Ross Noble is an internationally acclaimed stand up comedian. His legendary stand up routines are largely improvised and often take on a stream of consciousness delivery. His fascination with nature is often apparent in his performances. He has also created a number of TV shows touring around on his motorcycle, biking being another of Ross’ major passions.
It’s more likely that real scientific stuff will crop up within flights of fancy but people don’t necessarily know it’s based on real stuff
On the rising popularity of science
I wouldn’t necessarily say I was more interested in science, I think that science has become, it’s become, ah…popular science has never been as big so there’s, sort of, people have a bigger idea of things, you know? Therefore you can refer to scientific ideas and people actually know what you’re talking about.
So, yeah, see, my problem is that my dad was a science teacher and, you know, that’s what he did for all his life and so it was, from my point of view, I was so academically, what’s the word, ah, restricted, I was, ah…I’m dyslexic, had a really hard time of it at school. In fact, I looked at one of my old science reports and it said something like, ah, it said something like, Ross is able to formulate, something like, complex ideas but his experiments sometimes become convoluted and over, sort of, overblown, so it’s one of those things where I was dyslexic, terrible at school, you know, could barely write, so in terms of putting anything on paper, I’ve always been terrible, you know. But yet, I grew up with a dad who was…who could answer all of the questions that I needed to find out.
So I was…I’m in this sort of weird position where I kind of love, and he was all, you know, he was into all the science shows that were on telly and he had loads of science books, it was one of those things that he never forced on me but I could literally, you know, I’d get out of bed, come down and go, ‘How did the universe start?’ And rather than go, ‘Nah, go ask your mother’, he would explain the best he could, you know? So I sort of grew up kind of finding out just the bits of information that I needed and science lessons at school held no interest because it was basically somebody standing there with a piece of chalk, writing stuff on the board and saying ‘copy that’ and I used to stare out the window. So because of that I’ve always, kind of, I’ve always loved, you know, the ideas behind science but I couldn’t really be bothered to…I couldn’t really be bothered to sort of go into them in any depth really.
On using science on stage
I think the problem is, though, is that like, the sort of stuff that, if you say to an audience, ‘Oh there’s a, you know, there’s a squid that can, you know, reproduce with its own tentacles’, you know, all of that sort of stuff, if you say that to an audience, they then have to go, ‘Really?’ And, you know, it’s like, my favourite animal at the moment is the ‘ninja slug’ that, you know, fires its bits into the female, um, but if you tell an audience that, the problem with me telling it, the audience just go, ‘Oh yeah, ninja slug, you made that up’ or ‘The octopus that does the thing with its…’, so I kind of go, ‘Oh, that’s an amazing idea’, but actually it’s more likely that real scientific stuff will crop up within flights of fancy but people don’t necessarily know it’s based on real stuff! So it’s kind of hidden a bit, yeah.
On answering scientific questions from kids
I’m really bad, I’m terrible, because my five year old she’s really, um, she’s really inquisitive and she does ask a lot of questions, but my problem is, I just make things up. So, and I love it, because she goes, her sort of catchphrase is, ‘Is that true?’ And I go, ‘Yeah. Yeah, it’s true.’ And then she sort of figures out…what was it she said the other night? She said, ah, what was that thing she said? Oh, yeah, yeah, this, well there was two things, she went, ‘Dad. How do babies die?’ Right, that was the first one! And I was like, OK, because I explained to her about death and she’s now, kind of, 100% cool about…I think that’s the thing about kids, if you just sort of explain to them, I mean she did have a little bit of a freak out when we said, she found out we were going to die, but we said not until you get very old. But then she worked out that the dog, one of our dogs, is getting really old and is probably going to die soon and then, yeah, yeah, she worked out the dog was getting, and then she sort of went, ‘But you’re always saying he’s really old’, so she went, ‘Does that mean he’s gonna die soon’ and we had to go, ‘Yeah, he’s gonna die soon’. That was a bit tricky.
But she said to me, she said, ‘How do babies die’, yeah, she said, which just blew my mind, she said to me, she went, ‘Dad. How do they kill giraffes?’ And the thing about that was, it wasn’t just, how would you kill a giraffe, how do they kill giraffes. So, in her world, in her mind, animals were being killed and there are people who regularly have to kill giraffes or, and that, just to me, I, that just, I went, but, yeah, I just lie.
I just make stuff up and…but what I’m trying to do with her is, she sort of knows I’m kind of mucking around and I’m still playing around with the idea of magic, you know? I don’t want to sort of explain the world to her in, um, I’m sort of presenting her with a lot of different ideas and she has to try and work out, um, what was it she said, she went to school, did show and tell, she had a poppy and she said that all the soldiers died, melted, and became flowers. So it’s that sort of stuff. And I love it because, it’s just a chance to, you know, just the chance to…what I love is, she’s five now, and what’s brilliant about that is there’s a logic. It’s like, people always go, ‘Oooh, surreal comedian’ but surrealism is kind of wrong because it’s sort of…true surrealism is devoid of logic or reason or, like, a thought process, it just arrives in this sort of twisted, other, sort of state. Whereas I think absurdist or, you know, I don’t know what I would describe what I do but it follows a progression, there’s a logic to it. You build a world and then you can play around with it and that’s what I love about my five year old is if you are going to present a magical idea, you’re then going to get a breakdown of the logic of it and that’s what I love, there’s this, she’s like this machine that just, you present an idea to and then it gets filtered and there’s lots of different, you know, it’s not just like, here, there’s a, you know, that might just be her but, so, yeah, there you go. Don’t kids say the craziest things…
What’s the best explanation I’ve given her? I think it was probably about haunted shoes. When people’s, like…when people lose a leg or lose a foot and they, you know, if they lose a foot in an accident and the limb gets taken off and burned, so that’s dead so there’s then, there’s a ghost foot somewhere and often the ghost foot will return and haunt a shoe. So that’s, yeah, she liked that. But then the trouble is she thinks she’s got haunted shoes!