The logical follow up to my first favourite comedians piece on Billy Connolly would have to be Ross Noble, an improvisational stand up comedian from Northumberland in England. Those who have witnessed this genius in action will probably already know exactly why I say this – Noble’s most obvious influence is Connolly, but the comparatively young Noble takes the unplanned approach of Connolly’s comedy act to a whole new level, often walking on stage without a clue about what he is going to say, and then managing to keep the audience in stitches for hours and hours.
Ross Noble has developed a strong following both across the UK and also in Australia – as a matter of fact his wife is Australian, and he lived here with her for a while until their house and possessions were destroyed by the Black Saturday bushfires down in Victoria in 2009, at which point they moved back to the UK. As well as touring Australia and the UK almost every year, Noble filmed a travel documentary series in the same style as Connolly’s, mixing travelling around on his motorbike with clips of his stand-up in each town, and this series proved quite the hit here on television. This first clip is from a show of his in Canberra during that same tour, in which he shows his rather brilliant impressions of kangaroos and emus being dangerous to motorcyclists:
Noble has a great ability at rambling on and on about the same subject for long periods of time, but somehow keeping it funny. He once repeated the same phrase over and over, while slowly weaving a story together, for about five minutes simply because he said “hmmm I wonder how many times in a row I can say this?” At other times he will start stories, wander right off track, and an hour or so later manage to return to the story when the audience has almost forgotten about it. This next clip shows him able to talk about seeing faces on muffins for several minutes, and if anything it becomes funnier the longer he draws it out:
Perhaps one of the elements of his shows which is quite unique on the whole, and which his fans love the most, is his eagerness to involve the audience. Many of his shows begin with him talking to certain members of the audience, particularly if there are any unusual costumes being worn, or anything of that nature. Often during the intermission (because his shows are always a good two hours or longer), audience members will run up and put “gifts” on the stage which he will then spend some time of his second half perusing and discussing (someone once stuck a giant cardboard Kinder Surprise egg on the stage, and after asking audience members what he should do he sat on it in an attempt to “incubate” it). In this clip below, the audience is bouncing around a beach ball before he even comes on stage, and so naturally the ball becomes the focus point for the start of his show:
This final clip is taken from an arena tour he undertook a few years ago, in which he performed on a round stage with the audience around him. For many comedians this simply would not work, but with Noble being quite the active performer, darting around the stage like a lunatic, it works superbly. This five minute clip begins with a couple of references to earlier in the show which won’t make sense out of context, but very quickly he starts doing impressions of Barry White, before becoming distracted by…well I’ll let you find out – this one is really quite funny:
I’m hoping these four clips have given you a good idea of the sort of improvisational surrealist comedy to expect from Ross Noble, who, in my eyes, is clearly one of the best comedians living today, and with a very strong future ahead of him. If you do like him, he has eight live DVDs (all of which have ridiculous amounts of extras – one of them, Randomist, has four discs altogether, with three extra discs of shows and clips), his official channel on Youtube has dozens and dozens of clips (many of which were unseen when first broadcast on the site), and if you live in the UK or Australia he’s bound to tour very soon.
What are your thoughts on Ross Noble’s rather eccentric comedy? Would you see him live? Have you seen him live?