Rob Rouse’s Life Sentences at South Street
October 10, 2012
When you interview a comedian for the first time you think it’s going to be 10 minutes of laughing down the phone, clutching your wobbling belly and trying not to fall off your chair in hysterics, much to the surprise of your colleagues.
The reality is rather different.
Most comedians I’ve spoken to have given pretty straightforward interviews talking about their tours and sometimes ranting about the industry.
Some have reeled off jokes I’d heard before while others have been a bit bored with the whole affair.
But with Rob Rouse it took about seven minutes before I snorted with laughter.
The comedian, who is bringing his latest show Life Sentences to South Street on Thursday, October 11, told me a story about poo.
It wasn’t very highbrow, and it won’t translate as well in print, but trust me it was funny.
It all revolved around one of his young son’s friends doing a poo in the bath while visiting their house (I told you it wasn’t highbrow) – “I mean, you don't just go in and lay an egg in someone else’s bath,” he said, while I giggled like a 10-year-old.
“But you just have to deal with it. You have to pick another child’s poo out of the bath and deal with it.
“Then you go, ‘hey, I’m in showbusiness’. That’s it, that’s where your life is.”
Life Sentences deals with that kind of thing – the every day occurrences which leave Rob a bit baffled – and also, surprisingly, touches on feminism.
“We had a daughter this time round and I’m now a radical feminist,” he said. “I now see the world through a girl’s eyes.
“We live in a very sexist world, which I knew but it’s amplified that in my head now.
“Without sounding crass it’s difficult being a woman in this modern world and a lot of people are not helping,” he adds.
“It really set me off with lots of new thoughts. What must it be like being a girl growing up where it’s ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’?”
It all sounds a bit political but Rob tells me the comedy comes from his own confusions and not understanding the world himself.
“I’m not claiming to know anything or saying this is what’s wrong with the world,” he said, adding that comedy is just about “being open and honest, and being vulnerable”.
And does that vulnerability scare him at all?
“I think there’s a bit of me that’s got immune to it,” he said, adding that it’s not as bad as standing in front of a class of 16-year-olds, as he used to when he worked as a geography teacher.
“It’s funny, it’s so long ago,” he said. “I used to teach but I didn’t make much sense of it. I’ve got a little bit about it in the show.
“What I did learn was that I didn’t want to be a teacher. I learnt a lot about nerves too and teaching a class is more frightening than doing a show.
“If you get a joke wrong or something the audience will go ‘what’s the next joke’ but if you’re teaching kids you’ve got parents saying ‘you’re ruining my son’s life.’”
After quitting the classroom Rob stumbled into comedy off the back of a relationship breakdown.
“I’d gone through a break-up and was moping about and a friend said he was doing a play and so I went along,” he explained.
“On the first night the set fell down and the audience was looking at me so I just started talking about what was going on and I was getting laughs. It was a comedy play anyway but that feeling of getting laughs from what I was saying was brilliant and the penny just dropped.”
He rang up his mum and dad and said he was moving to London to become a comedian.
“They said ‘Oh fine, I’m really glad you’re doing that!’,” he mocked, sounding like an exasperated old lady.
But the risk paid off and he landed a job warming up audiences on the set of BBC sitcom Coupling.
He became a presenter of The Friday Night Project (now The Sunday Night Project), and has appeared on pretty much every panel show you can think of.
And, of course he’s a stand-up too, having performed at Reading Festival several times, and at South Street.
“It’s always been great fun,” he says. “It’s been three or four years since I did it though so It will be nice to come back.”
And if the start of our phone call is anything to go by, it should be a very funny return to Reading indeed.
Rob Rouse’s Life Sentences is at South Street, Reading tomorrow. Call 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com