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Key Theatre Comedy Festival: Rob Beckett

Rob Beckett is one of the most popular comedians in the country, who enjoys a thriving TV career with appearances on Mock the Week, 8 Out of 10 Cats, Live at the Apollo and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. The Guardian calls him ‘a relentlessly smiley, perpetually grinning Londoner with an unshowy, unpretentious, but thoroughly funny shtick’ while the The Mail on Sunday has said he ‘lights up the stage with his magnetic personality (not to mention the dazzle from his teeth)’. Rob brings his show ‘Mouth of the South’ – currently on nationwide tour – to Vivacity’s Key Theatre on 12 March

Your shows revolve around your rapport with the audience. How do you achieve that?
I just try and be a normal bloke. You don’t need to be diva-ish in this business. At the end of the day, we’re just chatting on stage. I’m genuinely grateful that people come to see me. If it wasn’t for the audience, I wouldn’t have a jet-wash – I’d just have an ordinary hose!

Where do you get inspiration for your comedy?
I’m just nosey! I love talking to the audience and getting them involved. I really like hearing their stories. People do the strangest jobs. Last night, for instance, someone in the audience told me he was a change manager at a company producing salads. So basically he’s in charge of what leaves go in the salad. I like asking questions – it keeps the show fresh.

Speaking of fresh, how planned is the material in your shows? Does it evolve or do you stick to a script?
I never write a show with a big narrative because I’d end up trying too hard and getting bored. I don’t want to feel desperate and that I have to hold on to certain bits, and I don’t want to be living in fear of altering a routine. For my own sense of self-worth, I’d rather change it and let it progress. I enjoy that much more. That’s how I can do 200 shows on a tour because it’s always growing and changing. If I didn’t do that, I’d have gone mad by now!

Who has been an inspiration or a major influence?
I adored the American standup Bill Hicks. He used to do fantastic routines about drugs and guns. After hearing that, I thought, ‘No one will want to hear me talk about my life’. But then I saw Alan Davies and Peter Kay and realised you can be just as funny talking about nothing very much. If you walk into a pub and say to your mates, ‘What about the new Kit Kats?’, and you can be funny about that, I think that’s quite an achievement.

How did you get started?
Before I did stand-up, I’d always been rubbish at everything. I was doing all sorts of terrible jobs on the minimum wage and living in a grotty flat in Lewisham. Then I started doing comedy, and all of a sudden I finally found something I was good at. People were coming up to me after shows and saying, ‘I was feeling down beforehand, but you’ve really cheered me up tonight’. What a lovely thing to hear!

It certainly sounds like you’re happy in your work…
I’ve done hundreds of lowpaid jobs in my time. I used to work in a flower market carrying around bags of compost, so the fact that I can now put my face on a poster and people will turn up for the show makes me so pleased. I enjoy making people laugh so much. I’m as funny as I can be for 90 minutes; I try and take people’s minds off things for an hour and a half. If you ever stop enjoying that, that’s the moment to give up. When I started out as a comedian, I thought, ‘If I can just about make a living doing comedy, I’ll be the happiest man in the world!’ So, as you can imagine, I’m pretty happy now. At last I’ve discovered something I can do well, and I’m not letting it go!

In March, Vivacity’s annual Key Theatre Comedy Festival (9-12 March) returns to play host to some of the best names in comedy | ● James Acaster Fri 9-Sun 11 March ● The Noise Next Door Fri 10 March ● Gary Delaney Sat 11 March ● Jamali Maddix Sat 11 March ● Rob Beckett Sun 12 March ● Nish Kumar Sun 12 March

For the latest updates and to book tickets, visit www.vivacitypeterborough. com or call Key Theatre Box Office on 01733 207239.

Other comedy coming up at the Key… ● Miles Jupp Friday, January 27 ● The Boy with Tape on His Face Sunday, January 29 ● Comedy Club – Adam Kay Friday, February 3 ● Andy Zaltzman Saturday, February 11 ● Comedy Club – Angela Barnes Friday, May 5

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