Ross Noble: Mindblender

HARVEY FROST finds a few short term laughs, but little to take away at the Corn Exchange.

Comedy Corn Exchange harvey frost mindblender ross noble stereotype

Corn Exchange, £27, 12-13th October

Two weeks into his mammoth Mindblender tour, Ross Noble touches down in Cambridge for two eagerly awaited tour dates. But fans of the legendary absurdist comedian – myself included – will be disappointed. Creatively, Noble appeared to be treading water, and was reliant on lazy techniques that should really be beneath him.

Ross is well-known for his chaotically structured gigs, and lack of discrimination in subject material – he could switch from a discussion of the Ten o’clock news to He-Man mid-sentence, and indeed did so. But often, the stories couldn’t stand up on their own. Wacky tangents abounded, but they were depressingly short on jokes, and were introspective rather than leading to a sharp observation. I came expecting surrealism, but surrealism without context is just noise; much like the silly sounds Ross thought could substitute for a punchline.

No Noble Prize for you

Regularly, Ross would play on his reputation as something of an outsider, by breaking off a monologue to declare something along the lines of “Half the audience are sitting there, thinking what the fuck’s going on?”. This trope was overused, providing a cheap laugh whenever the flights of fantasy became too obtuse. Additionally, it fed into uninspired, and frankly lazy, stereotype comedy, which became especially obnoxious in the second half. Yes, I know everyone in Cambridge eats grouse twice a day and has never visited a Spar – some more original class-based observations would be nice.

This underperformance is a shame, because Ross Noble is undeniably gifted. His stage presence is very strong – only he knows how much of the show was improvised and how much pre-prepared, but he successfully appears to be working from a stream-of-consciousness rather than a script. His strongest material, a series of off-colour jokes about Jimmy Saville’s ghost, must have been composed mid-tour, and shone precisely because it mixed a ludicrous premise with more grounded subject matter, rather than being an isolated conceit.

Die-hards may disagree, but I would have preferred more real life stories given a Nobellian spin, over meaningless discussions of the logistics of transexual Transformers. As it was, it is a pity that a titan of alternative comedy put on a formulaic show that so frequently resorted to cliche.