Comedian Rob Beckett on parenting hell, dribbly cats and being robbed of the Taskmaster title – Stuff
Asking a comedian if they’re worried about being cancelled is akin to asking a member of the public if they’re worried about being arrested, says Rob Beckett.
“There’s always the possibility I might just have a bit of a bad one and headbutt someone or say something awful about a group of people. I hope not, but who knows?”
Beckett is speaking from a hotel in Aberdeen, Scotland where it’s about 11pm and he’s not long finished a show. He’s never had a call patched up to a hotel room before so is quite excited about this one.
“I feel like I’m in a film… the man said ‘there’s a call from you for New Zealand’, I feel a bit like an ambassador.”
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The English comedian’s coming to New Zealand in December for a national tour of his show Wallop. It’s the first time he’s visited Aotearoa and admits to not knowing much about the country.
”There’s Lord of the Rings, lamb, it’s very pretty, bungy jumping. I don’t know if anyone knows me over there. Do they know me, Virginia?”
Probably, I reassure him. Known as ‘The Mouth of the South’, he began performing stand-up in 2009, going on to become a fixture on radio and television shows including the wildly popular Taskmaster – an experience he describes as pure humiliation for cash.
“I had a newborn child so can’t remember anything about it. My child was six days old, and I was rolling in goose shit on a frozen field.”
He won in 2016 and returned in 2017 for Champion of Champions, finishing second to fellow comedian Josh Widdicombe. It was a stitch-up, he says, because of an earlier round where contestants had to make an edible mask. Bob Mortimer and Noel Fielding’s masks weren’t and Beckett says they should have been disqualified.
“It was absolute bulls…, but I don’t want to be petty and bring it up, I’d never do that. Bring it up in a media interview that’ll be published everywhere? That’d be shallow and crass to bring up with a journalist.”
Beckett and Widdicombe reunited in 2020 to produce Lockdown Parenting Hell that’s become one of the UK’s most popular podcasts.
In it, the pair share tales of parenting woe and interview celebrity parents who do the same. It’s garnered more than 25 million downloads so far and Beckett thinks that’s to do with the unabashed discussions of just how hard parenting can be.
“Me and Josh really care about our kids and we want to be good dads, but we’re just not very good at it. A lot of people can relate to that.”
Beckett and his wife Louise Watts have two young daughters, a cat and a recently acquired whippet named Fred. He likes Fred but isn’t one of those obsessed dog-dads.
“ I don’t need a dog needing something from me, I like to be left alone. He’s not a particularly needy dog but anything that comes up to you looking for hard work isn’t it?”
“Do you prefer the cat?”, I ask.
“No, he’s getting old and dribbly now, he’s annoying too.”
While lockdown was the catalyst for Beckett’s podcast it also allowed him the time to write a book titled A Class Act: Life As a Working-Class Man in a Middle-Class World.
Tackling his experiences of class-divide and snobbery, the memoir was written for his daughters who’ll grow up in a world much different to the one he experienced.
Being working-class gave him a bit of a fire in the belly and, combined with a lack of expectation from others, was helpful when trying to build his career.
“I was always told I couldn’t do anything academic, especially be a writer, that was the biggest hurdle…but it’s always when your back is against the wall that the best stuff happens.”
Beckett’s mum and dad have always been his biggest supporters and will be joining him on his NZ tour.
“They’re getting old now, dad’s 78 so hasn’t got many round the world trips left in him. Actually I say that, but he’ll probably still be tagging along at 93, I’ll never get rid of him.”
His new show doesn’t follow a narrative and avoids politics and children – the latter subject tends to be boring for audiences who turn up to see him on stage.
“A lot of people haven’t got kids which is why they’re at the gig. They can afford to go out or have got the energy to go out’ they don’t want to hear about kids.”
What he does talk about though is charity and how sick he is of people fundraising by running marathons.
“They do a 5km run and that’s just not enough. Its really difficult the marathon, is it? It always looks busy to me. Nothing hard should have a queue.”
Ultimately though, audiences can expect a good night, free of seriousness.
“You’ll laugh and leave happier, that’s all I can say.”
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