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“Congratulations on your excellent choice of DVD, as you can see from the packaging you may have to write off a weekend or two in order to get through it all. For those of you who can’t take time off work to view it, I have made the box shiny to take it with you and rub it on your face. As always a big thanks to everyone who came to see the show live, without you I would just be a shambolic man in an empty room mumbling to himself.”

Ross Noble: Randomist

Feature


Ross Noble’s brand of comedy is definitely an acquired taste. Like any other comedian he has a set of material for each tour that provides a structure to the show and by talking to the audience and dealing with hecklers he can improvise and give the fans something new on the night. However, whereas most comedians’ shows are probably 90% rehearsed material and 10% improvisation, the structure of Noble’s shows are probably closer to 50-50.

I went to see him recently and once he came on stage it was almost time for the interval before he finished saying hello to the audience. It was apparent that he was making up pretty much everything he said on the spot and for me, therein lays his appeal. Even though he does not come from the racist or sexist school of comedy and his jokes and stories attempt to include everyone, his brand of surrealism may leave those who like their comedy to be of the ‘take my mother-in-law’ variety scratching their heads. His inclusive nature with the audience means that it has become a regular occurrence for the fans to leave gifts and food on the stage before the show and that serves his skills of improvisation very well.

Randomist was the name of Ross Noble’s tour that took him around the UK in 2005 and Australia in 2006. Noble’s wife is Australian so he splits his time between the UK and Down Under and by doing so he has created a very unique following on two continents that means his shows consistently sell out with very little promotion. The main show on this DVD release is his homecoming show in Newcastle at the end of the UK leg of his tour.

Ross Noble: Randomist
This is Noble’s third DVD (after the last two years’ releases Unrealtime and Sonic Waffle) and with each release he has attempted to give the fans something extra, which should be applauded when the sole requirement of pretty much every other comedian at this time of year is to knock together a DVD with about an hour of material, get it in the shops and let the money roll in. This time he has pulled out all the stops because for the same price as a regular DVD, we get four discs of material. It’s certainly not the case that he’s been told by his manager to pad the set out with material: he has chosen to give the fans as much as he could. For the sake of this review I’ll treat the Newcastle show as the main feature and everything else as the extras.

Noble always makes a point of finding out about the places he visits so he can give the audience his unique views on their home town. Coming from the north-east of England he has plenty of local knowledge to impart on the Newcastle crowd, which may leave some viewers a little in the dark but it's not detrimental to the experience. The thing about trying to write up a review about a stand-up comedian is that it’s exactly the same as trying to tell your friends about a show the day after: it was incredibly funny at the time but you’re not qualified enough to repeat the material in the same way. I could spend many paragraphs telling you about rabbis with spring-loaded hair, dressing up like the A-Team van and a device to find the necks of owls but I probably wouldn’t do the show justice…

The show itself goes on four two hours, then you’ve got an encore of about half an hour, so on its own you’ve got almost twice as much footage as most stand-up comedy DVDs. In fact, the show goes on so long that some members of the audience start to leave because the car park outside the venue might close before he finishes his set. For this main show alone the DVD is great value for money and I haven’t even got onto the extras yet.

Ross Noble: Randomist

Video


The Newcastle show looks as good as you’d expect from a standard stand-up comedy release. Noble wears all black and the surroundings are black so occasionally he can look like a floating head and the picture lacks detail in long shots but overall the picture quality of the main feature is pretty good. The extra on-stage footage is of a much lower quality though and is quite fuzzy, not coping as well with the large sections of black and orange. It appears that the Newcastle show was intended to be the main selling point of this release so higher-quality video cameras were used than his crew had with them for the rest of the tour.

Audio


In the main, the Stereo track of the Newcastle show stands up well. The dialogue from Noble comes through the front channel and the laughter and applause from the sides. If you’ve got a surround sound amp that can translate a stereo track into 5.1, stand-up comedy is one of the DVD viewing experiences that is as close as you can get to ‘being there’ when you’ve got the audience applause coming through the rear channels as well.

Ross Noble: Randomist
The only real problem with the main show is that Noble wears a microphone that is just below his nose, so when he’s jumping and running around on stage his heavy breathing is quite prominent. If you’ve ever tried to talk to someone on their mobile phone when they’ve been in a high wind you’ve got an idea of what to expect at certain times. Ross, if you’re reading this, move your microphone a bit further away from your nose on the next tour and you’ll get a higher score for the audio quality.

As with the video quality of the extra footage, the sound quality is lower. Ross’ dialogue is muffled and you have to hope that he repeats whatever the audience shout out because there’s not much chance of being able to hear what the hecklers say.

Ross Noble: Randomist

Extras


As soon as you put the DVD into the player you know that this release has been crafted by an artist that wants to bring his comedy out in every aspect of it. The copyright notice has been changed to a list of things you could do while you’re waiting on the text to finish scrolling up the screen, including singing Metallica songs in Hebrew and swearing at the Amish.

In total there are four full-length shows: the main Newcastle show and three additional shows in Melbourne, Stoke and Birmingham. The Birmingham show is only accessible if you get all twelve questions correct in an interactive quiz that covers all the material in the set. You may think that four shows from the same tour will mean a lot of repetition but because of his love of improvisation and investigation of new surroundings, there’s plenty of original material. Given that Peter Kay traded off his ‘Mum Wants a Bungalow’ tour for three years of releases, the amount of footage available here demonstrates that Noble wanted to use this set to draw a line under the ‘Randomist’ tour before he embarked on his ‘Fizzy Logic’ tour earlier this year.

The intro film for the tour is available as a separate extra on disc one, but it’s not quite as inventive as the Radioactive Kung Fu Fridge Boy and Monkey Slayer intro film from the Sonic Waffle DVD last year. Noble also provides audio commentary for the Newcastle, Melbourne and Stoke shows. All three commentaries were recorded on the same day in that order so if you’ve made it through all of the shows and want more from your favourite Geordie comedian, you can watch them all through again with what is essentially another four or five hours of improvised material.

Ross Noble: Randomist
There are two featurettes, one tracking his adventures on the leg of his tour in Scotland and the other tracking the Australian leg. Both include even more footage from the shows and Noble’s visits to local places of interest where he provides his personal views on the local sights. Given that there aren’t many large venues in the Scottish Highlands, he had to do a lot of his shows in schools and there’s quite an eerie moment when he freaks out after walking into a school that is built according to the plans of a school he had previously visited on the tour.

Disc four is called ‘The Randomiser’, which is another whole disc full of even more footage of Ross on stage from different shows played at random, so the DVD skips from one chapter to another out of order. This doesn’t work quite as well as the rest of the extras because at any point in a show he will talk about something or someone previously referenced so there are bound to be gaps on your understanding. However, if you’ve made it as far as disc four, you’re probably past the point of no return and it’s likely that you’ll never reach saturation point. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who is left wanting more after making it through this set because it feels like these four discs contain a complete summary of the entire tour.

Ross Noble: Randomist

Overall


More than ever before, Ross Noble has raised the bar for comedy DVD releases. 99% of comedians would never attempt to put together a set like this because their performances aren’t varied enough to allow it. Some comedians would find it difficult to piece together enough material from their whole career to fill a four disc set, never mind a single tour. The only problem Noble has now is meeting the fans’ expectations with next year's DVD.


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