Rob Rouse talks brewing, babies and comedy filth
Tim Clark15 October 2012
With a new daughter and a new show Life Sentences, we talk to Rob Rouse about beer, brewing, and existential crisis which comes with fatherhood.
Rob Rouse is trying to convince me to brew my own beer, he has a very persuasive argument. The comedian brewed up his own alcoholic concoctions for his wedding and, as a man who is due to perform his own nuptials next Spring, it’s a tempting proposition.
Chatting on the phone from our respective spare rooms, "a holding tank for life’s junk", Rob makes his case: “I’ve brewed about six or seven brews from scratch. When I left London a few years ago a mate bought me a brewing kit as a present, then last Christmas my wife sent me on a brewing course near to where we live and I made a beer from scratch using barley, hops and yeast and it was just incredible.
“It galvanised me so I decided to make five or six beers for our wedding party. Yeah, from nothing!
“It took a long time and you have to put the brew into barrels and stuff, but it was great.
“It’s one of those things where we spend so much time looking at our smartphones, that if you stop that and spend time doing something different it gives you such a sense of fulfillment.
“You say to yourself 'that one’s not great but it must be alcoholic because I’ve just fallen into a fence'.
“And none of it goes to Osborne. I just give it away to my friends who are currently being stung by tax, screwing Osborne with hops."
Rouse’s decision to spurn the normality and try something new, challenging the normal perspectives on life has been a mainstay of his comedy for a while, but the birth of his daughter has focused his thoughts in recent months.
He took a break from the usual comedy pilgrimage to Edinburgh this year to concentrate on a show, which as he says is "simply full of jokes", as he felt that trying to fit a narrative into his show skewed the comedy element in a way with which which he wasn’t fully comfortable.
“In Edinburgh you have a story to tell to sell a show and you drag people through an hour in a fucking unpleasant room. You need this rope to allow people to cling on to,” he says.
“I find though that when you take those shows out on tour, despite how honed they are I feel bound to tell the whole ‘story’ in the second half, and I thought that, as I’m not going to Edinburgh I’m going to do it a different way around. I worked up stuff which didn’t have to fit a theme.”
As for his show, the addition of a new child to his family has turned Rouse into a feminist, but one with a filthy mouth. “The more responsibility I have, the more my stand-up seems to get progressively not for the faint-hearted,” he adds. “There’s ultimately nothing offensive in what I say, but there’s a load of stuff in the show which people on the way in probably wouldn’t have thought they would be laughing at.”
Children change comedians' perceptions on life, who by their nature talk about their experiences more than most other professions.
Shortly after his son was born Robin Ince seemed to lose a little of his vitriolic hate for the right wing press, realising there was a whole different world to care about. According to Rouse, this was a short-term thing.
“I saw Robin the other week and he was trying to get his kid to spell the word atheist,” Rouse says. “Or Secular, ‘say secular again’, Robin repeated, so he hasn’t changed that much.”
“However there are always events or major moments in my life which are a gravity point, and certainly the birth of the second kid has done that for me.
“You see the world through their eyes; you feel a bit more precious and feel the responsibility; you have less time. It’s a little more crazy around the house and you feel a little more in touch with real life.
“In the first instance it makes you realise that on the grand scheme of things what does anything matter, what does any of this matter, we could all get hit by a bus and be toast and no-one dies thinking they wish they’d spent more time in the office.
“Because the infant lives in that moment, in an entirely uncynical world it’s hard not to be affected by that.
"You realise at the same time that this untainted, pure-thinking, little being is slowly going to get funnelled into the system which we are all ultimately trying to avoid. For me it’s like asking why any of this matters, and then realising that it matters even more. It feels like it amplifies everything.
“You don’t worry about things you can’t control, and when I go to work I try to make the most of it, but when I come home I try to make the most of being at home. Time is precious and I try not to spend time worrying at what may be or may not be."
With a family life which has obviously given Rouse a lot to contemplate, you could forgive him for being less interested in the comedy genre and industry itself, but the opposite is true. Rather than taking a back seat and sticking to his own world, he’s as passionate about comedy and the direction it’s taking as ever.
“There’s been an explosion of stand-up on TV, but it’s weird that in a world which has become more violent and more full of contradictions and hypocrisy, stand-up seems to be getting more anodyne and less controversial – and what is deemed controversial is usually a string of interchangeable gags about someone who’s actually got a problem or needs help. I don’t do that.
“You’re also aware that when you start going down that road, there’s this world of comedy which hits you in the chin and says, ‘Oh God, this is so dull, I’ve heard this before’.
“No you’re wrong, your life isn’t worth living. You’re not living, you are definitely not living, you’re living in a bubble.”
I ask whether he has become a solo version of Jerry Springer The Opera, rising against the banal, sterilised comedy world by concocting a barrage of filth. “If I have it’s by accident. The show is a tirade of filth for ninety minutes. I’ve not held back on the filth at all, but I’ve tried to make it more lyrical. That way I’m making it really honest.”
Rob Rouse, Life Sentences is touring the UK until December 9th. For more information visit www.robrouse.com
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