Sunday, 25 May 2008

Ross Noble and John Steinbeck

Went to see Ross Noble perform on Friday night. Excellent! He's one of those comedians I enjoy watching time and time again. Love the randomness of his humour and the way he improvises, and how this randomness and improvisation is worked into the structure of his performance. There’s always an opening line or two, the beginning of an explanation or an apology, which he tosses into the audience and then runs circles around (and skips Of_mice_and_men_2 in and out of) as he draws on audience comments or behaviour to shape the body of his show. And he always returns eventually to those opening comments, and uses them to tie each act together---to give cohesion to the whole ramble. It’s the sort of symmetry of structure I sometimes like to discover in short stories and novels too.

Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, for instance: how the descriptions of light and sound that begin each chapter also bring them to a conclusion, and how the opening chapter is mirrored (but for a few sinister distinctions) in the final chapter. There’s the sense that the characters have not so much travelled full circle but have completed a full turn on a spiral, so that they’re close to where they started in some respects, but that some things have changed that can never be the same again. In both cases, the audience is left feeling that it too has moved forward. There’s catharsis in both comedy and tragedy.

This excerpt doesn't do justice to his whole show, but gives a flavour of his randomness.

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