Rob Auton is a York born comedian who breaks the mould for stand up. Part spoken word, part comedy, part touching insight in to the mind of a day dreamer with an oblique perspective on life, Rob’s comedy is like a meandering train of charming thoughts centered around the theme of the show. Rob, who performs regularly at Edinburgh Fringe (even winning Dave’s Joke Of The Fringe award one year – an accolade that seems to be from a rather disparate demographic and that Rob seems unfazed by) is a one-man entertainer with eyes that light up when people share his love for the everyday things that make life beautiful.
Previous tours have included The Yellow Show, The Faces Show and The Sky Show. His latest offering; The Water Show, muses on the obvious, obscure and disjointed associations throughout Rob’s life with water. From childhood memories of squirting people with the garden hose, to the water content of cucumbers, to the sex life of frogs, the show is like a firework of collective thoughts exploding in front of you, but all the time by someone who doesn’t feel completely comfortable on stage. However this unease only adds to the off the wall appeal, and while the show crescendos through emotions, Rob maintains the persona of someone whose head you would love to get inside. It’s eccentric, not always “hilarious” but purely pleasurable, and hard to leave without sharing Rob’s inspired sense of wonderment at the mundane. Candid Magazine caught up with Rob after his recent run at Soho Theatre to chat about his career, inspiration, and upcoming tour.
Candid Magazine: Can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a stand-up comic?
Rob Auton: I started writing thoughts down that I had that had either made me laugh or think about something. I guess it was a case of writing an idea down so I didn’t lose it. I didn’t do it for anybody else apart from myself but I guess it got to the stage where I wanted to share them to see if anybody got anything from them apart from me. Some of them were of value to others and some were not. I started off at poetry nights, just standing up and reading out my sentences and paragraphs. Sometimes after the gigs people would say “do you want to come and do my comedy night?” So I started doing a few comedy nights. Now it’s probably half and half.
CM: Your comedy seems to fuse your wonderment at everything, with an off-kilter way of connecting worldly observations and lots of emotion – can you tell us how it all comes to you?
CM: Do the shows evolve as a narrative around a pre-thought up theme or does the material come first?
RA: With the hour long Edinburgh shows I have always picked a subject that I take for granted which is a big part of my life. Just so I can explore it for myself really. The first one in 2012 was about the colour yellow and it was called ‘The Yellow Show’. With that show I just looked at everything that was yellow and tried to write about it until I had enough material to fill an hour. Then I started to question why I was doing it and why the colour yellow is important to me. I want to write about subjects that people are familiar with, so they can go into the show thinking “this is called the yellow show, it is going to be about the colour yellow.” In 2013 it was ‘the Sky Show’, 2014 was ‘the Face Show’ 2015 was ‘the water show’ and this year I am writing about sleep. The shows are an opportunity for me to go off on one in a considered way with the goal of taking people with me who want to come.
CM: Do you have any pre or post show rituals?
RA: I like stretching before the show. It helps me feel like I’m going to do something. Then I tell myself everyone in the audience and on the stage is going to die at some point so don’t worry about the gig too much. “Try your best but don’t take yourself too seriously” is something I normally say to myself before a show. I heard a cricket commentator say that once and it stuck with me. Post show I like to relax with a tall glass of “Oh Jesus Christ.”
CM: Has anything ever happened in your life that has shifted your focus as a comic?
RA: I’ve had food poisoning twice and both times my focus on life has shifted slightly, not as a comic but as a person in general. It just made me realise what my body could be doing instead of being on stage. If I’m having a difficult gig I think about those times when I was horizontal on the bathroom floor.
CM: Do you think comedy can be useful/important?
RA: If my answer was “no” I don’t think that would be a good sign. Laughter is important to me and I find it useful. It’s that thing of if I wasn’t laughing I’d be crying. I feel like that a lot of the time. I can’t speak for anybody else but I know that laughing helps me get through a lot.
CM: Do you have a final goal your aiming for? (Or was it Dave’s joke of the year?)
RA: My goal is to get to the end of my life and to be able to look back on it and think I had a go. I look back on the experience of winning the Dave joke of the year and think “you got through that Rob. You spoke to Vanessa Feltz on the radio and you survived (just).”
CM: What’s the best type of audience member?
RA: Middle aged children
CM: Is there anything in the comedy world you would like to try but haven’t yet?
RA: I would like to do some improvisation.
CM: Is there anything you would like people to take away from your show?
RA: Their own opinion of whether they got anything from it or not. If they got something from it then great, if they don’t then that’s alright too. The good thing is that there is enough different stuff out there in the world for everybody. I like digging up weeds. I know some people who aren’t interested in it.
Rob Auton is touring The Water Show until the 28th May. More info and tickets available here www.robauton.co.uk
Rob also co-organises spoken word night Bang Said The Gun which has a monthly residency at the Bloomsbury Theatre. More info and tickets available here www.bangsaidthegun.com