Ross Noble – Hebden Bridge Picturehouse – 30/05/03

 

Up in Leeds for a week and I accidentally end up going to see Ross Noble again. “Accidentally?” ask my friends, curious. “How?” “I slipped, and fell on two connecting trains,” I explain. “With a, um, fifteen minute change-over in Bradford.” Still, this ‘free-form jazz-monkey of comedy’ is more than worth schlepping out to Hebden Bridge for. The finest comedian who’s ever made a woman wee while laughing – an Australian, not my good self – and one of few people I could see twice in a week (or even one day) without growing bored. Just don’t confuse him with any of the other Ross Nobles out there. Somehow I don’t think the curator of the Highland Folk Museum, a UNAIDS Manager, or the Treasurer of the (U.S.) National Association of Cave Diving are blessed with the same salmon leaps of mind. Oh, but we covered a lot of ground tonight. From Ker-Plunk barge pile-ups to hover-donkeys, with a mid-set chase sequence in between. But to begin with, cherubs…

 

 

The Hebden Bridge Picturehouse tonight contains at least one woman who actually went to work in the heat today. Ross suggests, wrongly, that she sells ice-creams. “Where do you work?” “Oh God…” “You’re a cherub?” He can’t imagine the business of ice-cream retail going hand in hand with that of being a tiny flying angel. Ross has only been onstage for five minutes, and already he’s trying to think of ways to trick God by disguising creamy wares in a heavenly way. “’I’ve made all this soft-scoop to look like clouds…’” He wanders off the subject, and onto our riverside location. “Did anyone turn up on a barge tonight?” There are no cheers. “Have we got the old bloke off ‘Rosie & Jim’?” It doesn’t appear so. No-one admits to arriving by boat, thus saving themselves from a multiple barge pile-up outside, and a “huge game of waterway Ker-Plunk to get ‘em out”. One twisted man seems to find Ross’ grisly imagery of perilously balanced carnage particularly pleasing. Later, just for him, Ross will disappear through the plush stage-side curtains in a coffin, cremation style. This receives a muted reception. Ross checks whether the entire room has recently “suffered a bereavement”. Or are we all just too hot? “’Stop talkin’ about furnaces… go back to the ice-cream…’” We do so. The lady who’s not a soft-scoop cherub works in Asda. “You’re not a stunt arse?” He gleefully takes to patting his right buttock in the chink-chink-of-my-lovely-change stylee, and reassures us it’s a microphone strapped to his back, not a square buttock. Though it could be. “I could’ve lost me arse in a bizarre threshing accident.” The enactment thereof marries ‘Casualty’ with ‘The Archers’. It is quite disturbing. Though not as worrisome as the substantial groin thrusting movements which Ross’ self-patting sessions seem to necessitate. He apologises. (Primarily to the people in the front.) It’s becoming quite Tom Jones esque. Ross considers the possibility of the Welsh one having a highly twitchy backside because of a threshing-related buttock operation. “’He’s had guinea-pigs grafted on!’” Shaved ones, naturally, whose faces would also not be permitted to become trouser-top visible to the outside world. Discernible guinea-pig would not be good in the bottom region. “If every time you walked past a buffet it was goin’ for the sunflower seeds.” Ross imagines Tom Jones going to the doctors with this double complaint, a “twitchy arse” and an “oscillating pelvis”. “’Can you give us anything for it?’ ‘You can have a hula hoop…’” Ross believes the reason Tom Jones moves in the thrusting way he does is connected to Shetland ponies. One woman giggles very loudly at the mention of such tiny horses. She also works in a supermarket. But not Asda. Oho no. Tesco’s. She also hails from Littleborough. “That’s not a place.” Ah but it seems there is a posse in from Littleborough, as the name brings cheers in clusters around the room. Ross immediately starts doing complicated finger gestures, to emphasise how ‘with it’ the Littleborough Massiiif must be. Which leads him to a musing on why rappers are so very concerned with “keepin’ it real”, and thus the sanctity of the space-time-continuum? Sadly there’s no-one in who can answer him. Determining the location of Littleborough is slightly easier. A man in the darkness points (“that way!”), as does a woman with the benefit of both illumination and proximity to the stage. The man with the heavy Yorkshire brogue (“that’s not your real voice!”) is ill pleased at this, and seems quite upset that Ross can’t see him. Yet Ross is sadly without night-vision goggles. A ‘Predator’ mime follows such a product mention, and then an explanation of the film. Ross was pretending to have alien mandibles, not just “doing the shittest puppet show…” Which he then does, eventually lying on the floor waggling his forefingers towards each other for a kiss. It’s cooler down there, see. “I’m kinda regrettin’ wearin’ this shirt now.” Gar, it’s hot. “A day like today and suddenly every pub in Britain has got a beer garden.” Landlords standing outside, urging people to sit awhile in their refreshing beer garden. Disgruntled punters retorting: “that’s clearly the bins… there are foxes in it…” Ross is surprised our nation’s troops didn’t pile in to Iraq and suddenly discover a whole sunny nation ripe for beergarden-hood. Possibly they were too busy with their sticky shoes. “The boots the army were wearing melted in the heat of the desert. But if the army will issue footwear made of marshmallows…” A foolhardy plan. Even if they match the “liquorice flack jackets”. “Since it’s been on – is this just me? – I’ve been in the mood for a bit of looting.” His favourite news-spotted loot was the huge air-conditioning system, which impressed for both the scale of thievery and the fact that “they nicked it on a donkey!” A fine plan, as you’ll have an ever-cool ride around town – unless you flip the blasters over and then you’ve got “Baghdad’s first air-conditioned hover-donkey.” At this, a girl gets up to leave. “Get back in your seat!” She ignores him. “Get back in your seat!” He runs after her. “Get back in your seat!” She is brought back to her place, hand in his, and deposited. “I like the fact that you stopped. If you’d run that could’ve been very embarrassing.” If she had actually made it to the toilets, he had followed her in (with the power of the radio-mike), and continued to bother her. Say. Someone would ring the police. They’d arrive, to find we all staring at a slowly winking photo of a long-haired man (‘this film’s crap’) while a disembodied voice engaged in toilet harassment floated over the theatre. “Is that all? Come on lads. We’re going back to the M6 to play Ker-Plunk.” He lets the girl leave. She manages to kick a pint across the front row as she goes, missing “Mr Frosty” over the other side. Sorry, “Mrs Frosty”. Who works in “merchandising”. “What, like ‘Go Asda!’ t-shirts? Special jeans with built-up pockets” and an automatic change-patting hand? “What sort of merchandise have you been knocking out?” “Fruit and vegetables.” “Fruit and vegetables? This is a strange community, isn’t it? …Look at the Tesco’s woman writing it down.” The only way Ross can think to merchandise fruit and vegetables is to write the store’s name across some plums. One woman near the front seems to find this particularly perverse. Ross had meant fruity plums. But now he begins to ponder how exactly you would go about writing your name on your ‘plums’. “Get a biro – oh, it’d have to be a felt marker.” Else you could do yourself quite an injury. “It seems to me that Asda is one big hotbed of sexual deviancy.” In fact, the Asda woman is in charge of merchandising layout. “I can’t help feeling that is a bit of a piss easy job. No offence.” And yes – “pot, kettle” – considering he gets paid to ramble on, he can’t really comment. It’s still a better job than working for Claims Direct. Who have just sacked their staff by text message. Ross explains, to those people without daytime telly (with jobs), about one-eyed  Declan Swann, and wonders who you could sue for genetic Cyclops traits. “The national pirate institute?” There is much confused staring. Again. It rather looks like we’ve – collectively – just received a phone call to be told we’ve won a competition to lick the Dalai Lama. “’Hang on, I never entered that competition.’ ‘Hai know. Hai wa just ringin’ aat raandom to see if yoo wanted to geeve mee a lickin’.” Ross puts the persistent Buddhist on hold as his phone (um, hand) is beeping. It’s a text message from Claims Direct. You’re fired. Ha. Ross then finds himself interrupted by the sound of desperate audience members fidgety for the interval. Some sneak off, unable to hold it in any longer. Ross promises a break, any minute. First though, he wants to tell us about this holiday he’s just been on. “To Niagara Falls…”

 

* INTERVAL *

 

Even as Ross has started, latecomers continue to drift back in. One has a bone to pick with Ross, regarding a taxi incident in Edinburgh. In August 2001. “I pinched your cab? Two years ago? Good to see you didn’t hold a grudge.” Ross checks the room isn’t just full of angry taxi-patrons - Botswana rickshaw riders, Amazonian boat people, etc. – he has denied of their ride, and asks for more information. “It was 3 o’clock in the morning. You were quite fat at the time.”[1] “Thanks a lot mate.” The man then distractingly mentions another incident in 1999 – his leaping about the space-time-continuum of Noble-related reminiscences means he is questioned on being a rapper – and returns to 2001. They were talking, near a cab, and then Ross nicked it. “Were you chattin’ to me or was I spittin’ chips in your face?” Ross talks in the style on one spitting chips over another’s face. It sounds rather like Tommy Cooper. “Jar. Spoon. Jar. Spoon. Pickle, mm.” Ross reveals his post-2001 weight-loss secrets, a new diet of his own invention which restricts him to food named after “mythical winged beasts”. Angel Delight and faery cakes, mostly. He adores the former. Despite the “Serving Suggestion” on the packet being nought but a picture of a bowl. As though consumers would otherwise have been licking it off their hands, wondering where they’d gone wrong. Or pouring milk into the top, sellotaping the packet shut, and whipping it round their heads lasso style, ready to twang the “milky bolus” into the face of one’s children. (“‘Thanks mum.’”) Ross apologises for nicking the man’s cab. “We had a six mile walk.” “Did you have a big thing of water to carry too?” Ross mocks him for staying in a shit hotel, and admits that not only was he staying in the city centre, it is actually possible that he was using the ride for little more than a means to get to a kebab house he knew stayed open till four. “I’m like the Jim Morrison of the snack food world.” Ross is aware it is a problem when your biggest quandary is that “crisps are going soggy in the bath”. Or steam-absorbing Hobnobs. “It’s just as well you walked home. The cab drivers in Edinburgh are mental.” As proof, we are told of the “beautiful old man” (“beautiful old man? …I’d like to take him home, gaffer tape him to a chair, feed him shortbread…”) who, while driving through the city, turned and said: “’I’ll tell you what.. that’s a lovely big pair o’ tits.’ …I didn’t ask!”  And another time in Wales, an otherwise perfectly ordinary cab driver who had been driving along quite quietly until he suddenly stopped and said “that Christina Aguilera, she’s a right slut.” As though he’d realised he hadn’t said anything gratuitous and mental for the entire journey, and could thus have his license revoked. So were the blokes really angry about the cab? “We’re here aren’t we?” Ross doesn’t think this very reassuring, and is grateful allied troops didn’t roll into Iraq with that as a rallying cry. Which brings us back to The War. Ross’ favourite unlikely war celebrity was Hans Blix. For his uncontained weapon-snuffling powers. And the fact that Ross can liken him to a leashed-up truffle-hunting pig, struggling to get a trotter grip in the sand and thus shuffling forward like Tom Jones. “Why has he got a Shetland pony with him?” The other Iraqi in the role-play doesn’t know. Ross never got around to explaining that. Maybe, as a counter measure, they would unleash the hover-donkey, trying not to aim it too high lest it hit an ice-cream cloud. “So an Iraqi hover-donkey in a bid to thwart Tom Jones has flown to heaven…?” As Ross then points out, his mind does have a tendency to wander. Sometimes on a short rambling holiday, on its own. He’s always been like this. Even at school, it was: “This is my thing, this is my thing… ooh look, that thing’s shiny…” As now. So what exactly is Hebden Bridge famous for? “There’d better be a bridge or I’m leaving.” Various people start shouting things. “Joss-sticks…” “Hippies…” “Clogs…” “Wind-chimes…” Ross fairly swiftly spots the odd one out. Is this a hippy community infiltrated by one lone Dutch man? He’d know himself, only an accident on the M1 prevented him from being here with enough time to “take in the boat people”. In a metaphorical eyesight kind of way. Though wouldn’t it be great if all asylum seekers were just given barges? Which reminds Ross of his favourite piece of graffiti, scrawled into the dust on the back of a white van, deep down South of England. “Please overtake quietly – refugees asleep.” Ooh, and in a hotel room he once saw the most amazing thing scribbled onto a Bible. A book which is not, incidentally, the ‘greatest story ever told’. That is ‘Gremlins’. Unless you add bits to the Bible. For example. What if Jesus had an exploding face? That would liven up the Sermon on the Mount. “’Look at his face, it just exploded all over the meek!’” It would, of course, have to be a replenishable face, mebbes an inflatable with a small pump under the arm. “That’s practical.” The girl with the need to pee from before gets up to leave. Pre-emptively flicking him the V as she goes. “Ooooh, Christian,” calls Ross from on high. She gets to the top of the aisle. “Catholic actually.” Is she really religious, Ross asks the people who were sitting near her; could she not cope with the idea of a Messiah with a balloon face? “If you’re that offended you wanna leave, just…” “Go,” comes a helpful voice from his right. “I was going to say ‘nail yourself to a cross’...” Ah, he doesn’t mean it. “Call me Mr Wacky Pants…” Actually, um, please don’t. Anyway. Think of the fun to be had with an inflate-head Jesus and a crown of thorns. “That’d be some picture for the Children’s Illustrated Bible!” All the disciples making wanker signs behind a very confused Roman, and a faceless Jesus with the word POP! above his head…

Ross becomes distracted by someone apologising for kicking the man beside them. Ross briefly entertains the notion that the stomping-off glass kicker girl could have caught the eye of the random leg-kicker man as she left, and they could have shared a beautiful moment of flirtation united by their wayward-limbs. “I always try and flirt with women in chip shops. (coyly) ‘Do you prefer plastic or wooden forks?’ …I think there’s a link in my head between food and sex.” Plus he likes the way they stand silhouetted before the big bright light. “Like a greasy Madonna.” Despite this, Ross doesn’t consider himself a suave playboy. His wandering mind rather has a tendency to let him down when it comes to the sexy talk. Witness: “I’m gonna spin you like a Portuguese kiosk!” This is only bettered (worsened?) by the tale of a slutty friend of his whose one-night-stand kept yelling: “’Show me!’ She’s looking around for thing to demonstrate.” A little harp that will slice your hard-boiled eggs. A special juicer. He keeps saying it. “Show me!” “Show me!” Until, finally, on climax: “Show me where your mother lives!”

 

* ENCORE *

 

Well he can’t leave yet. He hasn’t finished the Bible story. But first: any questions?

One woman wants to know whose slowly blinking face it is on the backwall screen. “It’s clearly Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen.” And not, as the woman erroneously believed, Cher. Ross gleefully imagines a future where the angry wee-er is coaxed back into the room, only for the back-wall screen to change to be a picture of “me just nude on a cross”. Then notes his tendency to just say whatever pops into his head has been getting him in trouble for years. Once at school, having been told of a forthcoming Viking project, the teenage Ross excitedly asked if they could all live and dress like Vikings. His teacher told him not to be so silly. So he came back with the Wildean retort of “fuck off”, and was promptly barred from visiting the Jorvik Viking Centre, and had to spend the school-trip day in the hearing impaired unit. Which he will tell us more of, but first we applaud the return of the stomp-off girl who had actually just wandered off to the pub. Ross seems quite relieved. “I thought you were a Christian who got up and left, and it turns out you’re just a pissed up local slapper.” She admits to being “a bit of both”. This tickles Ross. “’You can touch me up but only me tits.’” And preferably utilising a hand motion in the sign of the cross… In the hearing impaired unit, Ross befriended a deaf lad called Shane, who, when frustrated, would bellow like a wounded animal. Wookie-esque, in fact. Which then warped Ross’ enjoyment of the ‘Star Wars’ films. “I thought Chewie was a deaf lad.” Up in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, bitching that: “I have to wait till four in the morning for the monitors to have sign-language on them!”

Any other questions? “Will you come back here?”  “Yes. I will. I might wait a bit.” He won’t just drive around the block, and then ta-daa himself upon us once more. “Mebbes October. What day’s good with you?” “The seventh.” Seventh it is then. Mr Wacky Pants rolls back into town. “Wacky Pants. Sounds like a Joaquin Phoenix tribute act. (pause) He’s an actor?”

A woman in the balcony wants to know what happened in the shanty town South Africa gig, as ‘Ross Noble Goes Global’ only featured the show’s very start. This was primarily because the rest of the set was cuss-tastic. Too many ‘fucks’ for Radio4.Though Ross is eager to slowly lower the tone of the station. “I’m hoping to do the shipping Forecast… ‘Fuck me there’s gale warnings in Finisterre…’ Or mebbes Thought For The Day. ‘I’ve been thinking about God, and you know his face…’”

Any more questions? “Why does Tom Jones need a Shetland pony?” He has it with him to get his hips going in the right rhythm. So backstage, Jones has a mini rodeo, and then once he gets out onstage the oscillation is going at the right frequency. Ross demonstrates. “I’ve come dislodged there. (pause) You didn’t need to know that.” Such mentions take him on a plums train of thought to tell the story of his friend Dave, unable to stop fiddling after one of his testicles was removed – and replaced with a prosthesis – even doing so at the public pool. Thus being yelled at by John[2]: “How man Dave, leave Randall and Hopkirk alone.”

 

Oh, and the graffiti in the Bible? Neatly scribbled across the front page was a little note reading:

 

All the best, love God

 

 

 

 

Last revised: 12/06/03

 

 



[1]  Like the hour makes a difference to Ross’ state of porkiness. (Drunken speaky logic, methinks.)

 

[2]  John, who once turned to Ross and said: “’I remember the last jumble sale I ever went to was 5th August 1982.’ ‘How’d’you remember it so vividly?’ ‘Cos on me way home, me and me mates saw a flying saucer. And you do-nae forget summat like that.”