Rob Brydon: interview

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After TV, film and numerous chatshow appearances, Rob Brydon is taking his subversively accessible comedy on the road. He talks to Time Out as the six-month tour approaches London

  • Rob Brydon: interview

    Rob Brydon

  • What’s your new show about?

    ‘It’s about an hour and 20 minutes – longer if it’s going well. It’s just me on stage trying to entertain people by whatever means necessary. I talk to the audience and try and make them laugh. I know that sounds a little faux naïf, but that’s what it comes down to. I talk about things in my life, like the fact that I’ve just had another baby, an unplanned home birth. I talk about that and children nowadays. And then there’s stuff about Wales and all things Welsh.’

    How much of this show is about Welshness?

    ‘About 30 per cent. Maybe. It’s not an exact science.’

    How much straight stand-up have you done before?

    ‘Very little actual stand-up, though I’ve done other things live. But I certainly haven’t done as much as someone playing the size of venues I’ve been playing on this tour would [normally] have done. I did a little bit on the circuit, in places like Jongleurs and Ha Bloody Ha before “Marion & Geoff”, but never really got a rhythm going with it.’

    Did that make you nervous about doing the tour?

    ‘There are times when I’m terrified. There are times I’m confident. London is a big deal, I’ve never played the West End before, so it’s important to me that it goes well.’

    How do you see yourself? As a comic, an actor, a comic actor?

    ‘I do so many different things. I usually say I’m an actor. I don’t think about it too much. You could say I’m a "performer”, but I also write. If I say “comedian”, I feel this pressure to be funny. I’ll settle on “actor” because “performer” sounds like it has dog-connotations to it: Perform, Lucky! Actually, that’s probably more accurate.’

    You’re also an accomplished impressionist...

    ‘Well, I do a few, [does the now-famous Tom Jones cough] but I only ever do people I like, why would I waste time otherwise?’

    Apart from Tom Jones and Terry Wogan you do a great impression of your old comedy mucker Steve Coogan. When did you two first meet?

    ‘Well, I’d been a big fan of Steve’s for a while before we met. He seemed to be having the professional life I wanted. He was like me: dark haired, started out doing character comedy, characters with flaws and failings. But we first met after he saw a tape of some characters I’d been doing in an improv group with Julia Davis. I bumped into him at a publisher's and he said: [as Coogan] “I saw your tape. Very few people have ‘something’, but you do, you’ve got ‘something’.” And we ended up doing loads of things together.’

    Any chance of the two of you being reunited soon?

    ‘We want to and will do when we find the right thing.’

    Steve’s live tour last year got savaged by the critics. Because you’re quite close, have you chatted about that? Did it make you more nervous about going out on tour?

    ‘We’re not as close as people think. I love him to bits but don’t see him that often.’

    But has the response to his show played on your mind?

    ‘I felt it more after seeing Robin Williams. He was just awesome, it was like a rollercoaster. I was like: Look what it’s possible to do on stage, oh no, I’ll never come close. But with Steve, look, he’s shockingly talented. I’m sure what happened was... well, we all have a bad night, and the press did what they do, thinking they’d got a “great story”. But people went to that show and loved it.’

    My favourite show of yours was the little-known, but now cult classic ‘Director’s Commentary’. You voice Peter de Lane, an old-school director giving the DVD commentary on various bizarre television programmes from the ’60s. What happened to that series?

    ‘It didn’t do the numbers, love, so welcome to the real world. It was on ITV and if you managed to watch more than two in a row you actually qualified for a Duke of Edinburgh award, that’s how hard it was to follow in the schedules, but it gave the viewer a wonderful sense of achievement which you don’t really get with “London Tonight”. It’s always on.’

    As is ‘Gavin and Stacey’...

    ‘I’m always in that. It’s a good show, gotta say it.’

    Finally, Anamaria from the office wanted to know if you’d marry her...

    ‘What’s she like? Is she good-looking? The most we can hope for is sex in a mid- to high-level hotel in the West End of London. I don’t want to promise it but I’m saying it’s a possibility.’Rob Brydon is on at the Apollo Shaftesbury, May 11-23.

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