Brighton Comedy Festival: Rob Beckett

He is exactly as you’d expect; amiable, chatty and open. Despite my interruption of a rare day off, Rob Beckett’s eager to entertain some questioning. Anyway, he’s off for some football and the cinema later, so nothing can ruin his day.

A 50-date tour is looming, but it won’t signal a discernible shift in the 29 year-old’s work rate. With just six years of stand-up served, Beckett already keeps a schedule which could make most established performers tremble with anxiety. Doing four or five shows most weeks on top of his regular TV work, he’s pragmatic about the long hours and high mileage. “I’ve always been rubbish at everything,” he tells me. “I’ve found something I’m half decent at, so I’m not going to let it get away.” This concerted effort is producing significant results. The new ‘Mouth of the South’ tour calls in at Brighton Comedy Festival on Fri 23 Oct, graduating from Brighton Dome’s Studio Theatre to its Corn Exchange. He isn’t playing two crappy venues a night anymore.

Appearances on TV shows like ‘Live at the Apollo’, ‘Mock the Week’, ‘8 out of 10 Cats’ and the ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ satellite show have taken his quick wit out of the clubs and into the nation’s living rooms. As an obvious comedy fan himself, he was a little in awe of certain comedians when he started on this panel show circuit. Not that he’d ever have let that show to his new-found peers. Jon Richardson is highlighted as being particularly lovely to the inexperienced Beckett, when he made his debut on ‘Mock the Week’. “He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He looked after me, and I’ll never forget that.” The panel format is an environment he thrives in, revelling in frantically bouncing his ideas around with similar-minded people.

Whilst fast becoming one of the most recognisable faces in comedy, he still concentrates on work using a week-by-week basis. “It’s almost like being a sociopath. I just pretend it’s all normal. I pretend I’m going to Sainsbury’s to do the yoghurts, like I used to. That way it don’t really affect me, so I can just get on with it.” There something of the everyman in Beckett. Whilst he’s in a position he never expected to be, everything gets cheerily taken in stride ‘without freaking out’. This steadfastness lends to his charisma and appeal as a performer.

It’s clear he’s more than grateful for his successes, demonstrating it by regularly thanking each audience member as they leave his gigs. “It sounds a bit corny, but I’m so thankful when people turn up. I’ve been sacked from loads of jobs. These people allow me to have the life I do, so it’s just nice to say thank-you.” He’s got his work cut out if he’s to continue doing this. Growing numbers are flocking to see him now, eager for his unpretentious brand of satire. Rather than moan on about the injustices of the world, he bemusedly dismisses them all as nonsense. The shows are fast-paced with a confident and sincere smile warming any room he performs to.

Beckett describes his younger self as being a ‘nervous kid’. It’s a label you’d have trouble attaching to him these days. “I’m calmer and more confident now because my life’s only focused on one thing. When I was a kid they were like: ‘You’ve got art now, and then you’ve got to do technology, then you’ve got science. …and I couldn’t do any of those. It was all quite stressful. Now I just focus on what I’m good at.” He confesses he has no qualms about playing at being dumb purely for comic effect, especially in the face of smugness from supposedly clever people. “No one’s better than anyone, whether you’ve got the biggest IQ or the lowest. You’re just a person aren’t you? I just find it off-putting when someone’s trying to be deep or too clever. If you‘ve got to tell someone you’re deep, you’re not…” Whilst being the first to admit he was never academically gifted, there are times when he’ll stumble upon something startlingly profound. As you regularly find in life, qualifications and certificates prove little match for raw street smarts.

The Lewisham–based star has no ambitions to leave the neighbourhood where he grew up, despite it being ‘a bit stabby’ “Certain areas I get recognised for being on telly, other areas I get recognised for being Sue’s son,” he chirps. “People don’t expect people off the telly to live in South East London. It’s not the most glamorous place.” Becket’s family take centre stage for much of his material, with all their quirks, banter and politics. These domestic antics are comedy gold, especially when retold out of context. “Everything I say is true. Obviously it’s slightly exaggerated. I say to them: ‘You said it. It’s not my fault for saying it again!” This rich home life likely accounts for much of his self-assurance. Coming from a vibrant and loving family has perfectly equipped him for a career in entertainment. “I’m not really bothered if someone swears or says something to me. I’ve heard it all before, I’m used to loud annoying people. I can get more in on a panel show, than I can at Sunday lunch!”

Rob Beckett comes to Brighton Dome’s Corn Exchange on Fri 23 Oct, as part of Brighton Comedy Festival

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