Leaving a Legacy Laughter; Rhod Gilbert Is Leading the Charge for Young Welsh Stand-Ups. as the Cardiff Comedy Festival Kicks off Tonight, He Tells David Owens It's about Time That Wales Was Put on the Comedy Map for Good

Article excerpt

Byline: David Owens

RHOD GILBERT is recalling his first ever appearance at London's famous Comedy Store - one of the most difficult evenings of his fledgling stand-up career. "I'd stepped up to the mic and said, 'Hello, I'm Rhod and I'm from Wales,'" he remembers. "I wasn't expecting the reaction I received."

The comic was rocked back on his heels with the cacophony that hit him like an unwelcome wall of sound.

He edged back to lean on the Comedy Store sign behind him, waiting for the barrage of sheep noises from a drunken and raucous crowd to subside.

Allowing the woolly heckles to wash over him provided momentary respite, affording him time to think of a killer retort to put the audience in its place and allow him to regain complete control.

"It's usually suicide to leave that much silence, but it gave me the chance to think of a suitable response," he says.

He inched forward nervously, back to the mic and then delivered this line: "It's not all glamorous you know."

As effective responses go, it was dynamite.

Sheep impressions turned to laughter and parity was restored as the comedian stemmed the temporary crowd coup d'tat.

Rhod's experience of the very first gig he played at London's Comedy Store in the mid-noughties was symptomatic of the sorts of confusion and mild hostility that Welsh comedians playing the circuit encountered as they ventured over the Severn for gigs in England.

Now the times are changing - along with a vanguard of new comedians that includes Gilbert as its flag bearer, Welsh comedy is at an all time high.

There's never been more comedy clubs and festivals in Wales.

The sheep noises are no more, replaced by a new found respect and love of Welsh humour.

Rhod's early gigs on the circuit provide clues as to where the seeds of change were first sown and how the Welsh have become palatable to the mass populace.

"When I started out, whenever I told audiences I was Welsh I would get all those sheep noises," he explains.

"So I found it natural to play on the back foot, as if the crowd had me pinned in the corner and I was a kid lashing out at all these bullies around me. I still feel like that. …