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1998 Reviews

From This Is London
The Improv - Friday, 15 April 1998

Official opening of the first British branch of an American comedy chain that encourages capable comedians to do longer-than-normal sets, and thereby launched the careers of Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. The line-up for this weekend features Rob Newman, who returns to stand-up after writing a novel (Dependence Day) which sold enough to make most writers feel rather sick. There's also the svelte and acerbic Donna McPhail, rebellious magician John Lenahan (the Magic Circle booted him out) and Omid Djalili, who, being both Iranian and hilarious, provides a valuable corrective to the PR disaster that was the Ayatollah Khomeini. Friday 17 to Sunday 19 April at 161 Tottenham Court Road, W1 (0171-344 4444).

From 'Varsity Online':
Rob Newman returns with his new show

Since he disappeared out of the limelight six years ago, Rob Newman has spent his time writing a couple of novels and eating all the pies. Now he's back on the stand-up circuit, complete with celebrity belly. Newman's new act is like Ben Elton off speed: an attempt to reproduce the sort of anti-Thatcherite left wing attacks on the Government, that were popular in the eighties. The fact that the current government are inherently a softer target showed in the way he lacked the necessary passion for his subject that made his predecessors successful. He simply didn't look convinced with his own anti-capitalist rants. Nor did he seem comfortable with the audience, even though he was effectively playing a home crowd (he was at Selwyn). The most successful bits had their origins in The Mary Whitehouse Experience - dodgy pervert and innuendo master Jarvis got the biggest cheer from the crowd in what was otherwise a comeback distinctly lacking in belly laughs.

Many thanks to Karon for allowing us to use her review:
Rob's gig at Leicester Phoenix Arts

Well, I finally got to see Rob's new show last night. I'll admit I was a little apprehensive after reading all the promo about him having gone political and after seeing a Bound & Gagged gig last year which I can only politely describe as a shambles. I needn't have worried; what political stuff there was was delivered in the usual Newman style so I didn't feel there was any radical shift in direction and Rob was certainly more on form that the last gig I saw.

The gig was a replacement for a gig earlier which had to be cancelled. Rob's excuse - "he had a cold and forgot!" apparently he had spent the day with his friend Martine looking at a house, one of them might have bought, in Shrewsbury.

Rob appeared to music (a la the Dependence day Tour - though not to Parsley the Lion's theme) wearing a wool hat and an emergency services style fluorescent waistcoat. He then turned around to reveal the word "polite" across his back rather than "police" (this cracked me up in particular as when I was young I used to love swapping letters in words and wondering if there was some mystical connection ; "dad" - "bad" "friend"- "fiend" "police" - "polite"!)

There was some old material which was recycled - the shagging incident at Tribal Gathering, the volvo with rear hosepipe attachment, almost the entire Jarvis skit, and others, but overall the material was new. I also noted a large proportion of the audience were not the typical age range who would have seen Rob previously - here we had people the wrong side of 40 for a change. For these people especially, and for the rest of the audience who cannot recite almost the entire 2nd series MWE and N&B in pieces series verbatim, I'm sure everything seemed fresh.

A new character was Eric Catatonia. An old bloke who likes upsetting people and is paranoid. I didn't particularly find him very amusing.

We also had an insight into the "Ray - inflicted with the sarcastic tone of voice" character.. or else another play on the same joke.. Rob is now saying he had a Swedish girlfriend who couldn't do a sarcastic tone of voice......

My own personal favourite new piece, was Rob commenting on how whenever he has an electrician, plumber etc round, he feels ridiculously gay. As I was sitting next to my boyfriend who is an electrician, this really cracked me up!

Andre Vincent - the support - was quite good, and had the difficult job of warming the audience up, after an initial cold reaction, he quickly developed a rapport and went down very well. I'd personally not heard of him before, but if you get a chance he is well worth checking out.

I'd found out that Rob had parted company with Avalon, but on the basis of this tour it seems he is now under the Bound and Gagged banner. He wasn't very impressed with the press release that they gave out with the tickets. Rob said the info in it was a pack of lies, and apologised to the audience.
The "Manners" book was for sale in the foyer and there were small tour posters available (nice piccie) with a political mag.

Anyone else seen the tour? Whaddya think?


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This was the way the 1998 Edinburgh Fringe Festival site advertised the show
Rob Newman

His home-help is on-hand to decipher the twenty-stone recluse's mutterings. Audiences should not be put off by his need to count to 47 every time he hears a noise or by his frequent trips to peepee.

Venue 3: Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street
Aug. 11-12 22.00 (22.50) £5.00
Aug 13,16-17,19-20,23-27 22.00 (22.50) £9.50 £8.50
Aug 14-15,21-22,28-31 22.00 (22.50) £10.50 £9.50

Huge thanks to Lynn Gilmour for letting us use her review:

Was I sure what to expect after a three year absence from the stand-up circuit? No!! Was I pleased with Rob's "all new" show? Yes!! He's less coolly critical, but still sharp, analytical and thought provoking; for that read deeply cynical and depressing!

Catch him wherever you can - he's touring in October and November throughout the UK. Otherwise he'll disappear back to his writing den somewhere in deepest London and we won't get another chance to see this neurotic genius in action again until after the Millennium. The best comedy show on this year's Fringe.

And huge thanks also to Craig Robertson for letting us use his review:

Welcome back Rob! It's been too long since we have had a chance to enjoy Rob Newman's brilliant brand of humour on the stage. The hour flew past and by the end we were left in no doubt that he has lost none of his comic genius (he could do with losing a bit of weight though!). Go on, book your ticket right now and look forward to something special.

The Financial Times, 1998
by Ian Shuttleworth

Also at Assembly, comedian Rob Newman has returned after a few years in post-Baddiel, post-first novel exile. He feels no obligation to Gatling-gun gags at us, often delivering quite disarming confessional digressions about his wilderness years. When the jokes come, they are not only marvellous, but sharper than ever, with most of his bile reserved for the corporatisation of culture and big-business dictatorship of society at large. Political comedy, all but dead on the Fringe, has been resurrected in a most unexpected quarter – although Newman would rightly hate the label. A warm welcome back to both it and him.

From The Observer
Comedy: Rob Newman, Observer Assembly
By Phil Daoust
Monday, August 17 1998

For the past three years Rob Newman has been away from the comedy circuit, writing novels. That's his story, anyway, but it seems more likely he's been doing an OU politics-and-economics course. There aren't many performers who'd dare explain the relationship between bond prices and inflation, and fewer still who'd sound like they knew what they were talking about - but in this new show Newman happily tackles such weighty subjects on a stop-go tour of global capitalism, New Labour and human vulnerability.

Assured and charming, he layers this "deep" stuff with some obvious crowd-pleasers. You won't easily forget "global shit-stirrer" Robin Cook telling the King of Saudi Arabia that Saddam's been calling him a poof, or Newman's "true story" of the Last Supper, all the disciples pissed as Jesus keeps churning out the wine.

A few months ago, after seeing Newman defeated by massed freeloaders at a comedy-club launch, I wrote something about him being unsuited for stand-up. Excuse me while I kick myself.

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From Danny Wallace's BBC Funny Talk page:

Rob Newman's pretty happy with the way his new festival show's been going so far. "It's nice to be doing stand-up again. I'd taken a few years out to write my new book. It's not that it's a particularly hard book to write, it's just that I'm not all that bright and things like this take time. But the show's been going really well, people seem to like it and every night's fun," he tells me over an incredibly strange Assembly Rooms fruit cocktail. "I look forward to every show." Aaaaw...

From BBC's Edinburgh Festival Site, Guest diarist (1998):

Next stop the Assembly Rooms for Rob Newman - another sold out show . Rob is Baddiel's original comedy partner and has gone to ground over the last 3 years to write a follow up to his best selling novel. He appeared looking dishevelled and smoking away and launched into his act as if he has never been away.

It was a strange atmosphere as the audience couldn't make up its mind if it wanted to participate or not. He has the knack of telling a great story and the punchline always reverts back to something he touched on earlier. He also did a great impression of Tony Blair which, rather bizarrely, morphed into Ronnie Corbett!. For his encore he proceeded to open the fire exit as it was so warm and invite passers by in but he got no takers . A great show and good to see him back.

The Scotsman: starstarstarstar (can't find that review!)

BBC Review
Rob Newman
Venue 3: Assembly Rooms

"Thanks for coming, really, cheers, thanks," says Rob Newman, up on stage doing his first show in what seems like forever. "You've probably been wondering where I've been for the last three years," he says, before launching into a show that is, in turns, funny, clever, and stupid. While his political comedy lacks a searing, deadly edge, it's probably made all the more cannily accessible for it. His storytelling is both skilful and intelligent, and he knows how to work his audience, playing on his "did you miss me?" appeal while remaining casually aloof the whole time.

Though he appears the same old Rob Newman - plus a few stone - perhaps that's his trick; to reel us in, and then hit us with something unexpected. Newman, or a new man? You decide.

Excerpt from 'This is London' guide to the Edinburgh Festival, 1998:

But most intriguing of all: could this be the year that Rob Newman resurrects his performing career?

The Guardian, October, 1998.
Rob Newman, Southampton Guildhall

After a few years spent contemplating his novel, Rob Newman has returned triumphantly to the live arena. His new stand-up show majors on vividly imaginative sequences. For instance, he expresses his delight that the Canadian Olympic snowboarder was re-awarded his gold medal after testing positive for marijuana. What possible advantage could dope give you in the competition, he wonders, "unless someone at the other end was holding up a large packet of chocolate Hobnobs or the finishing line was an all-night garage."

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