Interview: Ross Noble

A favourite at the Edinburgh Fringe and a vigilant stand-up gigger, Ross Noble has previously admitted to planning entire shows around "about four words on a scrap of paper." It's hardly surprising then, that his foray into television takes a similarly unstructured form. He merges the conventions of spontaneous comedy with the massive network for randomness that social media has to offer. Noble's broadcasting brainchild is Freewheeling; "It's a show that doesn't have a format, we make it up as we go along," he explains.

Travelling across the country at the request of his social media following, "the show becomes whatever it is when I get there depending on the situation."

"The whole show is driven by Twitter. I've got my motorbike which can get me quickly anywhere in the country, and then I go on Twitter and say to my followers, 'what's going on, what's it going to be' and people tweet me and invite me to come and visit them or give me advice on where to go."

You'd have thought this method of TV making could go either way - truly great or terribly bad - but Noble has found himself in some interesting situations. "One minute I can be putting up plaques on the walls of the childhood homes of famous people using dinner plates in the Northampton area, and then the next minute I'm going to meet Billy Ocean so he can record a message of support for a man who is up in court because he got a courtesy call he shouldn't have had..." 

After his zany first series, Noble is happy to have a second series to continue with. "What tends to happen a lot in telly is that a show is successful and then people make knock-offs of it," says Noble. "For example, The Great British Bake-Off will be successful and then the next thing you know they're doing the exact same show with sewing, gardening or whatever it happens to be."

Noble however, craved originality. "I first talked to Dave, and they've got Have I Got News For You and QI and that sort of stuff, what they wanted to make was their own original programming and something that hadn't been done before.

"People in TV always tell you they want something different and unique, but what they mean is they want to make something different and unique but not take any risks, and just make something that has already been done." Working with Dave, however, he was able to work on new ideas. 

"In telly, people normally want to know what the end product is going to be before you start, and that's not how it works with my show. Everyone at the channel sort of went 'whether you love it or hate it it's like nothing else on telly' - hence the fact it got a second series."

Then again, Noble hasn't stuck to convention in the past. He's made himself a success both in the UK and halfway across the world, in Australia, off the back of excessive touring. "It's brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I started going over there 16 years ago, which seems like five minutes ago! I did exactly the same thing as I did in this country. Basically I went and did small gigs and then there was a word of mouth, went back and relentlessly toured. I would go there and tour these small mining towns, and then go back and play to a bigger audience and it started to build."

From there came a TV show, "and then the next day I was playing arenas and stadiums," but he sees gigging as a route to authenticity. "A lot of comics think that if they get on telly then people will want to see them live, and I always thought that was a bit of a shortcut, whereas what I did was the other way round. I didn't bother with telly and built up a massive live audience and then that audience allowed me to do the telly I wanted to do." 

Noble's brand of quirky spontaneity has seen him collect a live, online and TV following. Where exactly Freewheeling will take him next, however? That we've yet to see. 

Ross Noble Freewheeling Series Two starts Tuesday 24th March, 10PM, new and exclusive to Dave.

 

 

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