Ross Noble: It's always important to have a laugh
The times we live in aren't that crazy politically – it's just that we're more aware of what's happening, Ross Noble tells Ella Walker. And yes, he also says laughter is the best medicine
COMEDIAN Ross Noble is a meandering kind of the guy. The Newcastle-born stand-up has a stream-of-consciousness approach to amusing people, meaning his coronavirus-postponed show Humournoid will be a miscellany of "whatever's bubbling around in my head", threaded with bouts of audience interaction when it eventually hits the road.
And in such uncertain, shifting times, his 'in the moment' style has a lot going for it.
We spoke to the long-haired funny man before the coronavirus pandemic hit (for which he has since built a bunker), about the benefits of laughter, and why he's genuinely not an embarrassing dad...
:: Do you believe laughter is good for you?
"It's good for your mental wellbeing – definitely, definitely. Anything that exercises that imagination muscle has got to be a good thing.
"The thing is, you've got a device in your pocket now that can access all recorded entertainment since the dawn of time – since cinema was invented, so you can binge-watch whatever you want. With stand-up, what I love about it is, it happens on the night, in that moment. When it's going well, it lives and then it dies, and the memory of the gig fades. It's this transient thing that existed, and I love the fact with really good stand-up, people come together, albeit for a couple of hours, and form this community and you're in the moment."
:: The world can feel quite overwhelming at times. Does comedy provide an escape?
"It's always important to have a laugh, I think, that doesn't change. But actually the idea that, all of a sudden, the world's got worse, I think is... I mean don't get me wrong, politically we have entered a different time, everything's just sort of gone a bit crazy. But I don't think necessarily that the world's gone crazy all of a sudden – it wasn't that long ago that everyone in Europe was killing each other.
"It's the first time in history that everybody is instantly connected to all world knowledge, and everyone's broadcasting and everyone's receiving – how sane the world is, or how insane the world is, is directly reflected in how you're taking in that information."
:: How does the Ross Noble on stage compare to the one at home?
"The main difference is, when I'm on stage, I tend to say everything out loud. Whereas in my day-to-day life, if I have an idea, instead of following it and saying it out loud, I'm more likely to internalise it, which is fine, except you can just look like you're staring at people. I just disappear into my own head a bit more."
:: When you walk on stage, there's no script, no one-liners to spout – do you ever feel anxious that the words won't come?
"I know some people might have terrible anxiety in case they can't think of anything to say, but no, basically if that were to ever happen, I'd probably get 20 minutes out of the fact my mind's gone blank, you know? So there's no point worrying; I never do. But also, I've been doing stand-up now for nearly 30 years and it's never happened. It's never happened in all that time, so I mean, ask me again when I'm a pensioner and I might be going, 'It happens all the time', but then that'd be funny."
You're now 43 and have been doing stand-up since you were 15. Are you getting funnier, or are you descending into grumpy old man territory?
"Am I getting funnier? Yeah, I think so. The more you're doing it, the more you become closer and closer to who you actually are."
:: Where did your desire to make people laugh come from?
"It's all I've ever done; doesn't everybody enjoy making people laugh? Like when you're a kid and you're mucking about with your mates and they're all laughing – surely everyone must feel like that at some point? I just decided to do it as a job.
"I'm dyslexic, so I found school incredibly tedious because it just wasn't easy, and as a result, it meant I was just very bored a lot of the time, so my whole thing was just about having fun."
:: Are you an embarrassing dad to your daughters?
"I did say to my 11-year-old, 'If you do think I start to become an embarrassing dad, just tell me and I'll tone it back'. And she said, 'Right, yeah I will', and then she went, 'Nah, actually, I think that's quite funny'.
"They had an assembly and a pop dance troupe came in to get the kids dancing and all that. For most parents you could see their blood running cold, and they were getting really nervous because they said, 'All the parents get up', and they made us do this dance-off and nobody was fully committing. The thing about me is, I love to dance. I fully committed."
:: And your kids weren't mortified?
"My six-year-old is in the same school; I was mainly doing it to make her laugh. I apologised to the eldest one, like, 'Oh sorry, was that embarrassing?' And she said, 'No, I was laughing', and all her friends were laughing too. So no, they think I'm funny."
:: What's your parenting style like?
"I'm quite laid-back in terms of like, if I'm supervising them, I'll let them play with craft knives and stuff, and if I'm around and the little one wants to jump off stuff, she'll go, 'I'm gonna jump off there and land on that'. And I'll say, 'Go on then, yeah, give it a try.'
"If they're just being rude or behaving in a way I think is a bit antisocial, then I get incredibly strict with them. But if they're doing something that could potentially endanger themselves, I explain the danger and then give them the option."
:: Aside from your kids, what makes you laugh more than anything?
"The thing I laughed at the most in my entire life was walking down the street, and there was two old men – one of their hats blew off. It flew up in the air, flipped around in the air and came down and landed perfectly on the other one's head – I've never seen anything quite as funny as that."
:: Ross Noble's tour for new stand-up show Humournoid is in the process of being rescheduled due to the coronavirus outbreak. For dates and ticket updates, check rossnoble.com.