Comedian Rob Beckett on bringing Wallop! to Belfast and Derry

David Roy quizzes top comic Rob Beckett about bringing his Wallop! stand-up tour to Derry and Belfast next week, his best selling autobiography A Class Act and taking hit podcast Parenting Hell out on the road...

Rob Beckett returns to the north next week
Rob Beckett returns to the north next week

:: HI ROB, how was your Halloween this year?

I don't bother with it to be honest. I hate it, it's just like a Lynx advert for paedos, innit, trick or treating? It's not for me. And not in southeast London. It's a bit dicey.

Also, I grew up in a very working class household, so someone knocking on the door asking for stuff gives me a bit of PTSD.

:: Are you looking forward to playing Belfast and Derry next week on your Wallop! tour?

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. My favourite part of the tour is when you get to go to places you don't normally go to, and it feels like a bit of a holiday. Because I love doing stand up, and it was always my dream to travel the world and get paid to do it. You know, like, it's amazing.

If I went to Belfast with my mates for three nights, I'd still try and get a gig at the comedy club, because that's what I love to do. It's like a hobby that's got out of hand.

:: Do the crowds treat you well over here?

Well, I've never gigged in Derry before, but one mistake I did make when I first went to Belfast is that I normally ask people where they're from, what they do and who they are. And, in Belfast, they don't always really want to give you too much detail about all that, which I learned quite quickly as a naive 23-year-old Londoner.

But the crowds there are always really up for it. It's one of those where everyone's so funny, with the Irish sense of humour. It's a bit like Glasgow and Liverpool, you've got such a strong identity where you're so funny in and of yourselves. Whereas, in London, sometimes you just get a load of miserable b******s in who are sort of like 'uhh' and you really have to prove yourself a bit more.

:: You originally wrote Wallop! over three years ago and had to abandon the tour due to Covid in 2020 – how much of that original show still survives in 2022?

There's some big solid routines that have stayed the course. But then a few other little bits have crept in, like a couple of little references to Covid – but not much, because I don't want to depress people – and I've got a big routine now about smoking and my family at weddings and stuff. But the show is never finished really. My job is just to be as funny as possible. And really, the routines that make that happen can chop and change.

The show always changes from night to night anyway, like 20 per cent of it, because if the crowd are up for chatting and messing about then that could be a full 20 minutes. It depends on the crowd, depends on the night of the week – Tuesday night in Cambridge, you're not getting much out of, whereas with a Friday or Saturday night in Newcastle, that could be half the show.

And sometimes the best shows are the ones where I don't even get round to doing all the material because other stuff has cropped up. You know, like if you're in the pub, and it's really funny, no one's really planned what they're going to say, have they? And that's what I'm always trying to achieve. That, like, real life comedy.

:: Is that why you don't write much for the shows beyond bullet points of general topics, rather than meticulously planning everything out?

If you said to me, 'right, Rob, you've got to write a new half-hour stand-up set: you can go on in an hour, or you can have a week in a hotel room to prepare', I would bite your hand off to go on in an hour. Just get me there and let me do it.

I'm always better in the moment, because I think sometimes when you just say something instantly, it's the truth – and in comedy, the truth is the thing that really works. Also, because I suffer with anxiety and stuff, sometimes having too long of a build-up is no good for me. Yeah, I need to be just doing it and just living it.

And you know, even with the books, I will write as if I'm speaking – I don't really go back and pour over it and re-read it. If you go back and re-edit yourself, then you start to lose a little bit of you. And that's part of what makes it magic.

:: What made you want to write your autobiography, A Class Act: Life as a Working Class Man in a Middle Class World?, during lockdown in 2020?

It was always something I wanted to write about, but never had a chance [until lockdown]. I sort of wrote it for me, in a way, but the me of about 10 or 15 years ago. I thought I'd really have appreciated reading these kinds of things a few years ago.

At the time I wrote it, I was just trying to work out how my relationship to my kids was gonna develop, which was something that was really stressing me out. I found it quite cathartic. I just really, really enjoyed writing it and getting it down on paper how I felt.

I think the more people that speak about stuff like that, the easier it gets, and you can sort of bond over it – because there's lots of people feeling like they're an impostor, or stuck in that 'poverty mindset' where if you're not working all the hours of the day, you feel like you're being lazy.

If people can read about what I went through, they'll go, 'oh, that's what I'm doing'. Because that's the thing: I didn't realise I was doing all these things until I'd done a bit of therapy. And now, when I do start to go back into those patterns of behaviour, I can spot it and do something about it.

The way I tried to write it was, I tried to keep it very open and easy to read. I wanted a book for someone that goes, 'I don't read books', but they'd be able to read that one.

:: You also started your podcast Parenting Hell with Rob Beckett & Josh Widdicombe during lockdown. Now it's a best-selling book and you're just about to take it on the road as a live show. Have you and Josh worked out what you'll be doing or will that also be a spontaneous kind of performance?

No, that will be more produced and prepared, almost like a live podcast show. But there'll also be moments to improvise within it. We've already done some warm-up gigs at the Hackney Empire in London and a few club gigs, where it worked well. We've a couple more warm-up gigs where we'll be chopping and changing it all, and then we'll do it in the arenas.

We're going to get big name guests to come on to chat, me and Josh will chat, and we'll play some games and stuff from the podcast – but in a sort of bigger way. And we'll get questions from the audience too.

Everything will be sort of x100 and on steroids to make it more like an event than just two blokes sat in a room doing a podcast.

:: Rob Beckett, November 10, Millennium Forum, Derry / November 11, Ulster Hall, Belfast. Tickets and full tour info via robbeckettcomedy.com.