99% of stand-up comedians will come to the stage with a pre-prepared spiel which eats up the majority of their showtime, with maybe a smattering of audience interaction and a few minutes of ad-lib thrown in to keep things fresh. Not Ross Noble. Representing the 1% in spectacular fashion, Noble leads us on a bizarre, two-and-a-half hour journey through the innermost annals of his mind, making other absurdist comics like Milton Jones and Bill Bailey look decidedly pedestrian.
From the moment he springs onto the stage, Noble quickly latches onto whatever shiny thing catches his attention and pursues his hilarious train of thought until all possibilities for comedic whimsy have been thoroughly exhausted. It’s stream-of-consciousness stand-up – and though Noble isn’t the only man ballsy enough to go onstage in front of 2,000 people with very little in the way of a gameplan, he’s certainly one of the very best practitioners of his art.
Of course, there are a few ready-made set pieces which he wheels out with gusto, including an uncharacteristically vitriolic diatribe about Brexit and an endearing anecdote about his daughters, but for the most part Noble trusts in his own incredible powers of ad-lib absurdity. Equally as hilarious are his reactions to the crowd when certain tangents don’t quite hit their mark; his feigned shock and irrepressible charisma actually make such moments even funnier.
He’s also a master of crowd interaction, with his jibes accurate enough to be entertaining but not aggressive or cruel in the slightest, and his clever call-backs and uncanny ability to keep multiple plates spinning at once set him apart from other pretenders to the stream-of-consciousness throne. Like a Geordie James Joyce of comedy, Noble’s show is bewildering, frenetic and restless, but consistently funny throughout.
If you’ve never seen him in the flesh and can only base your opinions on his panel show work, you’re doing yourself a disservice. He’s far punchier, livelier and more ridiculous onstage – and far, far better. If you have seen him before – go and see him again. You’ll be guaranteed an entirely different show, which is not something that can be said for many comedians and, coupled with the quality of his rambling lunacy, merits full marks on the bomb-o-meter.