Ross Noble’s stand-up routine is a largely improvised and surreal performance with a stream of consciousness delivery. He is often referred to as a randomist. Often, a large percentage of his set becomes based around heckles and conversations with members of the audience. Although he does often have a few set topics which he performs throughout a tour, he describes the planning for the entire show as “about four words on a piece of scrap paper”.
Ross Noble often mimes actions on-stage to help the audience visualise his surreal ideas, for example, telling the audience to never put a blanket over an owl, and exactly what an owl neck detection device is (“just a stick with a pointy bit on it”) or showing the audience how to serve double header ice creams properly after considering his own made-up plot of 24 in which Jack Bauer escapes a cell using a greasy goose.
Noble’s style is recognised as spontaneous, due to his unpredictable performance style, interruptions from hecklers or because he has drifted off into another surreal conversation. During his shows he is known to dabble onto one topic, ask a member of the audience something about him or herself and use that as material, and carry on with that, and later on seems to forget about, digressing into another topic. Thus the audience pesters Noble to tell the ending of his unfinished stories, which are usually eventually concluded at the end of his shows. His most famous example is in his Random is tour, where he started to tell a story about him being interviewed after Live 8 near the beginning of a show in Newcastle, which he did not finish until the end of the performance, around two hours later. This relates to an earlier comment he made in his Regent’s Park show, saying that his mind “Tends to wander off [the point] slightly,” and later added that “[he] can open up too many tangents at once… it’s a never-ending expanding spiral of possibilities.” At which point, he forgot what he was talking about.
Noble is originally from Cramlington, Northumberland, England. “The ultimate place to live” helped him with his career – he found little to do in his hometown so he became particularly imaginative. At the age of 11, it was discovered that he was dyslexic. Because of this, Noble decided to work within a career which did not rely on academic skills. He had a brief stint as a street juggler with a friend, and aspired to join a circus. He joined a clown troupe and sold balloons as a stilt-walker, before deciding to become a comedian after winning tickets to a comedy show. As a teenager, Ross was a member of the youth theatre at the People’s Theatre in Heaton. He was also a backing singer for the Kane Gang. In 1997, he was doing warm-ups at the BBC for Friday Night Armistice.
Ross Noble has been performing stand-up since the dyslexia diagnosis, and appeared in his local comedy club at the age of 15, despite licensing laws that prohibited him working there and forced him to leave through the kitchen. Noble studied performing arts at Newcastle College, after he told his careers adviser at school he wanted to be a comedian. He later stated that this had no effect on his stand-up ability, as he believes that the information taught is not important in being a good performer.
Since starting as a stand-up comedian, Ross Noble has won many awards, including a Time Out award winner in 2000 for his Edinburgh Festival Fringeshow Chickenmaster, and a Perrier Award nomination in 1999 for another Edinburgh show Laser Boy. He has since achieved great popularity in both the UK and Australia, where he has toured extensively every year since 2001. Noble’s 2003 show Unrealtime was the best-selling show at the Edinburgh Fringe, before transferring to London’s West End for a month long season at the Garrick Theatre where it played to packed houses. A recording of this tour was shown on BBC Two in 2004, and a double DVD set was released later that year.
During 2004, Ross Noble performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and other venues with his showNoodlemeister. His 2005 UK tour, Randomist, ran from September to December, of which he continued in Australia during 2006. In April 2006, Noble was involved in a motorbike accident, and both fractured and dislocated his collarbone. Conveniently he crashed right outside a hospital. Noble performed his shows over the following weeks with his arm in a sling. During his ‘Things’ tour, in Bristol on 1 March 2009, he claimed that before the ambulance officers would help him, he was forced to do his Stephen Hawking impression.
Whilst performing in Edinburgh in September 2006 for his Fizzy Logic tour, a fight broke out during the gig, caused by a drunken member of the audience arguing with another. Also, in his Edinburgh gig, some one gave him a basket of mini-muffins with faces printed on them; this is related to a sketch from Noble’s DVD ‘Sonic Waffle’, in which he mentions his hobby of finding faces in muffins. At another gig, he found someone filming the show on their mobile phone and confiscated the phone. He then recorded a video on it himself. After finding that several people recorded his finale skit, “The falling owl stunt”, Noble encouraged the entire audience to record the stunt simultaneously and post them on YouTube, in an attempt to achieve, “The largest number of videos showing exactly the same thing. “He then took his tour to Australia in February 2007, during which he filmed a documentary about his travels around the country.
In 2007 Ross Noble finished his Nobleism tour in the UK with a show in Liverpool on 21 October 2007 which was screened live to 43 Vue cinemas. If the event had sold out, he would have played to over 10,000 people. Upon walking offstage, Noble enquired if the broadcast had succeeded and was informed by a technician that “it worked perfectly… but we lost Aberdeen”. To this day, Noble maintains that this is the “coolest thing anyone has ever said” to him.
Ross Noble likes to have spontaneous material related to each specific show, and therefore encourages heckling and has increasingly indulged in the audience giving him gifts during shows. At a gig at the Edinburgh Playhouse during Noble’s 2005 Randomist tour, a member of the audience put his feet up on the stage, and later removed his shoes and put them on the stage instead. It is now traditional for the entire front row of an Edinburgh audience to place their shoes upon the stage during the interval, which causes Noble much amusement when he returns.
Ross Noble performed at the 2008 Latitude Festival and rounded off his set by leading everyone in the tent in a huge conga line (which quickly turned into a stampede) to a vegan food stand so they could all ask for pies and sausage rolls.
The DVD of his show Nobleism was released in November 2009, after a legal battle with his previous manager prevented a release in 2008 as originally planned.
TV and radio
Ross Noble had not done any acting work on TV until the summer of 2013 when he appeared opposite Ian Smith as a gay lover in the Australian TV series “It’s a date”, or radio, as he prefers stand-up for giving him the freedom to say what he wants without being influenced by a script or crew. Nevertheless, he has made many TV appearances, which mainly take the form of interviews and panel game participation. In the UK, he has appeared on BBC’s Johnny Vaughan Tonight and Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. Noble has also made 16 appearances, the highest number of appearances of any guest, on BBC One’s Have I Got News for You including the first show guest presented by Paul Merton. His most memorable appearance on the show saw him and Paul Merton answer all their questions wrong, and getting no points in the entire show. He was Paul Merton’s guest on Room 101, where he wanted to consign to history the likes of Craig David, cartoon animals who wear clothes, people who look like cats, clipboards and Christian rock music. He makes regular contributions to BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute and has also appeared on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and presented 4 At The Store. In July 2007, Ross featured, as part of his “In The Company Of…”, on the Colin Murray show onBBC Radio 1, and in August 2007 Noble appeared on Steve Wright in the Afternoon on BBC Radio 2.
In Australia, he has guested on such TV and radio shows as Network Ten’s Rove (Live), The Panel, Good News Week and Thank God You’re Here, the ABC’s The Glasshouse, Spicks and Specks, and A Quiet Word With …, as well as Triple M radio show Get This, and regular appearances on Triple J.
In Ireland, Ross Noble appeared on the first series of Tubridy Tonight, where he went over to a prop bookcase to inspect if the books were real. Upon reading one book, he found a photo of Mike Yarwood on one page, which he cut out and wore as a mask for a portion of the interview.
Since 2010 he made fourteen guest appearances on British comedy panel show QI.
In July 2011 Ross Noble appeared in the second episode of the 17th series of Top Gear. On the show he revealed that he currently owns earth moving machines as well as an Abbott 433 self propelled gun, which he calls his “Tank”. He did a lap around the Top Gear track in 1.43.5, beating Tom Cruiseand placing him in second place behind John Bishop.
In 2012 he was a regular panelist on That Sunday Night Show on ITV.
In April 2012 he featured on Triple J for a day where he co-hosted some shows, and played an imaginative game of Cluedo, where they found people from around Melbourne that matched the Cluedo characters names to come into the studio and play.
Appears briefly in TT – Closer to the Edge in conversation with Richard ‘Milky’ Quayle.
Besides making various guest appearances, Ross Noble has been the host of an Australian radio show, and the subject of two BBC radio series. Noble’s worldwide travels as a stand-up were the subject of his own BBC Radio 4 series Ross Noble Goes Global, produced by Danny Wallace. This series, recorded between April and May 2001, saw him recording his observations as he travelled around various countries. In January 2005, Noble joined Australian comedian Terri Psiakis in co-hosting Ross and Terri, the weekday lunch shift on national radio station Triple J. Following on from Ross Noble Goes Global, Radio 4 broadcast a new series called Ross Noble On… during January to February 2007. The 4-episode series followed his 2006 UK tour, featuring performances in Brighton, York, Manchester and Newcastle. All of the Radio 4 programmes have since been released as BBC audio CDs.
Ross Noble once again teamed up with Terri Psiakis on Triple J for two weeks of Ross and Terri in January 2006. This second period on Triple J also saw Ross and Terri founding “Pants Across Australia”, during which, 4 pairs of trousers were sent to the north, south, east and west extremities of Australia and then back to Melbourne. Ross and Terri did not return to this slot in 2007, however Terri Psiakis and Amy Blackmur (the pair’s producer from their 2006 show) did present a limited run of shows during a similar time frame earlier in the year, under the working title “T ‘n’ A” (“Terri and Amy”). As well as this, Terri and Amy decided to continue in the evening slot of 6pm – 10pm.
In 2007, Stunt Baby Productions filmed a documentary about Ross Noble’s 95-day Fizzy Logic tour of Australia. Ross Noble travels by motorbike when touring, which for this tour travelled on a BMW R1150GS Adventure (as mentioned during the encore of one of his Canberra gigs), covering a distance of approximately 26,000 km around Australia clockwise from Brisbane. The show was broadcast as “Ross Noble’s Australian Trip” on UK TV channel Five from Monday 28 September 2009 at 10pm for 6 weeks, repeating at the same time on Fiver on the following Thursdays. The show aired in Australia on Channel 10 on Mondays at 10:00 pm.
Ross Noble hosts his own show on Dave titled Freewheeling. The show is described as an anti-travelogue around Britain, Noble takes the freestyle philosophy he embraces in his live shows and utilizes his trademark audience participation gimmick and transfers it to television as he rides around the UK on his motorbike taking live requests on Twitter instructing him on where he should go next, making the road trip entirely unpredictable. It airs on October 29.
From 18 May, 2015 onwards, Noble starred as Franz Liebkind the pigeon-fancier in the 2015 UK Tour of Mel Brooks’ The Producers with Jason Manford.