Rob Rouse: ‘You have got to pick at stuff that’s uncomfortable. Stuff people don’t want to think about’

The comedian on why having a baby girl has made him look differently at life- and informed his new show

Unlike the rest of the comedy world Rob Rouse is not in Edinburgh at the moment.“My boy starts school in September, long story short, I didn’t want to be away for a month. When touring I can get home a lot easier than I can from Edinburgh.”

The comedian has been a regular at the festival since he won the So you think you’re funny? competition there in 1998. He has just had another baby, a girl this time, who he occasionally checks on during our interview. She was the starting point for the 39 year-old’s new stand-up show. “When you go through any kind of life experience you learn a lot more about yourself and my world is never going to be the same. My horizons have expanded and changed in a way that I couldn’t have imagined before.”

Rouse’s new show, life sentences, is about the battle for the sexes. Rouse bravely contemplates how we have got to being a society where having a Vajazzle is something to aspire to, and everything else that comes with it. “Having a girl has really changed things. It really makes you think about the world that you live in. You are a modern young woman in today’s society, you don’t need me to tell you that there are issues about gender which are insidious and horrific in our so-called egalitarian society.” How do you make that funny? “You make it funny if you are a funny person. That’s my job. That’s the thing. You have got to pick at stuff that’s uncomfortable I think. Stuff people don’t want to think about. Things that they weren’t quite expecting to laugh at. There’s a good half hour in the show just about poo. People aren’t wanting to laugh at it, but I’m making them laugh at it. I’m literally talking s**t for a good half an hour. People go: ‘oh no, no, we can talk about that. We have to edit that out.’ But the audience are killing themselves laughing at it. Because it highlights to them why they are uncomfortable about talking about something that they’ve just done and they will be doing later.”

Stand up is where Rouse is most at home, but he can also be found on that ubiquitous night-time home for comedians, the panel show. Never Mind The Buzzcocks panellist Sean Hughes once told this very paper that he thought the scripting of panel shows ruined comedy. How does Rouse, who is a regular feature on them find them? “It is just like being on a panel show,” he laughs. “I’ve done a few of them. I suppose it is finding outlets for you to do your funny stuff on TV.” His regular slot on ITV’s Mad, Mad World with Paddy McGuinness was good, he says. “We weren’t all trying to clamber over each other to get stuff in and Paddy was a very generous host. Other ones are a bit more of a scramble.”

He admits though, that it is quite a competitive atmosphere. “I can totally see how these sort of things can become a me! Me! Me! sort of affair, which benefits one kind of comedy but stifles another. I don’t think comedy is about being all over the other person. I quite like vulnerability in my comedy. Heart and soul lets you in. That doesn’t happen on a panel show. If you want to see what someone really makes of something, go and see their stand-up.”

His stand up, he says, is about how he really feels, staying away from what he calls the ‘clean comedy’ that seems to be in fashion at the moment. “As a teenager I grew up on Morcambe and Wise and the Two Ronnies, then Vic and Bob came along, which was just a side swipe and changed everything. Then Blackadder, and finding videos of Bill Hicks and then going back to Richard Pryor. Billy Connolly as well. There was a lot of stand-up around the time of early Billy Connolly and Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks where people were taking a lot of risks. Then it became a bit more like posturing and then became a bit more fashionable and it got a lot safer and a lot cleaner and recently we’ve had shows on TV where it has got to be super clean and it’s not really my style.”

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“The time I spend away from my family, I want to make it count. I could carry bricks or do some other job that meant I didn’t have to be away from home so often, so I figure if i’m going to leave my family to do it, I must be something that I like and genuinely believe in, something honest.

“I don’t care about whether someone can work out how to operate a lawnmower or something. Get over yourself and work out how to use your lawn mower. You are a human being. Operate the lawn mower. Don’t be a d**k. I’m not interested in that sort of stuff. I need someone to kind of go: ‘aaaaaargh’ (screaming). I need more from people.”

Rob Rouse is at the Arts Depot Finchley September 29. Booking 020 8369 5454