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1999 Reviews


Huge thanks to Biscuit for this review:
Norwich Arts Centre 17th February 1999

Right here it is the long awaited review of the 'R' man.
As I took a dictaphone with me on this one I was hoping for some help in the memory dept. (I have now realised that dictaphones are sh*t - and it was brand new) - caught some things just not very well. HERE GOES!
Rob was on at 8.40 not as billed 8.30 it soon became apparent that he'd no idea what the running order (if there was one) was! He did some of the stand-up to begin with from the autumn tour all the same stuff. Then said he would explain for the people that hadn't been to warm up gigs before how they worked as he said he'd been coming to the Norwich Arts Centre since 1991 doing quiet, informal shows for - any of his new material, - then glossed over the fact that this new stuff was for a TV SHOW !!! that he was doing soon but he neglected to tell us anything more than that -( no channel, no time etc. Although we were being filmed from the back of the theatre so pos his own production?? ) we only found out that we were being filmed when he completely mucked up a joke and got it all round the wrong way and told '.............. Martin to stop filming we'll get it right tomorrow - and I've messed this one up....).

He had two female comedians with him, one I had heard of Jo Enright & one I hadn't Cathy Connor (or O'Connor) I can't make it out on the tape! -she was heavily pregnant or as Rob said she's up the stick! - They were helping with the sketches and also his tour manager Bobby Troman got himself roped in as well. Rob was in a bit of a state himself he looked like he'd just got up wearing
blue combat trousers and a long baggy blue shirt - He has porked out big style this time looking larger than life (bigger than at Tufnel park kazz) Christmas I suppose?

He did mention (whilst trying to find props) that he'd spent part of Christmas day in the local Chinese Takeaway - he said that he thought that at any moment he'd see a van pull up outside and tell him and the other sad people to get in '.....You've failed at love, you've failed at family - you've failed at life GET IN!...'

The stand up that he started with was (and I hope this jogs a few memories for the recall of autumn) the 500 million £'s given to a foreign company in Newcastle to start a project which they didn't finish and went back to there own country taking the money with them....'should have just given the money to the Newcastle boys and let them start an off shore oil boring company in the ice flats - where they would have saved money but not wearing coats, because they are -- '...........reet hard me I'll wear only a T-shirt with the selves rolled up!..'

Rob chopped and changed around and then did one of his new sketches for the telly - explaining the principal behind each one as he went this one was to do with the people who on the news walk up to No:10 Downing street when there is no other shot on the news to use in conjunction with the story that they are running at the time - each one had Rob as the minister, with Jo Enright as the newsreader giving some newscaster waffle about each political subject the first of many being Confident about the economy and this had Rob strutting across the stage in that manner.

The next had Bobby Troman pushing Rob as he was unconfident about the Economy with Rob resisting and trying to get back off stage this ended up with Rob being frog marched across the stage and being pushed/fighting a lot which was really funny. Then one about a minister who had disclaimed the evidence about himself being involved in arms dealing guns etc. (To which a masked terrorist comes on saying here are those guns you wanted and Rob tries to cover this up by saying the time yes. Quarter to three, oh um.......and ends up being chased across the stage by a terrorist producing a gun and waving it about).

Rob was telling the audience that he asked the Arts Centre where was his hotel and they just said to him that it was near a CHURCH! ( anyone not familiar with Norwich there's a small old church about every ten shops/house's along any street!) The next sketches aren't quite in order (bloody tape machine!!) The scene is set with Cathy coming out of a living room (Rob offstage) and her standing in the kitchen ( Rob offstage yells come back!!) she then goes on to say '....I'm not coming back in there you're driving me crazy watching the TV, you're like who's that, what does she do (talking about a TV programme that hey are watching) - and then five mins later you're like and who's she what does she have to do with the story?? I'm fed up with it!! Just get your stuff and F*ck off out of here go on go I've had enough of you going on!! (Rob then comes onto the stage with dark sunglasses on and a white stick (implying that he's blind) to a big laugh.

Then the most bizarre event of the night but IMHO the best of the night Rob, Jo Enright & Cathy Connor come on stage in huge big afro hairdo's and do an impression of the Four tops and start doing this dance and singing (I'm sorry I can't remember how this started or why I'm not even sure it really happened as it was that surreal - Rob was worried about his singing but didn't really have to !!! '.....darling reach..reach out reach out for me - I'll be there.....etc.' (you know the song) - (I listened to this on the tape again today and oh course couldn't hear hardly any singing as everyone was killing 'em selves laughing the physical comedy was v funny and as I listened to it again I could see them and tears were rolling down my face it was so funny - I hope this is in the TV show as it has to be seen to be believed!! Rob went on to do more stand-up and did a bit about protest's in London and how they should do protests to stop the city and bring it to a halt - but it should be done by four year old children - the down side of this being that by the time the kids got there and just started to protest they would start to fall asleep and would need to be picked up and taken to bed.

Then Rob did a sketch with two people (which I can see as becoming as strong as Jarvis) he described them as two very lovely old people 'The Lavenders' Hubert & Gladys - who look like they wouldn't hurt a fly - they (Rob & Cath) then do a sketch with Jo as a neighbour who comes round and Gladys offers her a cup of tea but tries to make it out of a tin labelled 'Weed Killer' - as the neighbour then points this out to her she just says'......I must have made a mistake how unfortunate .......(the gist being that they have a sinister undercurrent to them ) - they then invite her to a picnic near a cliff ( you get the idea!) They also do a sketch on a tube train where Hubert & Gladys are sitting Rob says '...You know it's national smile week this week and we missed national book week last week we should combine the two so they get a book which says how to commit MURDER on the front of it and they they look at the audience and smile (in a sinister way).

This couple then as Rob explained - go around taking notes about things that may break .....ie at a local air show Rob says '....so if a hammer were to be dropped in the cockpit of this tornado jet it would cost 5 million £'s to fix (they then take notes ) the same vain with the millennium dome '....so you say that that is the only support for the dome that one pillar hhmmm......'(then they take notes again) Rob then does some more stand up - about the Minks that escaped from that mink factory and saying that they won't survive in the wild '....like they had a chance in the factory......I reckon that they should get together and form there own company (then does this mink impression) yes let's form a limited company with shares hhmmm.......'.

He also does the poopy pants sketch about the traveller/grungy types that he sees getting told off ( if your not familiar with it let me know and I'll post it!) The interval came and went 9.15 Rob asked if whilst we were out at the bar he would leave a blank piece of paper for the title of his new show because he couldn't think of one as yet -(this was to become where I came in - as Brian a mate of mine and me were walking back into the hall to get our seats we saw this piece of paper which was blank ! no -one had written on it so having a pen and neither of us being able to come up with anything half way decent I wrote NEWMAN GOES TO TOWN (OH DEAR! yes I know crap!) but I felt sorry for him! (that's my excuse) and we were back at 9.30 for Rob to say that in the interval it was a v poor effort on behalf of his show title only one person (me) wrote anything and then and rightly so slagged Newman goes to town off!

He blamed this on the mentality of the Norfolk bumpkins (which I am not - I don't come from Norfolk - I come form Hertfordshire) he then introduced Jo Enright for 20 mins of her own stand up which was very funny!

He then did Jarvis after her set nothing v new at all apart from ( I think this was new) he'd asked the people of Nottingham where the red light district was and they'd said Sherwood Forest and he said 'hhmmm...that's what I like taking it from the rich and giving it to the poor....'as only Jarvis can - the usual boy band management thing about them splitting.

Then he did Eric nothing new just the usual about the health workers and eating crisps and drinking beer and some people drinking beer and eating crisps and some people you know eating crisps whilst drinking beer '.......'cause we've all got different personality types haven't we.......'Eric. Also the giving up smoking stuff and the Stephen Hawking stuff the lactating woman etc. Jarvis did do a piece about students and their parents driving to stay at university for the first time he can tell that they don't know where they're going because he can see their duvets and pot plants on the parcel shelves of their cars - so he decides to put a pot plant on the back of his parcel shelf in his Bentley and they all follow him around like the pied piper. Jarvis also did a thing about Richey from the Manic Street Preachers about playing with some kites on the Severn Bridge where he went missing and about keeping him in his cellar as his Gimp.

As for paying £3.50 to get in I think I got my money's worth x3!
Some of the Rob sketches were a little bit slow but only because the other people who were reading from his scripts couldn't read his hand writing! Which he had to help with on several occassions. One sketch Rob only wrote 5 mins before the show with the Lavenders in it something about an airport and them getting involved with the Mafia (at this point my brand new tape machine died and started to spew tape out at me and it got slapped v hard by me so I missed the sketch as I was trying to sort it out and bung in another tape! *~#***!!!!) As I didn't get home 'til late 'cause I live miles away from Norwich and I know your all waiting for this I will add more as I remember or can hear on the crappy tape machine!
Cheers for now - I'm gonna lie down in a darkened room.
Biscuit.

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Thanks also to Nicky Jones for writing this review for us:
Portsmouth 21st February, 1999

Take Portsmouth, a cold British seaside port, full of tacky arcades, peeling salt eroded paint on already dilapidated Victorian architecture. Take an otherwise tedious Sunday evening and add to this mixture one small venue, a few people and one Mr Robert Newman.

Having been a Rob fan since my teenage years I jumped at the chance to finally witness a Rob live experience. And I wasn’t to be disappointed!

The show began at Eight o’clock with the man himself exploding onto the stage wearing combat pants and a pink vest with ‘polite’ written across the back. The significance of which confused me for a while but, I came to the conclusion that it was an obtuse reference to political correctness, or then again maybe there was no joke and the joke was on everyone who tried to find one.

Starting off a little nervously Rob soon seemed to find his feet launching into a surreal account of his childhood and how it was so clichéd that no-one ever believed him when he told them that his first memory was of a dog running away with a string of sausages from a fat mosey cheeked man with a handlebar moustache wearing a striped apron. This bought the first laugh of the show, after which he seemed to relax and go with the flow.

This was followed by what seems to be a favourite subject, that of past girlfriends. He began with his summary of how his Swedish ex. just could not do sarcasm. Which is hard to explain in writing but just imagine a tone in a Swedish accent that is totally inappropriate and you have a good idea of where the comedic value lies. It was hilarious at the time for all but the obligatory heckler who began at this point in the show, by shouting ‘I’ve heard this before’ to which Rob replied something along the lines of ‘ Get yourself away then young man’( which is an obvious euphemism).

This was followed by observations both political and sexual. The best being his view on how stupid men look during sex and how women turn into what he described as ‘Writhing Godesses’.

The next section of the show, for which Rob donned a beige blazer and Panama hat, involved an old couple, ‘The Lavenders’ whose mission it seemed was one of organised yet blatantly concealed genocide. The portrayal of whom, really was enough for you to think that when your Grandparents next make what you once would have considered to be a harmless comment about murder or some such atrocity, you should be finding the exit and leaving by it at light speed.

His observation of the public perception of old people as being harmless was very astute ,well put together and executed with perfect timing in an intelligent, witty way.

In one scene we meet the Lavenders in a shopping centre after a shooting. They are walking away from the crime scene and on being stopped by the police are asked if they saw anything to which they reply, "oh, it was terrible all those people dead"; Then in a sinister lowered tone Mr Lavender says "wouldn’t it be terrible if there was a shooting over there, just where we’re going in about five minutes".

Followed by the return of an old favourite, Jarvis ,who in case you’ve never seen him before wears a red velvet smoking jacket and slowly but sensuously smokes a cigarette through a black holder. Essentially he is an extremely sex obsessed upperclass English gent who is turned on by literally any reference to sex however indefinable the link.

His depiction was so convincing that as a woman to use a phrase coined by the man himself, "It really turned me on." The heckler however was not so impressed and launched a vitriolic offensive only to be shot down in flames by the legendary Newman wit. To the delight of the audience both male and female.

The only low point of the show was Rob’s unnecessarily wicked treatment of a fan who naively stood up whilst he was in full flow and asked him to sign a copy of his book ‘Dependence Day’ to which Rob’s reaction was to take the book and then throw it into the audience, which I think sent out a bad message as to how he thinks of his fans. This may have not been what he wanted to achieve but it tainted an otherwise enjoyable evening. Especially when the aforementioned misguided individual attempted the same approach again only to receive the same harsh treatment.

Don’t get me wrong, the night was ultimately the most enjoyable night out I’ve ever had for £8.50 and upon ending it was no surprise that Rob received a rousing round of applause so much so that he returned for an extra ten minutes encore. Which pleased all, (apart from Mr Heckler), who like a moth to the flame once again found himself beating against an impenetrable barrier of discerning humour (which is a bad simile really because when a moth flies into a flame the last thing it meets is humour, but well). Which automatically united the audience against said prat and ended the night on a high.

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From The Guardian, by Ludovic Hunter-Tielney:
The Almeida, London, 10th April 1999

Rob Newman, alongside David Baddiel, was instrumental in the tagging of comedy as the new rock 'n' roll. But having disappeared to write novels, it seems apt that Newman's return to stand-up at last year's Edinburgh Festival should reveal a previously unheralded political sensibility.

The show Newman brings to the Almeida mixes stand-up routines and sketches. The latter, in which he is assisted by Ronnie Ancona and Cath Connor, begin promisingly with a spoof joyfully mocking Portishead's doom-laden music. But they soon decline to toothless parodies of television news reportage.

Newman's strengths do not lie in satire. His stand-up routines rail against a 'post-Keynsian, post-Stalinist, post-free market' world ruled by 'elite corporate power' - overlooking the AT+T logo branded on to his posters outside. His attempts to put the chuckles into Chomsky, although brave, meet with only patchy success.

A similar variability affects Newman's comic characters. Jarvis, the de Sadean dandy, is warmly greeted by a receptive audience; Mr and Mrs Lavender, a mirthless approximation of the murderous shopkeepers in The League Of Gentlemen, strike fewer chords.

Newman seems more at ease with the observational and absurd material for which he remains best known, such as his winning tale of an unfortunate liaison at Tribal Gathering. Here Newman ponders on the ridiculous postures men ('rutting bunnies') adopt during sex: very much the Wyman-esque bass players of the business, while women get to be Mick Jagger and Keith Richards rolled into one.

He ends by assuring the audience the two subsequent evenings will be slicker and more polished; and in this he rather charmingly proves himself his own best critic.


From The Sunday Times, 25th July 1999:
PICK OF THE WEEK
Rob Newman

The former teen-god has fleshed out both his waistline and his material, and he now cuts a mature figure. Newman has a sharply subversive mind, but it's as good at puncturing his own pretensions as those of the military-industrial complex, and his politics never overwhelm his comic impulses. He's a great physical performer, too, not just brilliant at the verbals. The man who shambles onstage may look like a pub-band roadie, but he's a rock-solid star turn.

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Much thanks to Biscuit, as usual, for this review:
Nottingham, 4th November 1999
(Billed as Storytelling and character monologues from his novel in progress)

Well like we joked that Rob prob didn't know what was going on - he was supposed to be there at 7pm but we had an announcement that he was going to be late and not be there until 8.15 - so the audience DRANK! - the audience was quiet small about 25 people ?? - Rob said that when he got there he was just gonna pop his head around the door at the back of the room and just cancel if he thought there weren't enough people in the room! but he then said that because he fell down the stairs people saw him and he had to come in the room <g> (whether he was taking the piss or not I couldn't tell) although when he did get on stage he said if ya don't want me to do the gig - I'll come back and basically asked us if that's what we wanted! - as we'd all been sitting there for an hour we said he should do the show.....so reluctantly he did!

The show mainly comprised of a mixture of his stand up and (some crumpled notes that he kept clutching to his chest!) - which contained stories, about things he done, (not the new novel) - as he did a mixture of the two it went OK and he then asked us if we wanted a second half or not!!! - he said I'll go for a break and if your still here I'll do some other stuff . He said he'd done a gig in Brighton on Monday for some festival - and had got very drunk! so couldn't really remember too much about it! and had also mentioned something about a gig can't remember if that was in London 'league against tedium'..........he was complaining about being tired and he looked it - as it had taken an hour of driving around Nottingham trying to find the gig and then he'd realised that 20 odd people were there! I think he just wanted to go to his hotel and crash.......fair enough!

He came round the table's in the interval asking whether we wanted a second half and of course the response was YES! - so he did a second half that was quite short and a bit of a mess as he said just forget the second half and go home thinking about the first half - second half comprised of a political ramble about Debt, mixed with stand-up which worked OK ish and then he said I'll read some of the stuff I've done for my new novel and then said ' it's about twins born in Mexico........' then stopped!!!! - said oh f*ck it I can't do that and didn't do anymore complained about the audience looking at him with puppy dog eyes because we wanted him to tell us about his new book! - but instead read a page or two from manners........he said that it was very difficult for him to do readings and again that he was tired................

The gig was good but only if you know what Rob's like and I think because the audience did he got away with it-seemed to be warm up material and testers, but he did complain about the lack of publicity about the gig and so this leads me to think that who ever is promoting his gigs nationally or locally just aren't trying to get him ANY! - you're all advised to check local papers etc 'cause I think he's doing a lot more than we've been able to find out about so as always ......keep 'em peeled - he could be performing in a pub near you!


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