Ross Noble interview: Stitches, comedy and Doctor Who

Ross Noble turns from stand-up to horror with Stitches. Pete caught up with the comedian and actor for a bit of a chat…

Best known for his own brand of surreal, off-beat stand-up comedy, Ross Noble makes his big-screen debut this week with the British horror flick, Stitches. In it, he plays the killer clown of the title, providing laughs and splashy kills in equal measure in the latest movie from director Conor McMahon.

Ahead of Stitches’ release, we caught up with Noble to talk about acting, stand-up comedy, and his geeky interests… 

This is your second acting role in the space of as many years [following 2011’s Comic Strip Presents]; have you always had an inner thespian waiting to come out?

Well I have acted before, I’ve done stuff on stage when I was a kid and that; I have actually acted quite a lot, but it’s all been when I was younger. When I was a member of a youth theatre I did a couple of Shakespeares, and that was f***ing terrifying, quite intimidating.

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Does this take you far from your comfort zone, then?

Well, most of the TV stuff I do, and of course all the live stuff, is with an audience, so constantly half your brain’s thinking about what you’re doing, and the other half of your brain is thinking about how the audience is receiving what you’re doing. So you’ve got this constant thing where you’re always monitoring your performance, and if they’re responding in a certain way that determines where you go with it; you have to regulate the energy of what you’re doing to keep in time with them.

What’s so brilliant, and I thought it would be the downside of film, is that all of a sudden you’ve got much more scope – there’s no audience, so you make the decision… Your audience is basically the director; you’re doing it, and you give the director and editor options and choices, and they decide. Obviously you give them the moments, different moments, but they choose those moments and how they put them together.

I can see why some actors get very frustrated and want to direct; obviously as a stand-up I have that freedom all the time. But to hand that over to somebody else and say “Right, here are the moments – it’s up to you”, it’s actually quite liberating!

So having no editorial control – as opposed to your stand-up, where it’s total – didn’t trouble you?

Obviously you’ve got to trust the director and editor, but luckily even though we hadn’t worked together before, I could tell just from my conversations with Conor [McMahon, director] that he got it. He knows exactly what he wants, but within that he’s happy to hear new ideas and suggestions.

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Of course, the problem with films is always that you can do something and what it ends up being in the edit is never what you had planned… And even as a director, I think Woody Allen was saying that his films were only ever 30 per cent of what he had in his head… That said, I’m happy with what’s come out in this case – certainly people seem to like it.

Is there a dream role that you’d love to play? One that would make you go, for example, “Cancel my tour, I’m off to be in Doctor Who!”?

I think anyone would cancel anything to be [The Doctor]! The weird thing about Doctor Who is, I think there isn’t a human being on the planet who would say no to Doctor Who. But the only downside of that is you’d have to live in Cardiff! [Laughs] I’ve got nothing against Cardiff, but…

You could commute! 

Exactly! But anything Whovian or anything with a sniff of Jedi about it… Yeah. But there again, the great thing about Stitches is I created that character, so if the film’s well-received and becomes a cult classic and they decide to make more, it’s one of those situations where you’ve created something that… Who knows? In 20 years time, members of BAFTA might be going “Well, I thought Noble was the quintessential Stitches.” “No, I preferred…” etc.

It could be the next James Bond! Or indeed, you could be the new James Bond… 

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Well there you go! I’ll play Doctor Who, James Bond and Worzel Gummidge! No, I think it’s safe to say I’ll never be Bond.

What are you particularly geeky about? 

Well, motorbikes is my thing. I was with my accountant the other day, and he was going through my credit card statements, and he pointed out to me that the only things I purchase are motorbike stuff and movie things!

And with that, our time was up. Ross Noble, thank you very much.

Stitches is out in UK cinemas on the 26th October.

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