Interview | Rob Auton on Comedy, Ivor Cutler and Saving Money

Credit: Julian Ward

Lucy Morris

Rob Auton on Comedy, Ivor Cutler and Saving Money

Branded ‘the Fringe’s comedian laureate’ by the British Comedy Guide, award-winning comedian and podcaster Rob Auton is going on tour with his critically acclaimed show, The Time Show, bringing comedy, spoken word and theatre to audiences across the United Kingdom. Ahead of his first show at London’s Soho Theatre, Downstairs from the 16th to 28th August, Lucy Morris spoke to Rob about his comedy, show and journey so far.

Hello Rob! Thank you for agreeing to chat with us and congratulations on your upcoming tour. Can you tell us a bit about this first?

This is a tour of my show called The Time Show. It is the eighth in a series of shows I’ve done on a specific theme. In 2012 I did a show all about the colour yellow called The Yellow Show, then in 2013 I did The Sky Show then faces, then water, then sleeping, then hair, then talking, and now it’s time. It’s me exploring time by thinking about it and writing about it and then standing up and talking about time for an hour. Asking questions such as ‘What is time?’ and ‘What time is it?’.

Was there a moment which made you realise that comedy was what you wanted to do?

I started off doing open-mic poetry nights, just reading out my ideas, and sometimes after a reading people would ask me if I wanted to do their comedy night and I said ‘yes’. I guess saying yes to those gigs were moments that made me realise I wanted to do it.  Wanting to do more of them reinforced the notion that it was something that I wanted to do.

Aside from comedy, you are talented at several other things – poetry, writing, acting and art. Were any of these back-up plans if your comedy hadn’t amassed such a following?

One of my heroes, Ivor Cutler, said of all the different things he could do, ‘it’s just like a child with his toys.’  I feel a bit like that. At the moment I’m playing with this toy of making shows around a theme. One day I might try to pick up the painting toy or the acting toy – I just hope they are still there for me to play with. I haven’t broken them yet by playing with them too much that’s for sure. With regard to back-up plans I think it’s important to think positively that things are going to work out. If I waste too much energy thinking about a negative outcome then that negative outcome has more chance of materialising because I wasn’t focused enough on the job in hand.

How would you describe your comedy in three words?

Quiet bits important.

The British Comedy Guide announced you as ‘the Fringe’s comedian laureate’. Do you remember the first time you performed at the Fringe? What has changed since then?

In 2009 I was part of a show called The Big Comedy Breakfast. There was four of us, one person would compere and three would do fifteen minutes each.  It was in a small function room in a hotel; we shared a dressing room with other acts including Lionel Blair who was doing TAP and CHAT. His professionalism was off the charts, delighting sold out crowds every day. I remember the flyering, trying to get people to take a punt on a morning show. On the last day of the Fringe I went into a pub close to where I’d been flyering and the barman shook my hand and said, ‘You’ve been out there every day flyering, all weathers mate, respect.’ I felt like I had passed some sort of Edinburgh test. I hadn’t, Edinburgh is a different test every year.  Nothing has changed in that regard.

If you were to sell yourself to someone who hasn’t experienced your comedy, what would be your pitch?

Vanessa Feltz said I was ‘Just sad.’ Does that work?

Are there any particularly memorable moments from your shows that stand out to you?

An audience member brought me some curry in a Tupperware container once. She got the venue to heat it up in their microwave after the show. Some people are so into the shows that they want to keep me alive through feeding me. 

Was there anyone in particular who inspired your work?

Ivor Cutler who I mentioned above. Bob Dylan, Francis Bacon, Larry David, Spike Milligan and Tom Waits.

Your book, I Strongly Believe in Incredible Things is being released on the 16th of September this year. What can readers expect from it?

Readers can expect 300 pages of me reminding myself how fortunate we are to be alive and how incredibly small the chances of us being here are. In the book I do that to myself through writing and drawing. When I write and draw, it makes me look at myself and others and the planet I’ve been born onto – the book is me doing that.  It’s a mix of short stories, poems, drawings and just me trying to prod myself into recognising the incredible in the everyday.

You have a podcast, The Rob Auton Daily Podcast, which won Best Daily Podcast at the British Podcast Awards 2020. Was the work you recorded written especially for the podcast?

Some of it was yes, I had a lot of ideas from my old shows that I still liked and they found a home in the podcast.  The best thing about the podcast was that it made me write more. That’s where the stuff comes from – applying myself instead of me just hoping that I have an idea.

And finally, is there anything else you would like to say?

I have started filling my tea up with boiling water when I’ve drunk about two thirds of it. It doesn’t taste that watery at all and you save money on teabags and milk. I do come from Yorkshire after all and Yorkshire people have a reputation for being tight with money. I didn’t think I was tight with money until I was having a dream where I was in the pub with all my friends and when it came to my round I woke up. I was absolutely delighted. Got out of that one!

Rob Auton brings his comedy/theatre/spoken word show about time, The Time Show, on his (rescheduled) biggest tour to date starting from Monday 16th August with a two-week run at Soho Theatre in London. For full dates and info, click here

I Strongly Believe in Incredible Things by Rob Auton (Mudlark, £14.99) is out on 16th September. For more information and to pre-order the book, click here

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