Star Interview: Rob Newman

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Comedy fans will remember Rob Newman from his comedy partnership with David Baddiel and his appearances in TV shows, such as The Mary Whitehouse Experience.

He will be taking his latest tour, Robert Newman’s New Theory Of Evolution, to Kettering Arts Centre at St Andrew’s Church this Saturday (doors open at 7.30pm). He took time out to answer a few questions for WOW247:

In your own words, give us a short biography of yourself.

Born in London, but brought up in the small Hertfordshire village of Codicote. Because my Saturday job was working as a farm-hand for the farmer who cut the field for the Knebworth pop festivals (the next village along), I got in backstage to see everything from Led Zeppelin to the Rolling Stones. None of these bands interested me, but I was fascinated by the audience.

From about 1987, I started doing open spots in rooms above pubs on the London comedy circuit. I started out as an impressionist. My 1980s set-list included Top Cat, Basil Brush, Rick Astley, Dirty Den and Tony Benn.

This is your first show in seven years, why the wait? What’s been keeping you busy?

Researching and writing The Trade Secret from 2006 to 2013. I had a couple of operations on my back, then spent a year learning how to walk again by way of calliper and walking stick. Happy to say, I need neither now. Then I became someone’s dad. Then I spent nine months researching, writing and workshopping this new stand-up show.

Traditionally your shows are quite political, how have your views changed since your last show Apocalypso Now/A History of Oil?

The new show is more focused on science. I’m finding it tremendous fun to talk about the new science of epigenetics, as well as breakthrough discoveries in brain imaging, such as mirror neurons, for example. I love exploring the extraordinary behaviour of red harvester ants, flatworm nematodes, Antarctic penguins, vampire bats, rats and, star of the show, the amoebae Dictostelium Discoideum, known as Dicty Disco for short.

How has comedy changed since you first started out?

When I started out there were lots of weird and wonderful cabaret acts doing silly, inspired, original and inventive 20 minute sets. Lately a new crop of, if you like, ‘indy comics’ has blossomed. I like their turn towards soulful comedy, their storytelling bent and their quest for meaning. There are also a lot more excellent and very funny female comics now than ever before.

Tell us about your new book The Trade Secret.

Based on a true story about the first Elizabethans to stumble upon coffee and oil, it is set in Persia, Venice and England in 1599-1606. I’ve never worked so hard on anything in my life.

What’s next after the tour?

The TV producer who made History of Oil is keen to do the same with this show. I hope it comes off. History of Oil was a worldwide hit, the only thing I ever did that was truly global.