Roz Laws talks to the Welsh comic who is warning fans to avoid a repeat viewing.
Comedian Rhod Gilbert has made an unusual plea to his Midland fans – “please don’t come to see me on tour”.
Well, not quite all his fans. But if you’ve already seen his show, the intriguingly-titled Rhod Gilbert And The Cat That Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst, then he’d rather you didn’t turn up when he returns to the region.
Rhod, who’s currently presenting the BBC1 show Ask Rhod Gilbert, says: “Seriously, if you came to see me last year, please don’t come again!
“I’d much rather have a fresh audience who can laugh for the first time rather than people who have seen the show. I don’t think it can ever be quite as funny second time around.
“I’m not insisting that you can’t come, though. It’s not like I’ll be checking.
“I can’t believe that the tour is still rolling on, a year after I started it.”
The Nicholas Lyndhurst show comes to Birmingham’s Symphony Hall next month.
It got its unusual name in a bid to foil a fan from Canterbury who always brings along a gift related to the title of the show. He brought mince pies and grapes to The Award-Winning Mince Pie and Who’s Eating Gilbert Grape? tours, so Rhod wanted to set him a challenge.
“Of course he found a suitable present,” says Rhod, 41. “But you’ll have to come to the show to find out what.”
He vividly remembers the last time he was in Birmingham, thanks to a particular member of the audience.
“I noticed a 12-year-old girl. I rather patronisingly asked her, ‘Have you seen me on TV?’ and she said ‘Don’t flatter yourself, I’ve never heard of you. My dad booked the tickets and when you’re 12, you can’t argue’.
“It was an hilarious riposte.”
BBC bosses have a higher opinion of Rhod. They’re so impressed with his quick wit that they’ve given him his own series.
Ask Rhod Gilbert, on Monday nights, is another take on the comedy panel show. He invites celebrities to help him answer the kind of burning questions that people debate down the pub, such as “Why do people have two eyes?” and “Can you survive on crisps alone?”.
“We do want to find answers,” says Rhod, “though there’s also a lot of speculation and flights of fancy.
“It’s dafter than QI and more dynamic. I can ring up experts and pull people out of the audience to prove something.”
Rhod, who is the face of Visit Wales and the official Voice of Wales (after Tom Jones and Charlotte Church), splits his time between London, Cardiff and Swansea. He lives with his girlfriend, writer Sian Harries.
It feels like Rhod is an overnight success, although he started eight years ago, giving up a well-paid job as the director of a market research company after going on a comedy course.
It seems an odd career choice for someone who found performing “excruciatingly embarrassing” and describes himself as “very, very shy”.
While studying languages at Exeter University, so crippling was his shyness that he was unable to eat with other students in the canteen or even talk to the student in the next room.
Within 18 months of his comedy course, he won five different talent competitions.
The following year, he was nominated for the Perrier Newcomer award for his first solo show at the Edinburgh Festival.
In the last year he’s really broken through, thanks to his TV appearances on Live At The Apollo and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, as well as his own Radio 2 show, Rhod Gilbert’s Bulging Barrel Of Laughs.
Having been on pretty much all of the comedy panel shows, from Mock The Week and Never Mind The Buzzcocks to 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Would I Lie To You?, it’s interesting to hear how they differ behind the scenes.
“In some shows, like Mock The Week, you know almost everything in advance and there are no surprises,” he reveals.
“Though it can go off in spontaneous directions and takes three hours to make a half-hour show. There’s a lot of banter.
“You do need a degree of preparation. You’d like to think that everyone can be brilliantly funny off the top of their head but you need some help.
“But on Never Mind The Buzzcocks you’re told very little and I really like that. The more unprepared, the better.”
* Rhod Gilbert And The Cat That Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst comes to Symphony Hall, Birmingham on November 9. For tickets ring 0121 780 3333 or go to www.thsh.co.uk.