Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Rob Rouse, Through The Looking Ass, The Stand, Edinburgh Fringe 2014

By Joe Wilson

It is always hard to review comedians who you have known for a long time, although the temptation to see how they are getting on is nonetheless a great one.

I recall Rob Rouse when he was 23 or 24 - a great bundle of joy, fun and energy - who could take any stage by storm and lift any roof. His solo act I loved and when he did his first Edinburgh Fringe show with Big & Daft, an imaginative trio comprising Rob, another stand-up and an actor, it was sublimely funny, sheer brilliance.

The queue for Rob's latest show stretched right down the street outside one of The Stand's satellite venues. I was told it was a 180-seater and there must have been 160 of us.

Eventually, the show went up half and hour late. When the punters were in, 15 minutes behind schedule, the management decided to allow them all the chance to order a drink at the bar before Rob was given the green light.

When Rob appeared, he looked very different from how I remembered him. I believe the last time we met was at a gig in Lewes, Sussex, some 10 years ago. 

Of course the years take their toll but Rob looked haggard and careworn.

For a moment, I thought, "Is it the same guy?" The grinning, slightly chubby-faced youth I had known was gone. He looked Paul McCartney fresh.

What followed was an hour of so of what you might call "Dad Comedy" of the most scatalogical type. It was cringe-worthy and involuntarily funny in equal measure.

Naturally, people have children all the time. If they did not, we simply would not be here.

However, there is a generation of male stand-ups who seem to feel they have discovered childbirth and all that comes with it.

It is their duty to tell the rest of us about it. Every unpleasant aspect of their experience is subjected to comedic exploration. No turd is left unturned.

As well as being a very pleasant bloke, Rob Rouse is a gifted physical comedian. It is very hard not to laugh when he is full flow.

So, I was kind of laughing at his performance, while oxymoronically, not enjoying the show much at all.

I was also puzzled. When I first knew Rob, my kids were about the same age as his are now. But I do not remember half the things he talked about. Maybe he is unlucky or worries more than I did. Perhaps he has given the raw material the cartoon characterisation treatment, grossly exaggerating for comic effect.

Whatever the truth, he desperately needed to buy a lock for his bathroom door. I would even show him out to fit it.

Worse still, Rob seemed to be compulsively obsessed with poo and wee. Not just his children's but his wife's as well. The Shewee routine was not credible to my mind - a pee too far. I wondered whether his missus enjoyed this show.

It was such as shame. Rob is a great guy and an incredibly funny and eloquent man. What he had written here was quite funny but was it beautiful? Nein!

There was still some great use of language - "undercrackers", "banjaxed", "in like Flynn" and so on - but I believe he could create a solo show so much more funny and meaningful that this one. I woke up at 4am that night thinking about it. A weirdly disturbing experience.

It'd been around midnight when Rob closed his set. I felt as tired as he did.

As I had headed for the door, Rob kindly intercepted me and asked how I was. We exchanged pleasantries and he suggested I call him on his mobile so we could have a cuppa.

Somehow, I could not bring myself to say I had lost his number, along with a great deal more, when I got divorced. Life, eh?

A *** show by a ***** comedian!

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