RedHanded talks to Rod Woodward
RedHanded chats with Rob about his first tour, his sky-rocketing career and his climb to get there...
RedHanded: The Journey Starts Here tour is your debut tour…
Rod Woodward: Yeah, my agent threw the title in a bit ironically because I’ve been doing stand-up for 17 years. But it’s a new journey in the sense that you have to generate your audience now, whereas at a comedy club or even at corporate events the audience is generated for you so you don’t have to think about whether or not they’re going to be there. But now you’ve got to hope people want to part with their hard earned cash and come along. It’s going to be an adventure.
That’s fair enough! Are you nervous?
Very nervous, but in an excited way because having your own tour gives you the chance to bring your own attitude to it, instead of having to conform to the venue. Even comedy clubs are very specific with the stuff they want on a given evening, so this is good because you just go out and do what you believe in and hope the audience goes with you!
Are you going to miss comedy clubs when you’re on tour?
I will, but I suppose we’re all doing these comedy clubs over the years in the hope that we’ll have a rattle at doing our own thing, our own tour one day. So if it goes well it’s the natural progression. I’ll miss those gigs because you meet good people there, but I think now is the time to give this a go. I’ve had a couple of shots of good fortune and I’d be stupid not to run with it now.
With your shots of good fortune are you talking about the Royal Variety Show?
Yeah, that was definitely a good thing for me! It’s already opened doors for me that I couldn’t have imagined. I’ve just recorded Sunday Night at the Palladium, which comes out on DVD on May 10, and I did the pilot for the new Saturday show Play to the Whistle which obviously got the commission, so it was good to do that for ITV. All of these things are a bit surreal at times, but lovely.
It sounds it! And it sounds hectic…
Yeah, it’s been busy! It’s come at a strange time. It’s bittersweet, because my dad was ill for a while - he was in hospital - so I stayed with him every night which took up a lot of time, but I didn’t want to leave him. Then you get these calls saying can you come and record the Palladium and these kinds of opportunities don’t come along often, so my dad was saying “get up and do it”. It was weird, I’d go and do the show within 4/5 hours and be back in the hospital thinking, did I just go to London and do the Palladium show? It was a strange month of my life, but he would have loved all of this; even though he was pretty ill near the end, he managed to get up to the Royal Variety. That was the last show he saw me do out of hundreds over the years, and it was something I used to watch with him as a kid, so it was a buzz.
What would you say is the highlight of your career so far, Royal Variety aside?
With the exception of the Royal Variety, because that one is head and shoulders above the rest, I’d say the gigs I did with Paddy McGuiness. We did 110 nights on the road together, playing 2/3 thousand people venues. I was doing 45 minute sets and when you get an audience that big, it’s a different kind of energy. If you get half of three thousand laughing it’s like a wave over you, whereas if you’re doing Edinburgh and you’ve got 12 in a room and you get half of them laughing, you think, why am I doing comedy?
I can’t imagine how that feels. Have you had flops in the past?
I think anyone who says they don’t hasn’t been doing it long enough. Comedy is all about the right context as well as the right material. Sometimes you find yourself in places where the vibe isn’t right and they’re not quite your crowd. It’s inevitable. Edinburgh is always interesting because of the numbers. I’ve done gigs for two people, and you have to do an hour set and one of them is a critic and you’re thinking, this is good… and you get tough gigs too. Once I did the Territorial Army Christmas lunch. I walked in and two women were rolling around on the dance floor fighting, half the room was eyeballing the other half, and the guy just said, “we’ll have a bit of light relief now and bring you on!”
You’re basically crowd control!
Yes! You turn up to a gig sometimes and they say “we’ve had about five comedians at this gig in the past and they’ve all struggled but we thought we’d give it one more go, you’re the man!” You do get those gigs, but I’m a bit more selective now than I used to be. I used to take anything on.
Did you ever get discouraged at the start?
If you’ve had a tough gig and you jump in the car and you’ve got a 5 hour drive back somewhere, you get a bit down, but when you do get that energy and that pay off for something you’ve written and delivered, you want more of it. It’s a drug. That’s what kept me going through those times. You’ve got to develop a thick skin pretty fast as well and learn to filter criticism. I think the best comics are the ones that learn to edit their stuff quickly.
Who’s the best heckler you’ve had?
I was halfway through a set in a workmen's club in Wales. I’d only been doing it about two years and a bloke shouted out “don’t you know any songs?” Sometimes you’ve just got to take your hat off and say that’s funnier than anything I’m coming out with. But other times they’re too pissed to realise they’re a nuisance. I saw Lee Evans doing a tryout last year at the Glee Club and this guy just kept on and on. Lee just went “you want me gone, do you? Don’t worry, I’ll leave”, and the crowd ended up turning on this guy; they nearly took him outside and strung him up.
So your tour is starting in May…
It is, and it runs through to late June, 14 nights in total. A few of those are in Wales which I’m looking forward to; Swansea, Brecon, West Wales and Cardiff. Cardiff, being my hometown, I’m hoping will be a good night. I’m really excited about it.
Is Cardiff the biggest thrill?
Yeah, it’s the biggest venue I’m doing on that leg of the tour and everybody I know will be there. The thing that makes it so exciting for me is that I’ve watched comics there over the years and I’ve always thought I’d like to be up there giving it a go, so I’m really looking forward to it.