Rob Brydon heads out of his comfort zone for Blackburn show

Rob Brydon in full voice                                                                                                                                                                                                          (Picture: Nick Rutter)
Rob Brydon in full voice (Picture: Nick Rutter)

STILL probably best known for Gavin and Stacey, Rob Brydon has a series of hit TV shows and successful stand-up comedy tours to his name.

But next month he’s heading to Blackburn with a new show which he admits might be considered a bit of a risk.

The twist is that on this tour, as well as stand-up and his dazzling array of impersonations, Rob will singing, backed by an eight-piece band. A Night of Songs & Laughter promises to be a special night out.

Rob first broke through on TV with such excellent and original programmes as Marion and Geoff, Human Remains and The Keith Barret Show. He went on to gain a huge following from such widely adored comedies as Gavin and Stacey, Would I Lie to You? and The Trip.

But for all his success on TV, Rob has been yearning for a return to his live roots.

“Live comedy is just such a buzz,” he said. “People come just to see you. Sometimes you stand on stage thinking, ‘Good God, these people have all gone to the trouble of paying a babysitter and chosen to come and watch my show.’ That’s a very special feeling.”

The comedian goes on to explain in more depth why he is so drawn to live performing. “It feels very natural to me. Sometimes people say, ‘I can’t imagine getting up on stage and performing. It would be so terrifying.’ But you don’t choose that life – it’s almost a calling, something you just have to do.

“You feel very comfortable on stage, and that grows over time. The more you get used to it, the more it becomes your norm. I like to entertain people and make them laugh. It’s a real privilege. As with a lot of things, you appreciate that more as you get older. You stand there on stage and think, ‘Wow, this is great!’”

Rob is conscious that performing A Night of Songs & Laughter might be regarded as a risk. But, he asserts: “It’s a deliberate risk. I have got to the stage of my career where shows I’m in like Would I Lie To You? and The Trip and stand-up tours return.

“But I want to go outside my comfort zone and test myself. I’m taking a chance, and the fact that there is risk involved is part of the thrill of it.”

Since appearing in a school production of Guys and Dolls, Rob has always loved singing. In 2009, alongside Ruth Jones (who starred alongside him in that production of Guys and Dolls), Robin Gibb, and Sir Tom Jones, he reached number one in the charts with the single Islands in the Stream, in aid of Comic Relief. He has also performed with singers such as Neil Diamond, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Sharleen Spiteri.

For all that, Rob is well aware that some people might still be taken aback by what they perceive as a change of tack with A Night of Songs & Laughter.

“It will take some people by surprise,” he said. “Some people might only know me from Gavin and Stacey or Would I Lie To You?. Those people often say to me, ‘I didn’t know you could sing’, and yet I have sung a lot. I hope this show is a very pleasant surprise for audiences.”

A BAFTA nominated actor who has also starred in such acclaimed films as A Cock and Bull Story, 24-Hour Party People and Blinded by the Light, Rob said: “At the end of the day, I’m there to entertain people.

“I recently went to see Jeff Goldblum play with his band. That was wonderful. That guy was just there to entertain people. He played his songs, but he did lots of other things as well, like film quizzes. The show followed no rulebook.

“I found that very liberating and quite instructive. It showed me that you don’t have to follow the rules. You can make the show whatever you want it to be. So that’s what I’ve done with A Night of Songs & Laughter.”

Rob, who trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff before moving to a job at BBC Wales, reveals that the show will recount his life story through a series of anecdotes and songs by such varied artists as Paul Simon, George and Ira Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits.

He said: “I go back to my childhood. I was 16 and starting to get interested in girls, but I was always pining from afar. In my teens I lived in Porthcawl, a coastal town in Wales, and all the cool boys were surfers. I wasn’t a surfer. I had a go once, but I hurt my knee.

“My musical taste was never considered cool. I never set much store by stuff being fashionable. I loved David Bowie and The Police, but also Shakin’ Stevens and Cliff Richard, which not many boys of my age did. Well, not the ones sitting at the back of the bus!”

Rob identifies another major problem for him during those unhappy teenage years.

“I didn’t drink. My friends would all drink on a Friday and Saturday, and on a Tuesday and Wednesday, too, just for good measure,” he said. “That meant they lost their fear of rejection. Unfortunately, I never lost that fear. I knew that I was funny and could make girls laugh. They would want to spend time with me. Had I had the nerve to close the deal with a kiss, I’m sure they would have responded, but I was too frightened.

“I would see neanderthals from my class with their arm around a girl at the school disco and think, ‘How did he manage that? He can’t string a sentence together and now it looks as if they’re setting up home together’.”

Rob wraps up by expressing what he hopes audiences will take away from A Night of Songs & Laughter.

“I hope people will come out happier than when they went in because they’ve had such a great time. I hope they will have forgotten about the world for two hours. Especially considering the last year we have all had.

“As a performer in the last few years, you can really feel that people just want to escape. It’s tangible. My show is an escape.”

Rob Brydon in A Night of Song and Laughter, King George’s Hall, Blackburn, Friday, July 5. Details from www.bwdvenues.com