Ross Noble Q&A: ‘I had a complete stranger ring every hotel in Auckland pretending to be my girlfriend once’

Ross Noble

Ross Noble - Credit: Archant

Ross Noble, the king of improvisational comedy, will visit the Cambridge Corn Exchange, Peterborough Cresset and King’s Lynn Corn Exchange this month as part of his 15th tour.

A true master of surreal tangents, the Geordie funnyman’s show is titled ‘Brain Dump’. Here, he speaks to us about his stand-up style, appearing on TV panel shows and playing a murderous clown…

The new tour’s called ‘Brain Dump’. Where does the title come from?

I got it from a customer review on Amazon for one of my DVDs. They wrote, “This is just like a massive brain dump,” and I thought: Oh yeah, that’s exactly what my stuff is! I’ll have that.

Your ‘brain dumps’ are largely improvised. Is it still a risk, no matter how long you’ve been doing it?

No, the “risk” is all relative. It’s like driving a car; after 25 years you don’t get in a car and go, “What if this goes wrong?” If you hit a few bumps in the road you just think: Oh, this is fun, let’s bounce around for a bit!

How do you think your comedy has developed since you started?

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The main change is that, because I’ve built up this really loyal audience, there’s more of a shorthand. When I first started, if I was talking about something a bit leftfield people would go, “Oh god, where’s he going with this?” Whereas now that’s what people want.

Back home in the UK you’ve clocked up 17 appearances on ‘Have I Got News For You’. Do you particularly enjoy that show?

I absolutely love it. I was still at school when the show started, so it was a really big deal when I first did it. It’s still the top panel show on telly. Because it’s been on for so long, it’s got a really strong sense of what the show is, it’s become very well defined.

On one appearance you and Paul Merton got every single question wrong and scored zero points. What happened there?

We did it on purpose! I’d done the show so many times, so I jokingly said to Paul, “Why don’t we just see if we can score no points?” It’s actually harder than you think, because when an obvious story comes up it’s really hard not to say the answer. Charlie Brooker was on the other team, and at the end he said, “I can’t believe we won!” and Paul went, “Well, we can!”

You have a very loyal fanbase; they see your show multiple times, leave gifts for you on stage… Is it sweet or creepy?

99 percent of the time it’s very sweet and very flattering. Every now and then you get one where you go, “Okaaaay… That’s a little bit scary…”

Who’s been the scariest?

‘I was in New Zealand once, and I was on my phone to my wife. I put the phone down and it rang again. I thought it was her ringing back, so I went, “Hi!” and this voice said, “Hello.” It was a complete stranger who had rung every hotel in Auckland pretending to be my girlfriend. That was a bit terrifying. The thing is, someone being a fan is very flattering, but there’s a big difference between somebody liking your comedy and someone wanting to wear your skin as a suit.’

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