Parental approval launched a surreal comedy career
This year marks the 21st anniversary of Ross Noble's foray into the world of stand-up comedy. When I ask the Geordie comic at what point his parents asked him if he was going to get a "proper job", he laughs.
"When I first told my parents about wanting to do stand-up, they just said: 'Brilliant. Do it.'
"They never warned me that there might not be a future in that, or told me to get 'something to fall back on'. As I was growing up, there was the hangover from massive unemployment in the North East and they saw lots of kids leaving school and not getting work – even people with degrees and qualifications. People were still finding it hard to find jobs.
"So my mum and dad were quite sensible. If it happens, it happens."
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It certainly did happen for Ross who began his career at the age of 15. He plugged away at his comedy, learning his trade on the road in clubs around the country, until – at 36 – he can look back on a career packed with success.
He has produced 13 sell-out tours, seven hit DVDs and came tenth in Channel 4's poll of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
He's back with his first UK show in two years – Mindblender – which brings him back to Plymouth Pavilions this month.
Ross says he's worked hard at his stand-up and he feels that's paid off over the years.
"The more you do it, then the more it's natural. It does get easier. It isn't until someone points out that it's difficult to stand up and make people laugh that it actually occurs to you.
"I look back on my early days with affection. At no point did I find it hard, because I loved doing it so much.
"Nothing ever really put me off," he says.
"I suppose the gigs I get now are nicer. It's a weird phase to go through, working the circuit. You're travelling around with a bunch of guys, hanging out, going to the pictures in the afternoon and gigging in the evening.
"Then you start going out on your own and there's just you. Now I've come full circle. I've got guys working for me and now there's a whole bunch of us again, so it's back to how it was. I don't have a support act, but there is a tour manager and a production manager and a merchandise seller and they're all very funny blokes.
"In the early days you had a bunch of comedians in a car and it could be very competitive. It's more fun now.
"You have all the upsides of doing a show and you get to stay in nice hotels."
Ross is known for his stream of consciousness, improvisational comedy with a touch of the surreal. His last tour, Nonsensory Overload (out now on DVD folks!) had a set populated with large inflatable props.
He promises a bigger set this time.
"I like to have a visual element and a physical set. It's about making it a bit more theatrical than a bloke with a microphone. I'm a very visual person – partly because I'm dyslexic. I always had problems writing. Things just pop into my head as a picture."
He certainly keeps the audience on its toes, a success he puts down to not being overexposed.
"I've built up my audience by not doing that much telly," he says. "I've always worked live and popped up on things here and there.
"I get people turning up who've just seen the DVD, or seen me on You Tube. I get teenage kids, or people who have heard me on Just A Minute on Radio Four or I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.
"I have one of the most eclectic audiences – you're likely to see teenage goths next to retired people in tweeds."
Another change for Ross is the arrival of his four-year-old daughter, who manages to come up with scenarios even more bizarre and surreal than his.
"She comes out with things that are so left-field, stuff that doesn't seem to follow any kind of logic, or she'll make up five-minute-long songs.
"My wife looks at us and says: Oh God. There's two of them..."
Ross Noble's Mindblender is at Plymouth Pavilions on Tuesday, November 27.