By James Rampton
Rob Beckett is one of the most popular comedians in the country. His stand-up shows sell out at the drop of a hat, as audiences are attracted to his brilliant sense of humour, his superb material, his livewire stage presence and his dazzling, mega-watt likability.
He is the sort of bloke you’d love to go for a drink with down the local pub – if that bloke also happened to be the most hilarious man you’d ever met! Audiences up and down the country are just dying to spend time in his company.
The critics agree. The Mail on Sunday raves that Rob, “Lights up the stage with his magnetic personality (not to mention the dazzle from his teeth)”. Meanwhile, the Guardian praises him as, “A relentlessly smiley, perpetually grinning Londoner with an unshowy, unpretentious, but thoroughly funny shtick.” So it’s extremely good news for all of us that Rob is about to embark on a major nationwide tour with a show entitled “Mouth of the South”.
But what makes the 30-year-old even more appealing is the fact that he does not take his huge success for granted. “I just try and be a normal bloke,” observes Rob, who is a very popular host of the Absolute Radio show, Rock’n’Roll Football.
“You don’t need to be diva-ish in this business. At the end of the day, we’re just chatting on stage. I’m genuinely grateful that people come to see me. If it wasn’t for the audience, I wouldn’t have a jet-wash – I’d just have an ordinary hose!”
Rob, who gave a blistering performance at Channel 4’s Comedy Gala at the 02 recently, goes on to explain the depth of his gratitude. “I’ve done hundreds of low-paid jobs in my time. I used to work in a flower market carrying around bags of compost. So the fact that I can now put my face on a poster and people will turn up for the show makes me so pleased!
”When I started out as a comedian, I thought, ‘If I can just about make a living doing comedy, I’ll be the happiest man in the world!’ So, as you can imagine, I’m pretty happy now!”
Mention of his audience brings us to the fact that one of Rob’s trademarks is his wonderful relationship with the people who flock to his shows.
The comedian, who between 2012 and 2014 co-presented the ITV2 spin-off show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! NOW!, says that this stems from his natural curiosity. “I’m just nosey! I love talking to the audience and getting them involved. I really like hearing their stories. People do the strangest jobs.
“Last night, for instance, someone in the audience told me he was a change manager at a company producing floret salads. So basically he’s in charge of what leaves go in the salad! I like asking questions – it keeps the show fresh.”
Another element that keeps “Mouth of the South” fresh is the fact that Rob never rests on his laurels; he makes sure his material is constantly evolving. The stand-up, who won the Amused Moose Laugh-Off in 2009, reflects that, “I don’t want to feel desperate and that I have to hold on to certain bits. I don’t want to be living in fear of altering a routine.
“For my own sense of self-worth, I’d rather change it and let it progress. I enjoy that much more. That’s how I can do 200 shows on a tour because it’s always growing and changing. If I didn’t do that, I’d have gone mad by now!”
Rob, who also enjoys a thriving TV career and has appeared on such shows as Mock the Week, 8 Out of 10 Cats, Live at the Apollo and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, reveals that on the “Mouth of the South” tour he will be covering such down-to-earth, relatable subjects as holidays, Christmas, cold calls and nights out. His routines work so well because they are taken from his own life.
Rob, who hails from South London says that, “I adored the American stand-up Bill Hicks. He used to do fantastic routines about drugs and guns. After hearing that, I thought, ‘No one will want to hear me talk about my life”.
“But then I saw Alan Davies and Peter Kay and realised you can be just as funny talking about nothing very much. If you walk into a pub and say to your mates, ‘What about the new Kit Kats?’, and you can be funny about that, I think that’s quite an achievement.”
Rob adds that he never scripts a show with an over-arching theme. According to the comedian, “I never write a show with a big narrative because I’d end up trying too hard and getting bored.
Rob proceeds to underscore just how delighted he is by the way in which his comedy career has panned out. “I enjoy making people laugh so much. I’m as funny as I can be for 90 minutes. I try and take people’s minds off things for an hour and a half. If you ever stop enjoying that, that’s the moment to give up.”
He concludes that, “Before I did stand-up, I’d always been rubbish at everything. I was doing all sorts of terrible jobs on the minimum wage and living in a grotty flat in Lewisham.
“Then I started doing comedy, and all of a sudden I finally found something I was good at. People were coming up to me after shows and saying, ‘I was feeling down beforehand, but you’ve really cheered me up tonight’. What a lovely thing to hear!
“At last I’ve discovered something I can do well, and I’m not letting it go!”
I’m sure I’m not the only one who is very glad to hear that!