Ross Noble clears his head to deliver post-lockdown thoughts on being Humournoid

“My shows are always where my head is on that day,” says surrealist comedian Ross Noble

ROSS Noble once said: “As usual, I have lots of stuff backing up in my mind and it’s time to let it out”.

Can you image how crammed the Geordie surrealist’s brain must be as he prepares to perform his Humournoid show at the Grand Opera House, York, on Saturday, given that tickets first went on sale as long ago as June 6 2019.

At that time, the gig was scheduled for April 30 2020, but then Coronavirus brought everything to a halt. “It’s been hilarious!” says Ross, managing to see the funny side of Covid’s curse on live entertainment.

“I’d been waiting two years, with dates being on, then off, then back on, then off, having to keep reorganising the tour, before I finally could start it at the end of last year.”

Ross, now 45, called an earlier tour show Brain Dump, in acknowledgement of every improvised performance being a clear-out of his in-tray of thoughts. “My shows are always where my head is on that day,” says the Newcastle-born absurdist comic and actor.

Lockdown had led others to occupy their head space in such a way too, he notes, and that has since had an impact on Humournoid. “We started doing Humournoid in Australia [where Noble lives in Melbourne], just before the country got shut down. It’s a bit unusual that people, the entire world over, whether they liked it or not, were then forced to re-evaluate themselves and be in their head, in isolation at home, which I think has been a good thing.

“Weirdly, every comic has written either a children’s book or a self-help book in lockdown,” says Ross Noble, who has done neither

“I know it’s been hard and I know we’re still in the pandemic and people are hurting, but it’s extraordinary that even though 9/11 changed the course of how society thinks, Covid has forced the whole world to take stock and think about things.”

Since resuming performances, Ross has seen at close hand how “some people are desperate to get out to see a show but others are still nervous about going out”.

Unlike the freewheeling, wild path his shows take, he is conducting himself on the road with caution. “I wear a mask all the time, and even though people think Omicron is less severe, I’ve not yet had Covid, and if I did get it, I’d have to shut down for five days, which would affect the tour,” he says.

“My strategy is to play the gig, go to the hotel, play the next gig, go to the hotel. The only interaction with the outside world is at a petrol station, or when I’m on stage, or signing in at the hotel. Otherwise, I’m always on my own. The one thing I can do is to try to make sure that each gig happens.”

How did Ross spend his lockdowns? “Weirdly, every comic has written either a children’s book or a self-help book, and they’re the last people I’d want to get self-help advice from or want to read their stories talking about bringing up their kids,” he says.

“What I’ve done is six weeks of hotel quarantine,  when moving around in Australia, if I wanted to cross into another state to do TV. Melbourne, my home, is the most locked-down city in the world, with an eight o’clock curfew, and you were only allowed to go three miles from your home. Only one person per household per day was allowed to go out to the supermarket.”

The tour poster for Ross Noble’s Humournoid show

When he travelled to Sydney, it was “proper quarantine”, he recalls. “Locking you in your hotel room, with the police and the army on the door, and you could only open the door for a bag of food and a Covid test, when they would send a nurse around twice a week, and you had to stand there with your back against the wall as they shoved the test equipment up your nose,” says Ross.

“But in the first lockdown, I seriously loved it. Normally if I’m in a hotel room, I’d be staring at the wall, thinking ‘I should be doing more’, but just being allowed to sit there and stare into the distance, I loved it.

“The fact is I already do meditation, or as my wife calls it, ‘not listening’. People are into all this mindfulness stuff, whereas if you’re told you’re not allowed to do anything or go anywhere, I naturally drift off, as opposed to doing an hour’s formal meditation.”

It turns out Ross did put lockdown to good use. “I always have lots of ideas in my head, but the great thing about the pandemic was that I found myself thinking, ‘oh, I’m going to finish these ideas off,” he says.

“I started writing screenplays and they’re now at various stages of development. Well, the thing is I can’t really say. It’s not top secret but you have to be really careful, but in two years’ time, people could be saying, oh, he’s been busy’, or it could die in the water and become something you find in the drawer long after it never happened.”

Let’s see what happens to these Noble deeds, but in the meantime, he will be in Humournoid form in York this weekend.

Having made his return to the Grand Opera House on his El Hablador in October 2018 after a run of shows at York Barbican, he is delighted to be going back there once more. “It’s one of the best rooms for comedy,” says Ross. “I put it in my top five favourite places to play. I love it there.”

Ross Noble: Humournoid, Grand Opera House, York, Saturday (29/1/2022), 8pm. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Copyright of The Press, York

No joke for Ross Noble as Humournoid show in York has to be delayed…again

Noble nobbled: Pandemic has forced Ross Noble to rearrange his Humournoid show at the Grand Opera House, York, for a second time

SURREALIST comedian Ross Noble is moving his January 21 2021 gig at the Grand Opera House, York, to January 29 2022.

In his Humournoid show, Noble, 44, asks: “What happens when pure comedy takes human form? What happens when a creature is created and bred to do stand-up?”

“Nobody knows because that isn’t a thing,” says the off-the-cuff Newcastle humorist. What is a thing, he argues, is Ross Noble doing a show. “You can come and see it. This is it,” he urges.

Later this year, Noble’s Humournoid tour is booked into Leeds Town Hall for October 26, rearranged from May 31 2020. Tickets for his 8pm York gig are on sale at atgtickets.com/venues/grand-opera-house-york/; for Leeds, at leedstownhall.co.uk.

Noble, who last visited the Grand Opera House on his El Hablador travels in October 2018, first announced Humournoid, his 17th nationwide tour, would play York on April 30 2020. Here’s hoping for third time lucky.

Grand Opera House confirms no shows until after September 20 at the earliest

Kevin Clifton in his dream role as Scott Hastings in Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom: Now running at the Grand Opera House, York, in November 2021, rather than November 23 to 28 this autumn, directed by Craig Revel Horwood

ALL performances at the Grand Opera House, York, are suspended until September 20 at the earliest “in order to help contain the spread of Covid-19”.

A statement from the Cumberland Street theatre’s owners, the Ambassador Theatre Group, said today: “We apologise for the inconvenience caused but hope you understand, given the exceptional circumstances.”

“We were encouraged to see the Government’s intervention to protect UK culture this week,” it went on. “We continue to work closely with health authorities and look forward to the wonderful re-opening of the Grand Opera House as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so.

“To this end, we are sorry to confirm that all performances at Ambassador Theatre Group venues have been suspended until Saturday, September 20.

“If you have a booking that has been affected by this suspension, you do not need to do anything. Over the coming weeks, we will contact you directly and will be able to handle your requests and enquiries.”

Shows aplenty have been rearranged, such as Strictly Ballroom, starring Strictly Come Dancing old boy Kevin Clifton (November 15 to 20 2021) and comedy gigs by Ross Noble (Humournoid, January 21 2021) and Jimmy Case (Terribly Funny, April 28 2021).

“We are working with producers to re-schedule as many postponed shows as possible, so please do bear with us,” ATG’s statement said. “If your performance is re-scheduled, your tickets will be automatically moved to the new dates and you will be informed accordingly.

Jimmy Carr: Grand Opera House show moving to next spring

“We have also recently announced new performances, such as The Rolling Stones Story on January 22 2021 and The Simon & Garfunkel Story on April 29. Please book with confidence, knowing that if there are any further suspensions, your new tickets will remain fully valid for further exchanges or refunds.”

ATG added: “Customers booked for performances between August 3 and September 6 will be contacted in the week commencing July 13. Customers booked for remaining performances will be contacted in the week commencing July 20.”

Full credit vouchers valid until December 31 2021, including all fees, or refunds, are available for all cancelled shows. For further details, go to  ATGtickets.com/corona.

Nationwide, over the past few months, ATGtickets Customer Service Teams up and down the country have handled the re-scheduling of more than 15,000 performances of plays, musicals, comedy and live music.

“From November 2020 and throughout 2021, we have a wonderful array of productions on sale, everything from pantomime to The Book Of Mormon, Disney’s The Lion King to Jimmy Carr and Derren Brown to We Will Rock You,” said ATG.

“On behalf of all our staff, backstage crews, front-of-house teams, actors, dancers, musicians and the entire British theatre industry, we want to thank you for your support and understanding as we work together to ensure the future success of our industry.

“All of us at ATG are enormously proud to be a small part of British theatre, renowned as the greatest in the world. The arts has inspired, educated, entertained and enriched the lives of audiences for hundreds of years but has never been challenged like this. With your on-going commitment, we believe we can come back faster and stronger than ever before.”