Ross Noble: interview
Geordie surrealist Ross Noble has no less than nine motorbikes to choose from when cruising from show to show but the toys aren‘t confined to his garage
Like an old-style variety performer, Ross Noble has a liking for theatrical spectacle. His new show, ‘Fizzy Logic’, opens with an unusual song-and-dance number. The set consists of a giant pile of bubbly silver balls. ‘Apart from that, it’s me talking bollocks, as usual,’ he tosses in. But what magnificently impressive bollocks! It’s the bollocks that his audiences flock for. Noble’s unrivalled ability to improvise elaborately fanciful trains of thought makes him a formidable stand-up, whether he’s working a 2,000-seater or a tiny room.
Last year he began his extensive ‘Randomist’ tour in the Scottish highlands and islands, playing out-of-the-way places like village halls. It was Noble’s way of playing a load of gigs in Scotland but avoiding the Edinburgh Festival. ‘I’d been going up to the Fringe, year after year, playing bigger and bigger venues. It had reached the point where it didn’t feel like the Fringe anymore.’ On the lengthy Australian leg of the tour, as in Britain, he took in remote communities as well as the big cities. ‘The weird thing is that fruit-canning and mining towns often contain these brilliant theatres which don’t get used for most of the year.’
Noble rides a big trail bike to get from one of these outback gigs to another. A van follows, some distance behind, with the set and equipment. He’s obsessed with motorbikes. ‘I caught the bug at the age of 18. Since then, I’ve expanded the fleet, bit by bit, as my ability to pay for the insurance increased.’ When he first came to London in 1995, he’d travel between home and club on one of those Toytown two-wheelers used to deliver pizzas. Now he owns nine bikes of various types and sizes.
What’s the appeal? ‘It becomes an adventure, wherever you go. You can turn anything into an adventure. If I could do some shows in South America, that would be perfect! When you’re on a bike, you can’t lose concentration or you put yourself in a huge amount of danger.’ Are there parallels with performing his distinctly risky form of stand-up? ‘In both cases, you’re not thinking about whether you might crash. You’re in the moment and you’re thinking about how enjoyable it is.’
His home is now in Australia. ‘Why there? My wife’s Australian. I’m on the road for about ten months each year. “Home” could be almost anywhere.’ It’s a farm ‘an hour north of Melbourne’ (bear in mind, though, how fast he can ride). ‘It’s surrounded by fields. And animals.’ They include cows, horses, possums and giant wombats. ‘And kangaroos. A lot of kangaroos. I counted 23 from the bedroom window. The giant wombats dig giant holes. That can make riding a bike a bit hazardous. There are deadly snakes and spiders, too.’
Noble’s pleased to announce, though, that he plans to buy a flat in London, ‘well within the Time Out catchment area’, in the not too distant future. He’s disenchanted with staying in hotels whenever he’s here. London remains one of his great loves, particularly the top floor at Hamleys. ‘I collect toys. All kinds of toys. I used to pretend it was for aesthetic and cultural reasons. The truth is I enjoy playing with them.’
The top floor is where Hamleys displays the remote-controlled toys and gadgets. Noble’s collection includes a remote-controlled submarine: ‘About 40cm long. It’s a fairly hefty item.’ Also a helicopter, ‘but that’s covered in dust. It’s insanely difficult to fly.’ His latest short spell in London yielded another new acquisition. Noble’s excitement knows no bounds. He now possesses a computerised Scalectrix track designer.
Noble performs ‘Fizzy Logic’ at the Hackney Empire (020 8985 2424) on Nov 4 & 5 and Brixton Academy (020 7771 2000) on Nov 6. Best book your tickets now. His four-disc ‘Randomist’ DVDs, packed with live shows in different locations, documentaries and special features, is available from Nov 6.
- Add your comment to this feature