Stand up comedy is large venues doesn’t always work. Somebody being a funny half a football field away doesn’t always connect and the ones that pull it off (Brand, Connolly, Bill Bailey, Conchords) make the large comedy show into an amped up rock concert.
Ross Noble is playing to close to 8,000 people over four night at Adelaide’s Thebarton theatre and it’s a bit of a rock concert vibe. A huge projection of Ross in a Mexicali theme is on the screen and two huge ‘day of the dead’ skulls sit on either side of the stage. Eventually a countdown clock appears on the screen and we join in the countdown, like at a Robbie Williams gig or something. After an elaborate video warning (In Spanish) of the consequences of filming or photographing tonight’s show, behind the screen multicolour lights start flashing and a massive inflatable Mexican Skull with Nobles hair is revealed and the screen drops, with Noble appearing through its jaws.
If you are familiar with his shows you’ll know they are not exactly a carefully scripted, finely honed structured work. Instead it’s two hours (with a ‘piss break’) of Ross riffing off the audience. Talking to people and jagging off in directions unknown as much for himself as for us. My suspicion is that he might have one or two set piece stories up his sleeve to fall back on, or point proceedings in specific direction, but by and large what is coming out of his mouth is as much a surprise to him as it is for us. The first person he talks to and the second is somebody who teaches people to be lawyers. It’s this kind of random synchronicity that he thrives on and lets him riff and adlib with usually hilarious results. So it’s not the kind of show you can quote one liners to your pals at work on Monday. Instead it’s like a massive in-joke for the 2,000 present, with references and call backs that only apply to this particular audience. He might talk about Australian Border Patrol on another night, but I suspect his hysterical improvisations around Anal Peak, were for our ears only.
After a short break he investigates gifts left on the stage by various fans. This started some years ago and has become a ‘thing’ at Noble gigs. The presents range from a child’s ribbon on a stick (which provides a solid five minutes of laughs), a bottle of My Wife’s Bitter, to an elaborate handmade poncho and a request for him sign a birthday card. These things sound ridiculously banal as I write them down now, but all serve as ammunition for Noble’s rapid fire absurdist observations and asides. I can honestly say that not only did he cover topics like killing a man with Pringles, Veganuary, Vapril, killing a pig and Gerard Depardieu engaged in unspeakable acts with a midget, but these are things that no other comedian has ever tackled, nor probably ever will.
There is a story about his daughters Xmas nativity at the end which I think is a regular part of this tour, but it is so utterly hysterical and contains a reworking of Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, that is unforgettable.
He returns to answer some questions and to leave us wondering what goes on in that man’s head. The other thing I had been wondering in my head for the first part of the night is where do you even get a giant inflatable Mexican skull of your head? But by the end of the show I was more perplexed with what he will do with a giant inflatable Mexican skull of his head when the tour is over.
Fringe Review by Ian Bell
For more info and tickets to Ross Noble head to https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/ross-noble-el-hablador-af2018