Interview: Rob Rouse
WILL HEILPERN talks to stand-up comedian and ex-Geography teacher ROB ROUSE about urban ducks, his ‘radical feminism’ and the purpose of comedy.
You started out as teacher; why did you sack that off to pursue comedy?
I had only just qualified as a teacher at the same time as I had my first stand up gig. So the choice was simple: did I want to stand there on a Friday afternoon with a classroom full of 15 year olds going mental, or stand there in front of a group of drunk adults going mental? I made the decision for the latter and moved straight down to London.
When you were starting out did you have any particularly horrific gigs?
Yeah I had loads, those are the ones you learn the most from. My most traumatic one was in Luton years ago, at a gig full of Vauxhall car workers that knew they were all about to be fired. I was just a boy speaking up to men and women. I remember they just stared at me, it was really quiet and I could hear my pulse beating inside my head. This woman, bless her, put her hand up and said ‘Yeah, so where is all this going?’. And I crumbled, absolutely crumbled.
Who were your comedic heroes, who you would recommend a procrastinating student to look up on YouTube?
The people that really grabbed me when I was a teenager were Fry and Laurie, Blackadder and a particular favourite was the surrealism of Vic and Bob. You watch some of their stuff on YouTube now and it’s so much more far out than anything now; like it’s from the future. Also American comics like the great Bill Hicks and Richard Prior.
What should we expect from your upcoming show in Cambridge?
Well my wife and I just had our second baby, a little girl, and I guess that’s changed my perception on a lot of things. I now see myself as a radical feminist so I try and do things from that point of view. I just want to challenge people’s perception of how the world is.
Wow, so what is it about the world that you would like to change particularly?
I think ultimately all the problems in the world are caused by men. It’s never women and children killing people; it’s always men killing women and children and other men. Men have quite brutally shaped our world to be a certain way and that’s what’s driving most of the shit in the world and you do wonder what it would be like if it were managed in a very different manner…
So do you see your comedy as having a political motive or perhaps responsibility to make change?
Principally I see the purpose of comedy as being to make people laugh, or else I’d be out on the lecture circuit, but I mean as you do it, you kind of let these things come out. I never actually really write things down. It’s more just odd words here and there.
You’ve been seen on lots of panel shows, including Celebrity Juice and 8 out of 10 Cats. What’s your opinion on the criticism of such shows – for example, Frankie Boyle saying that they are ‘everything that is wrong about comedy’?
I haven’t a clue. I don’t know, I don’t care. I mean, arguably, a lot of Frankie’s profile was built upon these shows, on which I thought he was brilliant, really uncompromising. Actually it all comes down to taste. Different comedy appeals to different people and they’re actually all of equal worth. If you start saying that some forms are better than others, you’re essentially saying that you’re doing the right thing. That’s why I would never think there’s one way and not another way.
Moving on, you famously have a pet duck called Shaniqua. In light of this I am going to end on a very important question: Would you rather be attacked by a horse sized duck or 10 duck sized horses?
I’d have to go for the small horses. I’d rather take on the 10 little horses because the massive duck would be like a dragon. Having a duck has shown me that they’re not creatures to be messed with. My duck will turn on my girlfriend at any moment; Shaniqua’s had her backed up onto the sink, quacking away furiously.
Rob Rouse is on tour now.