ROB AUTON INTERVIEW
Making a living from making others laugh, York comedian Rob Auton is going up in the world, presently touring his fourth show! Here, in interview, Rob invites “Pulse” author Steve Rudd into his crazy little world…
Hi Rob, how are things?
Okay, thanks! I’m on the tube in London after doing a gig! Northern line if you’re wondering! The gig was enjoyable enough. A lady came up to me after and said, “This should be a NIKE advert.” I have no idea what she meant. Was she talking about life in general? That’s the kind of thing people say to me after gigs; they forget what they’ve said instantly, and I’m left to try to figure out what they meant.
So you’re back on the road with a brand new show! It’s called “The Water Show,” and it’s, err, about water, right?
Yep, hold on — just changing onto the Central line to Leyton! There’s a lot of mice on this platform; always a treat. Oh, yes… I’m doing my “Water Show” around the country. It’s been good fun so far. I enjoy getting to see the country. I waited for a train for four hours in Stockport the other day. With the time I had to kill, I managed to go to the M&S cafe on my own. My parents go all the time. I guess you know you’re an adult when you go to the M&S cafe on your own by choice!
So how do you go about devising your shows?
I want to write about universal subjects I take for granted, subjects I very rarely think about. I wanted to explore how I feel about water… to see if I feel anything towards it or not. It’s a huge part of my life; always has been. I’m interested in what we have in common as humans and with other living creatures. I’ve also done shows about the colour yellow, the sky, and faces. I want to zoom in on the mundane to try and make me appreciate them a bit more. I’m always surprised at how people, including me, seem to get used to everything. How did everything get so normal?
As well as being fiendishly funny, you’re a compelling raconteur. Have you always had a knack for holding audiences spellbound whilst talking, or is it something that you’ve “grown into” the more you’ve performed?
It’s weird, because I really don’t like being the centre of attention at events such as my birthday party. I much prefer other people’s parties, but I really love being on stage. Having an opportunity to say my piece is something that I feel I have to grip with both hands every single time I get up. I try to follow my instincts. Sometimes they help me out; other times, they take me and the audience to places that will never be visited again. I think I’ve grown into it, yet I’m still striving to learn and improve as a performer. I did my first gig in 2008, and “they” say it takes twenty-five years to build a really great performer, so I’ve got a bit of time.
What led you to becoming a performer in the first place?
I used to work in advertising, and I would have ideas that were not suitable at all for the brief I was working on, so I started writing down the unsuitable ideas in a book. One day, the Creative Director said that he was having a fireworks party in his back garden, and some people were going to read out some poems. I said that I had some bits of writing that I would like to read out, and he gave me my first gig: standing on a garden wall, reading things out that I wanted to share. I then started doing open-mic poetry nights. After the gigs, people would often ask if I wanted to do their comedy night, so I started doing comedy nights. I guess that’s what led me to doing more and more performances.
You were born in York but now live in London. Was your move “down south” prompted by your desire to raise your profile as a performer?
No. I’d done Graphic Design at university and had developed a love for answering creative briefs with concepts and ideas. I thought, “Which industry needs people who like having ideas?” So I moved to London to try to get into advertising. Then I got into advertising and swiftly realised that it’s a business — not a place for somebody who wants to express how they feel about the world! I’d never done any performance before moving to London.
It’s fair to say that you’ve come a long way since then, having performed all of your shows at Edinburgh Fringe Festival! Generally-speaking, which show has received the warmest reaction so far?
They’ve all been pretty much equal to be honest. Some people really like them; some people don’t. Luckily, it’s the people who like them who come back, and over the course of four years, I’ve built up a loyal following.
I hear you’ve been hard at work writing your fifth show, “The Sleep Show.” Given your experience at writing, are you finding that it’s getting easier to come up with new ideas?
I think I’m more disciplined than I used to be, but coming up with ideas on purpose is always going to be difficult. I’m learning that it’s the action of sitting down and working, actually putting the hours in, that leads me to devising the shows. It’s alright having a “Drafts” folder full of glimpsed thoughts, but following them up is what makes a show.
When you’re not busy scribbling away or touring, you help run a London-based poetry night called “Bang Said The Gun.” How did you wind up getting involved?
I got involved because the Creative Director at the advertising agency was the guy who co-created “Bang Said The Gun.” After the fireworks party “gig,” the guys asked me if I wanted to become part of the team. I really love helping to put on the night. Getting to see people like Roger McGough on that stage has been great. It’s held on the last Thursday of every month at the Bloomsbury Theatre.
In spite of how busy you are, you’ve also managed to write a couple of books…
Yes, I’ve had two books published by “Burning Eye Books.” They’re a mix of stories, poems and drawings. The first one is called “In Heaven The Onions Make You Laugh.” The second is called “Petrol Honey.” I like drawing, so it was a good opportunity to put some of my drawings in as well as my writing.
So what kind of people make you laugh?
I like people such as Larry David, Mitch Hedberg, Louis CK, Ivor Cutler, Spike Milligan, Woody Allen, Daniel Kitson and Adam Buxton. They all make me laugh and think about the world in a different way.
Looking ahead, what else have you got planned for the rest of 2016?
I’m doing a lot of gigs and writing a new book that will be out next year. I also plan to maintain my wormery.
Finally, how can people find out more about you and your writing?
I have a website at www.robauton.co.uk with links to social media. I write a monthly e-mail to people who sign up to my mailing list. I sit down at my computer, start typing, and don’t stop. They’re normally quite long, but I only send one a month.
Copies of Steve’s first book, “Pulse,” can be ordered by sending a cheque for £10 (made payable to Mr. S. Rudd), along with your name and address, to 110 The Mount, Driffield, YO25 5JN. “Pulse” can also be downloaded for the Kindle by clicking here.