘Well, isn’t this marvellous seeing these mating chaffinches?’! I just thought: ‘This would be a lot better if some of these animals could kill you’.”
Back on stage, you may have seen Ross’s Igor in Mel Brooks’s musical Young Frankenstein on tour at Leeds Grand Theatre. What did he learn from his musical theatre experience that he could apply to stand-up? “Previously I thought the best thing about stand-up was that you didn’t have to deal with other people messing up what you want to do,” he says.
“But then you do something like Young Frankenstein, with the greatest comedy legend of all time, and the best Broadway director that’s working and you go: ‘Oh, no, it’s not that I don’t like working with other people. I just want to work with the absolute best people’.”
Now, solo once more, Ross will turn his stream-of-consciousnonsense tap on in York at 8pm on Wednesday. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Further Yorkshire dates on Ross Noble’s Jibber Jabber Jamboree tour in 2024: Sheffield City Hall, February 28, CAST, Doncaster, March 3; Leeds Grand Theatre, March 17. Box office: Sheffield, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk; Doncaster, 01302 303959 or castindoncaster.com; Leeds, 0113 243 0808 or leedsheritage theatres.com.