As a comedy-mad eleven-year-old, watching Saturday Night Live, Rob Rouse had a light bulb moment. Little did he imagine that three decades later, he’d work with two of the regulars from that groundbreaking show. John Goodfellow has the story.
Having carved out a successful career in stand-up, Rob recently appeared in the hugely funny Upstart Crow – the TV sitcom about a young Shakespeare – written by Blackadder creator, Ben Elton. Rob appeared as manservant Bottom, alongside a cast which included David Mitchell, Liza Tarbuck and Harry Enfield.
“It was a joy to do. Ben Elton was there when we recorded the first episode. He said it was 30 years ago, to the day, that he and Harry did their first Saturday Live… in that same studio!
“And I remembered watching at home, as an eleven-year-old, when a little light bulb went on: ‘Oooh, there’s a completely different way of looking at life!’
“I also remember the fourth series of Blackadder. I was studying for GCSEs and we were doing first world war poetry. I’d be desperately trying to scribble my essays down in time to run downstairs to watch Blackadder Goes Forth!
“I’d always loved comedy – enjoyed watching it – glued to stuff I’d seen on the telly – but I’d no idea it was a job you could do.”
Born in Macclesfield, Rob trained as a geography teacher, but soon realised that his ambitions lay elsewhere. While training, a one-off gig in a Sheffield pub was when the penny dropped.
“I realised I needed to do something that was an adventure – something risky and scary. I think wanting to do comedy is a condition – an illness, something inside you. Perhaps it’s a quest to be understood, or a way to make sense of the world.”
He moved to London to try his luck on the open-mic circuit, where his first big break came when he won Channel 4’s So You Think You’re Funny in 1998. Now he’s a regular headliner in comedy clubs across the country, has sell–out national tours and solo Edinburgh shows under his belt. He was also a regular drive time presenter on the much-missed XFM Radio.
In the early days, Rob’s style was frenetic, with material hammered out at break-neck speed. Now he’s living in the Peak District, married with two children (and a dog), things have slowed down a little onstage. His material unashamedly draws from his own family life, but stays honest, original and very funny.
“To begin with it was just managing nervous energy,” he says, “but you can’t operate at that pace forever. When I had a family, I had more of a handle on who I was, what my role was, how life worked for me.
“I like to paint a picture for the audience and through that highlight the idiotic, the crazy, the stupid, the hypocritical and the ridiculous – and all those things that are part and parcel of what makes us laugh.”
Catch Rob, previewing his Edinburgh show, on the bill with Justin Moorhouse at Didsbury Cricket Club on 3 July. He’ll also be at Chorlton Irish Club inSeptember.
His website – www.robrouse.com – has links to his highly entertaining podcast. Look out for a national tour in the autumn.
© John Goodfellow