In Conversation With Rob Auton
One of a kind writer, poet, and comedian, Rob Auton, had a chat with us this week ahead of his upcoming Brighton show on the 15th March 2020. He will be performing his new critically acclaimed comedy/theatre/spoken word show, The Time Show.
From our conversation you will learn about his unique life and character which he refuses to pigeonhole. We spoke about his experience at university studying graphic art, the time he spent working in advertising, his past and upcoming shows, what he loves most about Brighton, and much more.
What is a day in the life of Rob Auton like?
Well, it depends. Today, a day in the life of me is I’ve just travelled back from Bristol where I did two gigs of my Time Show. So this morning I woke up in a Travel Lodge, got the train to London, and then I’ll be doing some writing today. Mainly it consists of either preparing for a show, preparing for a future show, or, I’ve started doing a daily podcast so I’ve got to get that done. The vast majority of it is spent around that really.
What is The Rob Auton Podcast?
It’s all of my writing that I’ve kind of put into books and all the stuff that’s been in the previous shows that I like enough to want to make exist in a bit more of a permanent way. We’re making some really good stuff with it I think, and the handle of that is @RobAutonPodcast.
Who has inspired you most?
Well, when I was first at university and I saw a guy on BBC4 called Ivor Cutler, he probably showed me that you can do whatever you want with words and you don’t have to try and pigeonhole yourself into any kind of category really. Him, and Bob Dylan. I remember buying a Bob Dylan best of when I was about 14 and just absolutely loving his bravery with words – it showed me that you can do whatever you want with words – put them together and it doesn’t have to make sense. I just loved it.
More generally, I think my old creative director. He’s really inspired me to just focus on making things and doing the work, just trying to stay as creative as possible and to soak as much stuff up as I can and just try and embrace being alive really.
What has been your favourite show to write and perform?
Whichever one I’ve done it’s always been the last one. I’d feel a bit disenchanted with it all if I thought ‘Oh, it was really good to do The Talk Show’, I mean there’s different bits of each of the shows that I enjoyed doing. When I did a show about hair, and I grew my hair really long and grew a big beard, I really liked that element of really committing to the project and being able to do something physical with it. With The Talk Show, that show encouraged me to talk to people more.
With this show, The Time Show, every night on stage pretty much I’m trying to encourage myself to make the most of the time that I’ve got and try to do things that scare me. I did a show in 2012 about the colour yellow, and one of the bits of that that I really liked was I gave the audience yellow, 3D glasses like you get at the cinema, but they were called ‘YellowVision’ glasses. I wrote YellowVision on the top and they had yellow acetate in the frames. I sent them out to all the journalists and they gave them out to people at the shows so I made hundreds and hundreds of pairs of them. I loved that, that was really good.
Each of the shows I’m equally as proud of, but I really do love doing this one, the one I’m doing at the moment – The Time Show. I did some new bits on it last night and I’m always trying to improve it, and trying to make it more enjoyable for myself and everyone who’s there. I did a show about sleeping and just trying to make the most of the time when you’re awake, and now I’m writing a new show about crowds.
You are often described as eccentric and original, so what do you think sets you apart from other comedians?
I don’t think anything sets me apart, I just think that the only way you can try to be original or to be an individual is to try to commit to being yourself and to not compromise what you think is creative. I come from an art background – I did graphic arts at university and did an art foundation course. Painting and drawing was the first thing that I had a love for. For me, I just treat the shows as an outlet where I can really just go off on one. Someone said they’re like art projects and I think maybe they are really. I think for me, anything that you create that didn’t exist before and wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for you being alive, I think that’s art really.
Every comedian is different, aren’t they? I was talking to a lady on the bus and I’ve got this big new yellow suitcase and she started to chatting to me and she was like ‘Oh, have you been on holiday’, I said ‘No’, and then I was walking home and I thought ‘If she’d have asked me what I was doing in Bristol I don’t know what I’d have said really.’ I don’t really want to say I’m a comedian because, well I do, I guess I am a comedian – I do comedy gigs! I just do shows in comedy nights and in poetry nights and I just don’t want to box myself in. I just want to be able to get on stage and say some things that are funny and some things that aren’t funny and let people make their own minds up.
See Rob in action in the video above
What made you decide to take this career path?
When I was at university I did, as I said, a graphic design/graphic arts degree, and the thing there was it was all about the ideas and the concept. They weren’t really that bothered about how it looked, they were more bothered about your thinking behind it, and I really got into that. I loved just trying to come up with original ideas, and you know, you got praise for your ideas being original. After university I thought ‘Oh, I quite like this trying to have ideas lark! What industry needs people who have ideas?’ I thought advertising, because I love that when you see a good advert on television, it’s like a special treat isn’t it? I tried to get a job in advertising for ages but my way I thought I’d be able to get into it was sending people books of these short stories I’d been writing and I made them look really nice, but people didn’t really know what to do with them. I was getting replies saying ‘Why are you sending us these books of short stories?’ and I’d be like ‘Well, can I have some work experience?’ and then they’d say ‘No’.
What happened was my dad used to be a plumber and where he gets his plumbing pipes from and stuff like that – the managing director’s brother-in-law runs an advertising company in London and my dad said ‘Why don’t you give these guys a shout? Maybe you could do some work experience there.’ So I did that, and it was like the perfect agency really, so I got really really lucky. Advertising was almost like a perfect job for someone who considers themselves to be a creative or an artist, but unfortunately it’s a business so I was doing all these crazy ideas and they weren’t really flying. I did have some success with it but mainly I just started filling up these notebooks in retaliation to all the House of Fraser adverts that were getting declined by the client.
I was just getting more and more into writing and then the creative director, Martin, said, ‘I’m having a poetry night, do you want to come along to it?’ and I said ‘Oh, well actually, I’ve been writing some stuff down in my books – I don’t know if that’s poetry or not – but I’d love to stand up and do it’, and he said ‘Yeah, ok’. That was my first gig. It was just a case of me reading things out that I’d written down that I liked enough to want to share with an audience, instead of just being at the pub and reading them out to my mates. Then they said ‘We really like Bang, Said The Gun, do you want to come and do that?’ and I said ‘Yes!’. So I started doing that and then I started doing open mic gigs, doing as many as I could. I remember a guy coming up to me one of the first times and said ‘Do you want to come and do my alternative comedy night?’ and I’d say ‘Oh, yes please!’ and then I said, ‘Can I do the same thing at the alternative comedy nights as I did here?’ and he said ‘Yes’. Then I went up to the Edinburgh Festival and got going with it. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Outside of your annual shows, what’s the most exciting thing you’ve done in your career?
Last year I started going for a few auditions, and I got a small part in The End of The F***ing World [which he highly recommends everyone watches]. The care and attention that they take in that show, I mean, it was just amazing. They built this whole diner in the forest in Wales and it was just incredible, and to be around those actors was just brilliant. That was massively exciting, and the most challenging thing I’ve done recently.
Getting to travel around, I did some gigs in Oslo last year, and then coming up I’m going to Melbourne and doing the Melbourne Comedy Festival in March. That’s probably the biggest thing that I’ll have done.
When I got the email asking me to do it I was, you know, punching the air – it’s like when I was working in the art shop and I got an email to do the Latitude Festival for the first time – that was kind of a punch the air moment. When they come I’m like ‘Yeah, great!’ and I embrace it and get excited about it but now with Melbourne I’m just kind of focused on trying to do a good job, not getting too excited and keeping my eye on the ball.
What can people expect from The Time Show?
They can expect to see a man on stage trying to get to grips with the idea of time, without looking through loads of books, and just exploring time for himself. I want to try to get people to feel energised by the show, hopefully with the energy and enthusiasm of me trying to commit to what I’m doing. It’s about commitment. It’s about passion and belief. I love the quote by Steve Jobs where he talks about when you realise that everything has been made up by people and none of them are any smarter than you, it really frees you up to think ‘Yeah, I can have a go and do whatever I want’. It’s an exploration of time and hopefully people will enjoy it!
What’s your favourite thing about Brighton?
Everyone wants to say it, but the seafront really. There’s a bit in The Time Show about the last time I was in Brighton – I was just waiting to do the show and there was a guy on the beach and he was drunken metal detecting and it was just amazing. I’ve never seen anyone look so content as that. I just love the spirit of the place. The Old Market is one of my favourite places to perform – this will be my fifth time there. I’ve had some really good times at the Brighton Festival doing a poetry night there. To me Brighton and Bristol are quite similar in the way that people are kind of up for a laugh and can embrace the slightly more left-field type of humour. I think it’s the people, it’s like Glasgow, it’s the people that make Glasgow and it’s the people that make Brighton as well.
If you would like to see Rob on his tour, the full list of dates and tickets are available at www.robauton.co.uk
To find him on social media, use the handles below:
Featured image: © Rob Auton