A comic’s Noble pur­suit

Ross Noble is fa­mil­iar to many for his com­edy im­prov, and his film ca­reer is al­most ex­clu­sively Ir­ish hor­ror. How did that hap­pen, asks Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COMEDY -

Ross Noble likes to talk. He does it for a liv­ing, of course. The Ge­ordie co­me­dian fa­mously im­pro­vises his sets from a few ba­sic no­tions. The mo­men­tum can take him al­most any­where.

“Some­thing can hap­pen to me in the af­ter­noon and I can go on stage and talk about it,” he says. “Some peo­ple will write that down. But I can do that while I am on stage. Be­ing in the mo­ment is im­por­tant.”

The act is, on the ev­i­dence of a per­sonal en­counter with Ross, an ex­ten­sion of his day-to-day life. Wind him up and let him go. Just watch him on last week’s Have I Got News For You. The show was recorded at 10 o’clock in the morn­ing on the day after the UK gen­eral elec­tion.

“We were talk­ing about what we’d been watch­ing for the last 12 hours,” he says. “Any­one who was in the stu­dio to watch that show wanted to be there. There was that sense of ‘this has just hap­pened’ rather than ‘this has hap­pened over the last few hours’.”

He goes on to pon­der the lazy pre­con­cep­tions about the cam­paign and to praise Jeremy Cor­byn’s em­pha­sis on pol­icy over per­son­al­ity. If I wrote all this down there’d be enough for a small book.

“I can’t stand that hor­ri­ble old cliché: ‘I never vote be­cause they’re all the same.’ They’re so far apart now no­body can say that. Ha ha.”

The son of teach­ers, Ross Noble turned to per­for­mance at about the same time that he was di­ag­nosed with dys­lexia. He spent a while per­fect­ing cir­cus skills and en­joyed him­self in youth theatre. He was as young as 15 when he de­liv­ered his first, de­li­ciously ram­bling stream of con­scious­ness in a com­edy club. By the turn of the cen­tury he had be­come some­thing of a leg­end among his peers.


At that stage, co­me­di­ans were be­gin­ning to be sucked into ap­pear­ing on end­less panel shows. Have I Got News for You and QI aside, Noble tended to stay away from that cir­cuit.

“I’ll have to watch what I say be­cause I got in trou­ble for talk­ing about that,” he says be­fore say­ing plenty. “To be fair, I think that since the BBC changed the rules to in­clude more women they have got more di­verse. That’s great. But there are some chan­nels where you find overt sex­ism dressed up as a bit of ban­ter. I’d bet­ter be care­ful . . . ”

Noble’s film ca­reer has been con­fined al­most solely to Ir­ish hor­ror. Five years ago he was a deadly clown in Conor McMa­hon’s Stitches. This week he returns as an or­derly in Den­nis Bar­tok’s hos­pi­tal hor­ror Nails. How did that hap­pen?

“I don’t know. They have coined that term ‘Bollywood’. Has any­body coined a term for the Ir­ish hor­ror scene? What’s in­ter­est­ing about Ire­land is you have these world-class crews who move from gi­ant Hol­ly­wood films to in­ter­est­ing smaller films. And I love hor­ror. So just put the two things to­gether.”

It seems as if Noble is now mak­ing a bit of a lunge to­wards act­ing. He has the pres­ence for it. With his long, droop­ing face and dark, ex­otic colour­ing, he catches the at­ten­tion be­fore he speaks a word. In a few months he will go be­fore West End au­di­ences as Igor in the mu­si­cal ver­sion of Mel Brooks’s Young Franken­stein. He seems si­mul­ta­ne­ously thrilled and ter­ri­fied.

Best of both worlds

“I am go­ing to be work­ing on that for six months,” he says. “That is go­ing to be so dif­fer­ent from what I nor­mally do. Mind you, it’s by pos­si­bly the great­est liv­ing com­edy writer. I have to be word for word. I have to sing. I have to dance. That is the most fo­cused I have ever had to be. Best of both worlds.”

Noble has had a com­pli­cated do­mes­tic life over the past decade. In 2009, vo­ra­cious bush fires de­stroyed his fam­ily home in the out­skirts of Mel­bourne. He and his chil­dren – who were unharmed – sub­se­quently moved back to Eng­land. They’ve set­tled. But he’s not sure they’ll be there for­ever.

“Ah well. It’s go­ing to go one of two ways here. It’s go­ing to be a land of milk and honey and Brexit is go­ing to bring un­told riches. Or it’s go­ing to be an ab­so­lute dis­as­ter and we’re go­ing to be plunged into apoc­a­lypse and we’ll be bit­ing heads off chick­ens. One of the two.”

So he may not be in Eng­land for­ever? “Ev­ery time we have a shitty win­ter I think about that. Mind you, Aus­tralia does have a ten­dency to burst into flame. We’ll see.”

It’s go­ing to be a land of milk and honey and Brexit is go­ing to bring un­told riches. Or we’re go­ing to be plunged into apoc­a­lypse I got in trou­ble for talk­ing about that. [The BBC] have got more di­verse. That’s great. But there are some chan­nels where you find overt sex­ism dressed up as a bit of ban­ter

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