Ross Noble: Fizzy Logic

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Many comics develop a catchphrase. Ross Noble must be the first whose hecklers have one: ‘Ross - focus.’

The jauntily whimsical Geordie makes the mistake of telling the lively Birmingham audience how he was given this patronising advice from the stalls earlier in this still-young tour, and it was quickly seized upon as a refrain for this night, too. When even Noble’s die-hard fans – who you would expect to be enamoured by how far his train of thought can stray – are imploring him to get back on track, you know his digressions must have become too long-winded.

But that’s the deal you make with Noble. You accept his mind wanders, even if it means the quality does too. He might have kept a low British profile for the past few months, forging a new career half a world away in Australia, where he now mostly lives, but nothing in his style has changed.

We’re reintroduced to him via a gloriously juvenile animation warning us to shut up and silence our phones. Then come the jumbled outpourings of an overactive mind. The topics are suitably surreal: ‘stretching the tits of a fat man… the moon’s postcode… the slut boutique… spring-loaded pensioners…’ half-prepared, half-improvised, with the joins impossible to detect.

But he does have an answer for everything, with random musings and bizarre theories to fit whatever direction a punter’s backchat takes him. From backless hospital gowns to knife crimes, Noble’s got a deranged theory on them all.

With this banter he’s brilliantly effective at creating a string of in-jokes, specific to this one particular gig, that bring the audience into his world with subtly conspiracy - and in doing so he can achieve moments of spontaneous, heartfelt hilarity that a scripted comedian cannot hope to reach. But equally, we have to humour him through the longer segments that don’t soar to these dizzying heights, remaining instead rooted to amiable blather.

Away from these ‘thinking out loud’ diversions, his longer set-piece routines are hit and miss. And if they miss, like a fruitless segment strangely and rather unpleasantly imagining what it would be like if vaginas spontaneously exploded, the torturous exploration of all possible consequences can be tiresome.

But the finer moments are more than compensation. With the bum-faced boy he hammers relentlessly at stupid, childish humour with infectious immaturity; and with thee deconstruction of surreal Aussie metaphors he shows he can nail the traditional stand-up style with the best of them.

He even shows a rare glint of edge, after passing mention of the word ‘Muslim’ draws a sharp collective intake of breath allows him to let rip against all religions with a compelling combination of passion and imagination.

‘I’ve not fully thought this through…’ is a recurring motif for Noble. Yet it’s the sections where he has fully considered all possible gags that are among the strongest – those and the genuinely spur-of-the-moment comments from left field that have made his name. But when he turns to over-planned surrealism, neither spontaneity or sharp writing is employed to best effect, and it’s then he seems to be marking time until the next great moment inevitably arrives.

Steve Bennett
Birmingham
September 13, 2006

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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