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Comic Rhod Gilbert to take chilled approach on return to Blackburn
11:41am Monday 11th June 2012 in Blackburn entertainment previews
HE’S made his name on stage and screen as an angry man, ranting about the simple things in life which wind him — and us — up.
Yet life seems to be taking a calmer turn for Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert, despite a busy work schedule which sees him combining TV work with his latest tour, The Man With The Flaming Battenberg Tattoo.
And that’s where his heart still lies: “I’m a stand-up — that’s how I got into the comedy world,” he said.
“Most of us write, script, edit, direct, produce and control every single aspect then go out and perform it. If you then come to TV and radio, there are hundreds of other people in the process and the decisions are no longer yours and yours alone, and that can be difficult for power- obsessed folk like me.
“In stand-up it’s just you to answer to. It’s live and over and done with. This sounds awful, but I can’t remember —in three big national tours — a bad night. Maybe two or three where the audience have been slower than I’d like, but that’s it.”
Next Friday’s gig will be Rhod’s third visit to Blackburn, as one of a number of today’s big-name comedians who have played various rooms at the venue.
And a rare bad gig stands out in his memories of touring, where drunken hecklers were thrown out before he even stepped on stage.
“I can’t tell much difference between audiences. If you blindfolded me and put me on a stage I wouldn’t have a clue where it was, other than maybe hearing an accent.
“Generally up north, they are lively and up for it. I like people getting involved, although heckling can ruin a gig, but I like a lively and up-for- it crowd who will answer questions. There’s nothing worse than if you ask an audience something and no-one replies.
“A heckler has to know when they are stepping over into ruining the gig. It very rarely happens. Out of maybe the last 500 shows it’s happened perhaps twice — and two girls did get thrown out before I even got on stage in Blackburn in one of the smaller rooms. They were just too drunk and were thrown out in the interval before me.”
With hecklers unlikely, Rhod’s keen to make sure his patrons get their money’s worth.
“The show is two-and-a-half hours of me and I will come out and sign things, have my photo taken with people as I recognise money is tight and I have to give a good night out.
“If they don’t go home with their jaw aching I’m tempted to offer a money back guarantee.”
TV gigs have included regular slots on Live At The Apollo, as well as his own shows Ask Rhod Gilbert and Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience, the third series of which is airing on BBC One in Wales.
The final episode of the new series had just been completed for the show — where Rhod tries his hand at various jobs away from the comedy limelight — when we spoke to him and the latest experience were still pretty fresh.
Previous series have seen him shadow a dairy farmer, a tattoo artist — whose handiwork on Rhod inspired the latest tour title — and a fireman.
And the new episodes include Rhod’s efforts as a primary school teacher — a job he fell in love with — and as a drag artist, which saw him waxed and groomed to appear on stage for a harsh audience in the Welsh valleys for the ‘longest two minutes of my life’.
“Teaching was inspirational to see the impact that teachers have on kids. It’s so much more than a job and holds a lot of responsibility,” he said.
“And the kids were much funnier than I could ever hope to be.”
The Man With The Flaming Battenberg Tattoo tour is a departure for Rhod, who describes it as a ‘transitional show’, as he takes on a more chilled-out approach to life.
But he can’t help himself getting wound up as he looks back at the old him: “It’s quite playful as I look back at what I was like. I say ‘I used to get wound up about this’ and then get wound up about it, rather than generally getting angry.
“There are more styles to the show and I’m coming away from the ranting and raving. People will see a new me, more playful and gentle.”
- Rhod Gilbert, The Man With The Flaming Battenberg Tattoo, King George’s Hall, Blackburn, Friday, June 15. Call 0844 8471664 to book.
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