Ross Noble: Nonsensry Overload

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Even at its best, stand-up cannot hope to capture the same uncontrollable glee of friends sharing a spontaneous in-joke. That feeling of being rendered helpless with laughter just cannot be replicated in the artificial environs of a gig. Yet thanks to his compulsion to jettison the script entirely, Ross Noble represents comedy’s best chance of reproducing those ideal conditions

He is perfectly skilled in creating a unique shared experience; bonding with the audience over the fact that large amounts of what you’ll hear in his company won’t be repeated elsewhere. In such an atmosphere even the prepared routines, if you can spot where they start and end, are given a freshness

The first half of this new tour is largely improvised, and a good chunk of the second. A few seeds are planted early on for routines yet to flourish, but Noble thrives off the smallest distraction in the audience, which here in Swindon range from an unusual haircut to a man taking an unscheduled break to an usher taking his seat. As Britain’s leading bollocksmonger, he spins from these elaborately imagined scenarios Danny La Rue causing a disturbance at a bus stop, the ghost of Patrick Swayze shagging Scooby Doo or an extended analogy of a penis being like a cow. There’s no spoiler alert in mentioning these routines, as there’s minimal chance they’ll be repeated

His own flightiness is, of course, the biggest joke of the lot. ‘Is the whole show really gong to be about what happened in the darkness before he came on stage?’ he imagines the audience thinking several minutes into his thoughts on the subject. Anyone who’s seen him before would accept that might just happen, a supposition he merrily concedes

But it’s not just the puncturing of the overblown flights of imagination that’s funny, he creates genuine gags on route, so dodging the bullet of self-indulgent surrealism. Though he appears to be targetted at an audience who would be wooed by the idea of random whimsy, there’s more substance to his show than you would think. He has an unrivalled knack for the ad-libbed callback, too, incorporating plenty of his unplanned ideas into the twisted, self-contained narrative

There are waypoints, though – fixed routines he’ll seamlessly steer the one-sided conversation towards. He imagines what a Googlephone really ought to be, has his own take on the nonsense mythology of the Avatar movie, deliberately antagonising those who haven’t seen it, and shares some witty anecdotes about the extreme experience of entertaining the troops in Afghanistan. Some of these prepared routines sag a little compared to the speed of his improv, but they’re steered back on course

He’s also one of the many comics who have lost their dad over the last year, but for Noble this leads to inappropriate behaviour in the funeral parlour rather than considered introspection about the father-son relationship. That’s his style: never do thoughtful when daft is funnier

His traditional inflatable set is as extravagant as ever. Here an explosion of primary colours and cartoon representations of old routines – motorbikes, kangaroos, faces in muffins. It’s rather full-on, like a nursery school for attention-deficit children in My Little Pony’s Paradise Estate, but Noble would never dream of feeding us the fun so forcefully as this might suggest. Nor is he any longer a slave to besotted fans who leave gifts on the stage – a couple of well-judged presents are shared tonight, but he never gets bogged down with it, a definite flaw of previous tours

Always a good comic, Noble is stealthily getting better all the time

Review date: 22 Sep 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Swindon Wyvern Theatre

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