Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Rob Auton: The Sleep Show

By | Published on Monday 19 September 2016


The brilliant and quirky Rob Auton wowed our reviewer with a performance of his latest show up in Edinburgh in the summer, pronouncing it to be hilarious, poignant and even life-affirming.
This wasn’t remotely surprising – we’ve been fans here at TWHQ for some time, and it’s actually not that long since we last spoke to him – but given that he is bringing the aforementioned show to Soho this week, I thought it was a good excuse to send a few questions over to him. So, I did.

CM: Tell us about the show you will be performing at Soho Theatre – what is it all about?
RA: This year I have written a show that is about sleep. It is called ‘The Sleep Show’. I put the word sleep in the middle of the spider diagram last year and this show is the end result of that spider diagram. Every year I pick a subject that I want to think about for myself and write about for myself. I basically want to give myself an excuse to think about something I don’t really think in depth about too much such as sleeping. Last year it was water, the year before it was faces, the year before that it was the sky, and my first show in 2012 was all about the colour yellow. I want to force myself to explore parts of my life that I wouldn’t normally devote too much thought to.

CM: What made you decide to focus this show on sleep, in particular?
RA: Sleep is something that comes naturally to me and to a lot of other people too. I want to write about ingredients that make up my life that I have in common with other people. Sleeping is one of the key ingredients. I have been going to sleep and waking up for as long as I can remember. I was doing it in the womb. I don’t know what I was first. Asleep or awake? I hope I got some sleep before I woke up for the first time. I wouldn’t want to be awake before ever having been to sleep. That would be the epitome of starting off on the back foot.

CM: Your shows do seem to have quite specific themes – sleep, water, the colour yellow. Why do you go for these narrow topics, and how do you decide on them?
RA: I should have read this question before answering the others. I am answering them as I read them to be honest. I am not saving up any answers here. I hope that is alright. Have I answered this question already? If not here we go. Please don’t edit this to make it smooth. This is what my shows are like. I start the gig and hope for the best. Why do I choose narrow topics? I love writing to briefs and trying to solve problems. By giving myself a topic to write about I hope I can zoom in on it to make other things come into focus too. Talking about one thing can often make people think about other things. If I try to talk about too many subjects at once people don’t know which ball/subject to catch. My next show is going to be about hair. ‘The Hair Show’. I am not getting my haircut or shaving until next September. I’m not sure how it will go down with my parents. They like ‘Rapunzel’ though, so fingers crossed.

CM: You just performed this up in Edinburgh, of course, and our reviewer was much affected by it. How did the run go, from your perspective?
RA: Thanks a lot to your reviewer for coming to it. The run went alright, thanks. I should probably be more positive than that but there is no way I am going to start banging on about how much I enjoyed it and how brilliant the show was because Edinburgh is an untameable beast in my opinion. I had some shows that I really loved and I had some that were more challenging. It’s the challenging shows that make it worthwhile, I think. Coming away from a gig and being cross with myself makes me work harder for the next one. I want to be challenged because it makes me look at the work to see if I believe in it. If the answer is yes then that’s alright, but if I think the audience have got a point and they have found a weak point then I’ll put my exploring hat on. I came away from Edinburgh feeling encouraged, which was good. I want to improve as a performer and writer and I think Edinburgh is a good place to try to earn some stripes/lines through bad material.

CM: Did you get to any other festivals this summer?
RA: Yes, I went to Latitude and Camp Bestival. Short answer that one. Well it was longer than it could have been, I could have just written YES and that would have been it but look at me now! I’ve got the taste for answers. Have you got any answers? Right, screw this I’m going to the job centre to get a job as a detective. (2 hours later) Nope, no jobs. OK, next question.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the ‘Bang Said The Gun’ nights that you’re involved with? Who else is involved with it?
RA: ‘Bang Said The Gun’ is a poetry night for people who think they are going to have a really terrible night at a poetry night. It is also suitable for those who think they are going to have a great night at a poetry night. It was started by Dan Cockrill and Martin Galton about 17 years ago. “Poetry not ponce”. They have been waving the bang flag for years.

I got on board in 2008. Laurie Bolger and I share the hosting duties now a days and Dan and Martin perform. We want to put on a party, really, where people get up and share what they want to share through words. We play Little Richard nice and loud and give the audience milk bottles full of chick peas to shake. It is a monthly event held at Bloomsbury theatre. We also have a big one coming up at Leicester Square theatre in October. Over the past five years we have had some of my favourite writers come and perform including Roger McGough and John Hegley.

CM: The last time we spoke to you, you said you were about to make a wormery. How did that go?
RA: Thanks for asking, yes, the worms are doing well thanks. They are multiplying and they are turning my teabags into what is known in the trade as ‘black gold’. They lap all sorts of stuff up. Not too keen on pudding though I can tell you that. Who would have thought it? Worms do not have a single sweet tooth between them.

CM: What’s next for The Sleep Show? Will you continue to perform it?
RA: Yes I am going to be doing it around and about and then I will hopefully do a bit of a tour in the spring.

CM: What else have you got coming up?
RA: I am currently writing my new book of writing. It is called ‘TAKE HAIR’ and it will be available in 2017. It will be a mix of writing and drawings. It is called ‘TAKE HAIR’ because people say that to me quite a lot. “TAKE HAIR, won’t you Rob.” I am also writing my new show that is about hair. Oh I said that didn’t I. Well it is true. And my washing machine broke down this morning, so I am going to be trying to get that fixed.

Rob performs ‘The Sleep Show’ at Soho Theatre from 21-24 Sep, see the venue website here for details.

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