Rob Newman: Work in Progress at The Old Court

The Screen cinema at the Old Court remains open to moviegoers

From The Mary Whitehouse Experience to exploring the philosopher Mary Midgley, Rob Newman’s career has followed quite a trajectory.

His radio series, including Total Eclipse of Descartes, you’ll know he stirs major themes and philosophy with the everyday to amuse, educate and get the listener thinking.

The writer and comedian is looking forward to getting on the road once again.

“At one point during lockdown I genuinely feared that stand-up comedy had become a historical curio, that it had gone the way of lamp-lighting, chimney-sweeping and manufacturing,” he said.

“And so I am delighted to be performing live again."

He’s performed in the Thames Valley before including at the Old Court in one of its former incarnations.

“I’ve enjoyed playing there before. There are a lot of great gigs in the Thames area. I did a tour in 2019 that began in Reading and ended in Newbury.

“It felt that it was less like a nationwide tour and more like a putter up the River Kennet!

“The first ever out-of-town gig I ever did was at Bracknell’s South Hill Park – a brilliant basement cellar. There was quite a prestige to doing a gig that wasn’t on the London circuit but ‘Out Of Town’.

“I was friends with the warm, witty, funny and very much-missed Windsor native and musical genius Andrew Weatherall. I often use his music to soundtrack the radio show, or have it playing when I am writing.”

Newman’s work looks at major themes and philosophies so I wondered if the pandemic affected his work and thinking?

“Yes, I’ve got a routine about online therapy. Lockdown led to a lot of people seeking counselling, of course, and many psycho-therapy sessions are Zoom and FaceTime and what have you.

"I was telling a friend about a therapist I know who conducts her online sessions from her garden shed, and my friend said that her shrink sits in his car. She wouldn’t mind but he’s driving at the time.”

 Newman has a new comedy/philosophy in development and has been testing out material for a live show tour in the autumn.

“Luckily for the Windsor audience, the show is now almost there. But the work-in-progress gigs I was doing last year, I am standing there reading from a script.

“I never know what is going to be funny until I perform it in front of an audience. You just can’t tell on the page what’s going to be funny. What you think is a sure-fire gag gets nothing and then a stray line that you put in just as a link gets the big back-of-the-room laugh.

“Then I pretend that I planned it that way all along.”

I think he’s being modest, his writing – and performance – is so assured, touching on pop culture to history and anthropology without apology.

“One of my favourite routines in the shows is about Darwin’s theory that speech evolved from song, that before humans had words and language our ancestors communicated by means of pitch, tempo, cadence and melody.

“I talk about how Julius Caesar banned wheeled vehicles from the streets of Rome, and the secret meaning of Kate Bush’s recent Number 1 hit Running Up That Hill.

“I talk about Rapper’s Remorse: do rappers ever have a morning-after shame attack when they recall the horrible things they said the night before?”

For answers to this, and other big questions, you’ll have to catch the show.

Rob Newman: Work in Progress will be showing at The Old Court, Windsor, on Friday, July 1.

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