[Photographs: Andy Hollingworth]
Rob Rouse, comedian, actor, writer, presenter, radio personality and all round lovely man, seems to be one of the hardest working men on the comedy scene. You’ll no doubt have seen him on the likes of Dave’s One Night Stand, Celebrity Juice, 8 out of 10 Cats, to name just a few of his numerous TV appearances. He took the time out to speak to PPSF about his life as a performer, this years forthcoming tour and firstly, playing the trumpet…
First off, how are the trumpet lessons going, I’ve been following them on line?
Thank you. It’s good to get another disciple of the horn on there. I think I’ve shown a lot of improvement. I’ve nearly done my 10,000 hours and, once I’ve done that, I can probably, officially, sign myself off as the world’s greatest trumpet player. I don’t try and over think it when I play. I try and feel it. You don’t want to over analyse these things. Just to let the music out is one of the messages I try and get across.
You’ve been doing this for a long time. What was it that made you step on stage for the first time as a comedian?
At some level there are circumstances and stories, or narratives, as to how it happened. I think ultimately, to agree to do it, and to keep doing it, there’s some kind of deep rooted personality flaw, insecurity or borderline mental issue that all stand-ups have got that makes them somehow rationalise what they’re doing. For most people this is the antithesis of what they’d want to do with their day. It’s a terminal illness.
I balance this odd night work and shambolic, irresponsible career with a family life, so deep down, I’m just as sensible as any one who, quote unquote “does a normal job and in fact if anything”. As I get older, the more I think about it, being able to stand on stage and shout and scream and swear at strangers is a really healthy thing to be able to do. I’m lucky to be able to do it because all the stuff you couldn’t scream and shout about, if you worked in an office, I can scream and shout about and get people to laugh at and I get paid for. The more I think about it, it’s quite a healthy thing for me to be able to do with my time.
How long was it before you were able to quit the teaching and become a full time performer?
I was lucky. I finished my teacher training course and moved to London in ’98 to start doing open spots because in Sheffield, where I was at the time, there wasn’t a comedy scene at all. Then I won ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ up in Edinburgh and off the back of that got some University tours with Brendan Burns. That enabled me to live off it, hand to mouth, with a bit of temping in between but really that was me, on my way, just eking out a living, but able to do it full time.
You seem to have done everything; acting, presenting, stand-up, radio. Is there anything you enjoy more than the rest?
Lots of things have come along. It’s been a lot of fun. However, throughout the whole thing I’ve always done stand-up. There’s that bit of you, as a comic, that thinks, if I stop I’ll forget how to do it, become out of shape comedically. You feel like you need to be sharp to do it. It’s a funny thing; it’s goes in waves of admitting to yourself that that’s what I am. I have comedian on my passport now.
Are there any gigs that stick out in your memory as the best or worst experiences?
I think, like a lot of comics, you only seem to remember the last few, because you only feel as good as those. I did a gig with Sarah Millican and she was telling me about her rule – the 11 o’clock rule. Whether she’s had an amazing gig, or if something happened that she didn’t like the previous day, by 11 o’clock the next morning, that has to be it. I think it’s a healthy way to look at your life., If you’ve had a difficult show the night before, by 11 o’clock, boom. It’s over. It’s dead to you. If you had a great show the night before, you can’t then think “Well tonight’s show I’ll be just a brilliant.” It makes you refocus. It’s sensible, as a general rule of thumb.
It’s hard to pick out one, but ultimately, what it comes down to is when you really connect with an audience, it transcends what the material is, who is there, what happened. It’s almost like it’s just happening and you’re just part of it and all of you are connected in this crazy, lovely moment. It’s hard to pick it apart and analyse it because it’s just a great feeling.
You did a big walk for Oxfam last year. Are there any charities in your sights for the future?
Yes. I’m always open to stuff, doing interesting things. As I get older, and the more I do, the more of life I see, the more I realise that sadly, we live in a cruelly greedy world and it’s a sad fact that we have to raise money full stop. But then I guess that’s human nature, isn’t it? There’s greed and benevolence out there but the more I realise I live a charmed life, the more I don’t want to end up feeling disconnected from the world. You’re a long time dead and no one ever dies wishing they’d spent more time at work. It’s about finding a balance.
Now, you’re next tour, ‘Life Sentences’, starts on the 28th of September, in Crawley. Are you ready to go?
Yes! I’m chomping at the bit a little. I feel like a greyhound in a trap, ready to go.
You’re going all over the UK. Where are you looking forward to visiting?
There were little places that I found last year, that I’d never done before, like Chorley Little Theatre. That was a spectacular place. I’d never been there. I’d never seen the place or and knew nothing about it but it was incredible with an amazing audience. To be honest, there wasn’t a gig last year that I didn’t love. They’re all fun. It would be cruel to try and pick one out. The bottom line is, no matter how many people come to see your show, they’ve come to see exectly that and it’s brilliant. It’s great being out of the clubs and not hearing another drunk man from the back that claims to have shagged your Mum! It’s great when you get to do your own show and push what you do further and do more with it and express yourself; let it all hang out.
And post tour, what does the future hold for you?
I’ve got a couple of scripts that I’ve got people reading. Other than that, I’m going to keep making short stuff. I’ve got another Stephen Redgrave film I’m editing. I did a live gig pre-Olympics, shot on three cameras, so I’ll probably put that on my website. Basically though, just more writing, more touring and probably a holiday with my wife and kids.
Rob’s tour starts on 28th September in Crawley and travels all over the UK. Details can be found, along with lots of other funny videos, on his website.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook to keep up with all the latest comedy goings on.