IT'S hard not to be anything but impressed by comedian Ross Noble's CV. For the past 21 years he has reigned as one the country's leading stand-ups and has notched up 13 sell-out tours and released seven top-selling DVDs.
To cement his place at the top of the comedy pile he was ranked 10th in Channel 4's poll of 100 Greatest Stand-Ups in 2010. His popularity has also spread abroad to the likes of Australia and Hong Kong and at the age of 36 he is already regarded as a stand-up legend.
The Geordie, known as "the king of improvisational comedy", is now embarking on his first major nationwide tour for two years with new show Mindblender. It arrives at Plymouth Pavilions on November 27, and will showcase his completely unique, vivid imagination and original talent which means no two shows are ever the same. Ross, who has recently enjoyed a year off during which he has indulged in his passion for riding dirt bikes, said: "I had been gigging solidly for 21 years, so I thought 'I'll take this year off and I won't tour, but spend the time doing normal things like an off-road motorbike race through Dracula's home state!'"
The comedian admits that at first he was nervous about returning to the live arena after his year away. "I began performing again in Australia earlier this year," he recalled. "When I started, I was thinking, do you have to be match fit like a boxer? What if I've forgotten how to do it? But the moment I walked on stage it came flooding back. It was like getting back into a warm bath.
"The fact that I have not been so caught up in stand-up means that I'm now in my best form for years. The break has given me a new hunger. I have recharged my mental batteries and come back with fresh energy. It has also made me appreciate how much I love stand-up. Going back to it has just been such fun."
Ross' shows have a rare energy because he is such a great improviser. The comic, who recently made his debut as a leading actor in a feature film, a horror movie entitled Stitches, explained: "What a lot of comedians do is write a load of jokes, see which ones work and hone them. But I simply go on and improvise stuff. That might spark the seed of the next idea, and that in turn might spark the seed of the next idea.
"I'm so keen to explore new ideas that I don't keep the original idea. My show is a constant work in progress. It's continually fluid. The best way to describe it is to say it is like driving a car. When they first start driving, most people are nervous. They have to look at the gear stick and don't know which pedal is which. But once they get to the point where they can drive without thinking, that's when they can go much faster and start to fly.
"Stand-up is exactly the same. Playing a rough club is like driving in heavy traffic – you're constantly negotiating obstacles. If you skid off the road, just deal with it. Yes, you might drive up a cul-de-sac, but then you can show off, do a handbrake turn and get back on the road!"
In fact, Ross admits he never plans much before going on stage.
"That gets in the way," he said. "The way I do things is easier, because it allows me to play. If you get too caught up in the mechanics of what you're doing or over-think it, that takes away from enjoying it.
"When reviewers say that I just talk very amusing nonsense, I see that as the biggest compliment because you can't make an audience laugh for two hours unless it's funny. If it looks easy, then job done! When they're telling colleagues about my show at work the next day, people should be saying, 'You really had to be there!' I want to create something new every night.
"Then they feel part of something special, rather than just watching the show passively. That's my goal." There is no comedian currently at work who is better at involving the audience in the show. Ross, who has a huge and devoted fan base which follows him around the country, concludes that he really relishes that side of the job.
"Bouncing off the audience is the most amazing sensation," he said. "Sometimes you can see that people who haven't been to my show before are freaking out when I start talking to the audience. They're worried because a lot of comedians rip audience members to pieces for other people's entertainment.
"But I don't do that. I just want to get them involved. I don't pick on anyone or make anyone feel excluded. My audience gets me. They realise there's no malice in it.
"That allows me to go a lot further because people aren't terrified. I want to say to the people who are coming to my show, 'Don't worry, it's all going to be fine'. That should be the title of the tour!"
Tickets for the show cost £25. Call 0845 146 1460 or visit www. plymouthpavilions.com