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The noble art of comedy

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The noble art of comedy

In the lead-up to his Sunshine Coast show, comedian Ross Noble chats to My Weekly Preview about life, laughs and family.

Ross Noble needs a few tips on where to take his young daughters Elfie and Willow when he visits the Sunshine Coast for his upcoming show at the Events Centre.

He’s visited the Coast many times over his 25-year career, but this time he’s coming with his Australian wife Fran and the kids.

While he’s not a huge beachgoer, he likes the idea of a swim before heading out to do his two-hour, largely improvised comedy show, El Hablador, which he’s currently taking around the country on his 15th sell-out tour of Australia.

“With the beaches in the UK, you get about a three-hour window in the year when you can enjoy them,” he says. “So we’re going to bring the kids up and treat it as a bit of a holiday, have a week in and around the Sunshine Coast.”

Which brings us to an important subject. In 2007, he was voted the 10th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s100 Greatest Stand-Ups and 11th in the updated 2010 list. But do his kids think he’s funny?

“I’m just really silly, which is hard work on my wife,” he says. “My youngest thinks I’m really funny, my eldest one rolls her eyes a bit and I just take a moment to remind her that it was me being funny that brought her everything she owns and the house that her bedroom is in. If at any point she starts rolling her eyes, I go, ‘if you ever want a car, just shut up’.”

While his daughters don’t understand much of his stand-up work and are blasé when they see him on TV, they were impressed with his performance as hunchback manservant Igor in last year’s West End production of Young Frankenstein.

“They absolutely loved it,” he says. “The little one, she came in and said, ‘we’re gong to Daddy’s work’. Turns out everything that happens at Daddy’s work is people dress up as monsters and there’s song and dance and all kinds of crazy lab props and jars with brains in them. She went to school and said, ‘my Daddy’s a hunchback’.”

Mr Noble has been performing as a stand-up comic since the age of 15 and has appeared in TV and film. Originally from Northumberland in northern England, he married his Australian wife Fran and lived on a farm on the outskirts of Melbourne until 2009, when the family lost the farm and all their material possessions in the Victorian bushfires. They returned to live in the UK in 2010.

He still has a close connection to Australia, saying we share a similar sense of humour to the folk in his native northern England.

“We’re a bit daft, a bit like Australians. People don’t take themselves too seriously.”

Ross Noble fans know he’s the king of improvisation. He gives a high-energy performance every night, he banters with the audience, follows surreal tangents and somehow pulls it all together at the end. He strides around the stage like a hyperactive bear, feeding off his connection with the crowd and making them laugh solidly for more than two hours. And unlike many comedians, he reserves swearing for special occasions.

“I do swear on stage, but I’ll swear when I feel like it’s required,” he says. “Swearing’s brilliant, I love swearing. If you swear just to punctuate a sentence it has no effect, if you hold it back, if you hold back the swearing, and drop it at the right place it can be used to really emphasise something. If you just use it all the time it loses its power.

“If I talk about sex it’s usually done in such a ridiculous way, people will just go ‘ooh that’s a bit saucy’. My stuff is so cartoonish. I could talk about politics for an hour, but people don’t come away going, ‘he’s a political comedian’, he just talks about it like he talks about everything else. I take it off into such stupid, ridiculous places that people forget what they’re laughing about.

“But to be honest, with my stuff, even when I’m talking about things that are a bit rude, it’s never vulgar. I deal with all sorts of subjects that are perhaps near the knuckle, but it’s never vulgar.”

While some comedians meticulously prepare for their shows and schedule them to the minute, Mr Noble is such a natural comic talent he can walk out onto the stage, night after night, without really knowing what he’s going to say, and still have the crowd in stitches.

“My preparation is, I get changed out of my normal clothes, which are usually covered in food, and put a T-shirt on and walk out. It’s amazing how quickly it happens – when you hear an audience, when you hear the energy coming off the audience and they start clapping, it clicks me into it.”

Ross Noble will appear at The Events Centre Caloundra on April 3. Visit theeventscentre.com.au.

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Leigh Robshaw is a journalist who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years. Originally from Sydney, she has lived and worked in London, Tokyo and Latin America. She joined the team in 2012 and is MWP's deputy editor. Writing, reading and travel are her greatest passions.

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