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      What’s Eating Gilbert?

      After developing a reputation as the ‘angry man’ of comedy, multi award-winning Welsh whirlwind Rhod Gilbert has returned with an altogether more chilled out stage persona. Following some ‘inner-self’ analysis, the comedian has decided he needs to look at life from a more horizontal perspective, albeit still as a stand-up. With ‘work experience’ gained in a variety of  areas, via three series of a TV show named just that, Rhod has strengthened his already flourishing career as a presenter and tippy toed on a path that may lead him in another direction in the future. But for now, Rhod’s rants on life’s minor irritations will continue being vociferously vocalised, just that he too will now be laughing at them, along with his sell out crowds.

      Reviews of your latest tour have suggested we'll be presented with a more mellow Rhod when you visit Southport this month. Is this a new approach to delivering your material or due to personal development?
      It's due to several things; partly I'm getting mellower with age, but mainly it's due to me realising what a contrary, argumentative little git I have been all my life and trying to change. It's also partly to do with the tattoo in the title of the show, the flaming Battenberg Tattoo on my shoulder, that I had done for my 'Work Experience' TV show. I didn't even want the stupid tattoo, but it’s changed my life…. So you'll have to come and see the show to find out what happened. Sorry.

      And do you think 'new' Rhod will be as popular as 'angry' Rhod?  
      There’s still lots of the old style angry Rhod, for people who like the ranting and me losing it on stage. It's just that this show is sort of looking back on that angry person with a bit more distance. So rather than ranting and raving and actually being getting angry, I'm on stage asking, 'what was I like back then?, how much of a berk was I?, I used to get angry about such pointless trivial stuff?', and then I'll give examples of the kind of stuff I used to rant about. So I am actually ranting, but sort of laughing at myself at the same time. I have genuinely got better. Although having said that, I am still probably 80 per cent more petty, argumentative and contrary than normal people.

      How close is your personality to the persona we see on stage?
      I used to think that what I did on stage was a character. But I’ve learnt that what I have been doing on stage is being myself pretty much. As I said, I am very contrary and will argue black is white and white is black. I'll change sides in the middle of an argument if I'm losing and argue just as strongly exactly the opposite of what I was just arguing. But somehow I never really connected this personality trait with what I did on stage. I’ve since realised that what I’ve been doing on stage is just a comic exaggeration of myself. Since I've realised that, I have tried to calm down a bit, on and off stage and it has worked to some degree, which is why we have a mellower me on stage now.

      A great deal of your work is now based around presenting, either for TV or radio. Can you conceive a time when you will stop doing stand-up entirely?
      Yes, I think I can. I can never imagine how I will write another show anyway. That's the case every time I do a new show. I've done six new full shows in seven years, but each time I think, 'oh my god, how can I ever write another one?'. I think a lot of people are like that about writing. If I can keep doing it I will, but the last thing I want is to do a show that is substandard. I don't want people ever to say 'he used to be funny'. Well, apart from on my tombstone, that would be ok.

      After appearing regularly on primetime TV you're now a 'household' name. Do you feel comfortable with this level of recognition?
      It's very difficult and freaks me out a lot. This level of recognition is very hard to deal with.  People coming up for photos when you’re in the middle of an argument with your girlfriend, people asking you for autographs at funerals, people trying to get off with you while you're trying to explain the length you want your trousers in a Polish dry cleaners, it can be hard.  I'm not complaining though. Well I am, but usually if you say 'I'm not complaining' on the end of a complaint you can get away with it.

      How well did the course you did in stand-up serve you in your career?
      It was invaluable. It didn’t teach me much about being funny, but it took me from someone who had never done a gig and had no idea about how to go about doing a gig, to someone who had done a gig. And that is a huge difference. Once I had done that first one, I loved it and never looked back, but I would never have done that first one without doing the course, so for me it was absolutely life-changing. I also got to meet great people on it who I am still friends with and work with. The giant Greg Davies, who I once described as looking like the bloated corpse of Rik Mayall (which I stand by), was on that same course and that's how we met.

      If the venture into comedy hadn't worked out so well, which of your previous job roles would you have gone back to, if any?
      Cabbage picking in Australia. The hours were bad, the work was bad, the cabbages were bad and the money was bad, but it was good fun somehow.

      When you're in the midst of a 100+ date tour what's harder, winding down after gigs or gearing up for the next?
      Both. The two things meet at about 5.30 in the morning in your body and brain in a spaghetti junction of stress, adrenaline, excitement and anxiety. I love it though, and I think that comes through on stage (not at 5.30 in the morning, …usually about 8pm).

      The third series of 'Work Experience' sees you try your hand at primary school teaching and by all accounts you relished this role. Did you expect to take to it so readily given your parents are teachers and siblings work in education?
      No. I deliberately avoided education because of that. I wanted to do something different, but I absolutely loved teaching, fell in love with the school and teachers, and may well retrain as a teacher one day or at least be involved with teaching in some capacity. So it's got me in the end, I knew it would. You can never escape your destiny.

      A recent review of 'The Man with the Flaming Battenberg Tattoo' described a 'master class by a stand-up completely in his comfort zone.' What takes you furthest out of your comfort zone?
      Well I think being a Drag Artist on the latest series of 'Work Experience' was about as far out of my comfort zone as I would ever want to be. I'm no female impersonator. I’’ve read women’’s magazines at the dentist’s, but a quick go at a word search doesn’t make you Emily Pankhurst, so I went to a ‘male to female makeover’ company in Aldershot to try to find if I had a hidden female side… - apparently, they could make Brian Blessed look like Audrey Hepburn. They stuck on some metaphorical rubber gloves, bent me over and tried to find my inner woman. They say there’’s a woman in all of us struggling to get out...but when mine did finally emerge, the struggle had clearly taken its toll. I looked like a horse with an admin job. Performing on stage, I lasted about two minutes then had a nervous collapse.

      Will 'Rhod Gilbert's Leaving Llanbobl' soon hit our TV screens?
      No. I haven’t written it yet. I hope to one day, but for now, it's on a back burner. I just don't have time. Sorry. The dog ate it. I've got lots of excuses.  

      Rhod Gilbert: The Man With The Flaming Battenberg Tattoo visits Southport Theatre & Convention Centre on June 17.