What to expect from Rhod Gilbert in Peterborough next week
You might have seen him on TV - and he features in a new film Save The Cinema on the big screen soon - but chances are it has been quite a while since you have seen Welsh funnyman Rhod Gilbert on stage.
But he is back with a new tour, The Book Of John, that he says seems to have been going on forever - having started in 2019 before gigs started getting cancelled and rescheduled - and with new ones added, including Peterborough’s New Theatre next Friday (January 14).
“I have been back on the road, then it stopped and started again in January last year, so we are on what must be about the fifth leg of the tour,” he joked.
Pandemic aside, it has been a good few years since Rhod last toured.
“No, I didn’t miss it. I was focusing on writing other stuff and live stuff got in the way of writing.
“This tour is largely me explaining the things that kept me away from touring for all those years. Life stuff - like getting married and some bad things like death and strokes and all sorts of other stuff. It all goes into the show. It wasn’t a conscious decision not to tour, life just got in the way.”
So after all that time away, where did the inspiration for The Book Of John come from?
“Basically I hadn’t thought about doing stand-up again, I hadn’t been inspired to do it and hadn’t been making notes or anything,” he recalled.
“ I couldn’t drive for a year because I had a mini-stroke and I hired a driver - and John is that driver. He was there for all sorts of things - taking me to gigs, my mother’s funeral, everything - and he became part of my life. “From having nothing in common what soever, we became buddies, a little odd couple, and I started writing again. It is all thanks to him that I am back on stage .
“So it is the journey we went on from the day we met really. “A story of how we started off having nothing in common and he would drive me up the wall, stuck with him in a confined space for long periods of time, and then I came round. We disagreed about pretty much everything but could find common ground in life and death and births and strokes and fertility.”
So what does John think about the tour?
“John has no interest in what I have to say on stage,” Rhod pointed out. “I will quote you exactly what he said when I told him I might do some stuff on stage. ‘I couldn’t give a s**t, I will never see it’. Those were his words. As far as I know, he has stuck to it.”
So after so long away from performing stand-up on stage, what will audiences notice, how has he changed over the years?
“I perform the same way, my style is very recognisable, there’s a lot of ranting and raving but the content has changed completely.
“In the past, in 2012 and before when I was doing stand-up for 10 years, it was not surreal but a bit absurd and very trivial, stuff about tog rating systems and lost luggage and electric tooth brushes, stuff like that, whereas now it is about strokes, Alzheimer’s and so on. The content is different. It is much more personal and honest. I have sort of dispensed with the stand-up I used to do but the style is still very me.”
So there is a new Rhod on stage but what does he think about his audiences?
“In the room at the time, all you are looking for is the laughter and people listening and enjoying it so I don’t think that has changed. However, the response I get after the show has definitely changed. In the old days, people would come up and says it was funny or they enjoyed it or didn’t enjoy it. Whereas now, people come up and want to talk about the things I am talking about on stage - care homes, Alzheimer’s or strokes.
“It is things that have resonated with people that they tend to talk about.
“But at the end of the day in the room, I am still trying to nail a gig, the stand-up sensibility is still there . I want to smash the hell out of it and kill the gig, that is no different no matter what the material.”
Having been away for so long does he get nervous before returning to the stage?
“I get very nervous between the laughs, never mind just before a show, and I think that is why I talk so fast on stage and why I cram a lot in on stage. “There’s a lot of words and a lot of punchlines. I am pretty much trying to keep hitting and hitting and hitting. It is like when you see a boxer trying to finish off an opponent with a flurry of punches - that is what I am like the whole gig and that is born out of cutting my teeth on a comedy circuit where you had to fight for it, you had to keep going and keep people’s attention.
“I always see a show as a conversation. So, if there is a big laugh on something, I will react to that and, if not, I will react to that too. It is the type of conversation which flows back and forth with an audience, I am not someone who sets up a punchline and it doesn’t really matter if it goes well.
“I am in the room conversing, very much feeding off the audience and it is not always easy, depending on the acoustics of the theatre.”
Tickets for Rhod Gilbert The Book of John at New Theatre on January 14 are available at www.newtheatre-peterborough.com