Thursday, 21 July 2011

185: Gig Report: Ross Noble & Friends

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Ross Noble & Friends
Reading, South Street.
July 6th, 2011.

I wasn't going to post about this, but given that this month seems to have become Jovial July, I may as well (also, because it was an excellent night).

Ross Noble is one of the three live acts that I'll buy tickets for the day they go on sale, without a second thought (the other two being Bowling for Soup and Electric Six). And yet, when I read the bumph about Ross doing a series of warm-up shows for Laughs in the Park, featuring un-named guests, I have to say I did hesitate.

The prospect of seeing one of my favourite comedians doing compere work wasn't a problem (although obviously that means shorter, separate sets), it was more that I generally avoid comedy-club environments. Although I 'like comedy', I'm aware that there's a lot of stuff out there that I'm not a fan of. As I found out last year, there are few things more tedious than sitting in the front row of a venue, wanting to see the comedian whose name is on the ticket, and watching time slow down as the support act fails completely to engage with you (or vice versa, to be fair), and trying to keep that polite 'no, go on. I am interested' look on your face. Worse still, you could end up with some old-school arsehole whose act comprises of ripping the piss out of the audience. I've never had that happen to me, but I can't imagine I'd take it in good humour.

Anyway, in the end I bought tickets from Reading South Street over the phone (due to their non-functioning online store), and thanks to the general ineffectiveness of First Great Western, the choice of sitting in the front row was taken out of our hands. We still had a great view, about five rows from the front, and South Street is a small venue anyway, so it promised to be 'an intimate show' as billed...

As is normal in the comedy world, Ross introduced himself from off-stage, putting on a booming voice. As is not normal, Reading South Street has no back stage area behind the stage, so Ross had to walk through the auditorium and past the audience whilst doing it. Distracted by a malfunctioning microphone, the first fifteen minutes of the show took place in the dark as everyone's eyes gradually adjusted to the gloom and Ross became more hesitant about putting the lights back on.

All I can say about Ross' set is that he was brilliant as usual (which I'm aware is completely subjective). There were aspects of material that he was trying out for LitP (pissing on a squirrel), plus plenty of material which was inpired on the night (schoolgirl's jodphurs). I think my favourite was the concept of U2's Bono, on a rooftop, firing his AIDS-gun at Nelson Mandela (in a benevolent way). Also amusing was a loudmouth in the audience who didn't know the difference between Jon Bon Jovi and Joey Tempest, and spent five minutes drunkenly arguing that Mr Bon Jovi wasn't American. These five minutes were spent with the rest of the audience laughing at what a tit he was, as Noble confused him further. In the hands of a lesser comedian that might have soured the night, but it's a testament to Ross Noble's good nature that he can get the guy to shut up without pissing anyone off.

So after about 35-40 minutes, Ross introduced Joe Lycett to the stage. It was the first time I'd seen him (okay, the first time I'd heard of him too), and I enjoyed his set very much. He specialises in a sort of light whimsy, and being bitchy without being vindicive. That's not as camp as it sounds, by the way. There were many guffaw moments in Joe's set, including his previous life working (as 'staff') in a theatre.
He did about 20 minutes, and seemed to get quite nervous about half way through for some reason. From my point of view, his material was strong and his delivery was connecting with the audience, so I'm not sure why the nerves crept in, unless it's part of the show? He really did seem to have a 'oh my god, they all hate me' fluster, and from where I was sitting, that wasn't the case at all. I'd have quite happily watched more from Joe, but with his set over he gave the stage back to Ross for another 25 minutes.

Our headline act for the evening was Sarah Kendall, and thanks Ross' intervention when an audience member thought-out-loud that she may have seen her on the TV before, a running gag in Sarah's set was Arable Farming. For an idea that had originated on the night, it worked well, and if anything I found the rest of her set to be weaker, somehow. Sarah's style and delivery make up for it a lot, but it seemed like 20 minutes of constant amusement rather than setups and payoffs. It maybe didn't help that some of the jokes she had in her set, I'd already seen her perform on Russell Howard's BBC show, well over a year ago. I don't expect brand new material from every comedian at every performance, but I've been spoiled by Ross Noble in that regard. I did enjoy sarah's set, but I get the impression she can be much better (that's not meant to be damning with faint praise, honest).

And so, Mr Noble came back to the stage to wrap up the evening's procedings with another 10-15 minutes of banter. All in all, we got around an hour and a quarter of Ross Noble that evening, plus sets from two comedians that I'd like to see again. Well worth the £15, and the trip-out.

Unfortunately, the combination of working the next day, catching the late train, and a growing distrust of First Great Western meant that I didn't have time to hang around and hassle Ross for a photo. A lucky escape for him, that time.

All in all: A great night.
I still don't fancy doing the comedy clubs, though.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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