Ross Noble at Just For Laughs, Montreal 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

You don’t often get the chance to see Ross Noble in a room that seats only a hundred or so punters; but here in Montreal he’s so unknown that his solo show is not even in the main Just For Laughs festival, but the spin-off Zoofest – an arms-length, low-cost fringe, backed by the main event but excluded from much of the advertising push.

A good proportion of the audience seem to be British, too, which is something of a shame, as half the fun here must be in seeing what Noble neophytes make of his digressionary, free-wheeling surrealism, a world away from the highly-honed comics who dominate the North American scene.

The reviewer from the Montreal Gazette certainly made a schoolgirl error at a gig like this – sitting on the front row, notebook clearly visible. Needless to say it was confiscated, read and defaced by the cheeky Geordie Sasquatch.

Since she couldn’t take notes, let’s recap some of the subjects covered, for her benefit: steam-powered rappers, swatting a fly with a miniscule newspaper, children named after kitchen implements, Jesus being nailed to an Ikea computer desk and the man with profiterole eyes. Utter codswallop, of course, but such compelling codswallop.

Although some prepared routines can be detected if you look hard enough, most of this will never be repeated, and the sense of being in a perfectly unique moment in time is what makes the frenetic Noble so exciting. Most comics work hard on the illusion of spontaneity, with him you know it’s the real, unpredictable deal.

Even he doesn’t always know what he’s going to say next, and often catches himself out as his runaway mouth stumbles over a phrase, sparking a whole new avenue of the imagination. How else would we end up with the concept of Puffin Daddy? So while laughs come thick and fast from the nonsense he spouts, just as many come from the reaction to it, often his own, as he pulls himself up from a seemingly runaway train of thought to point out the whole ridiculous situation; a room full of paying punters listening to an easily-distracted man generate the most unlikely piffle.

But his mind is as good at making connections as it is at conjuring up weird images, so the night gets a surprising structure, almost by accident. Callbacks suddenly occur to him, or links between one chunk of nonsense to another. From the randomness, form emerges. There’s probably something very profound in that…

Review date: 22 Jul 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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