Rob Auton: ‘I like Austin Powers, but if they’d made the audience cry it would have been a much better film’

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Rob Auton: ‘I like Austin Powers, but if they’d made the audience cry it would have been a much better film’

Rob Auton
Words by Tyler Jenke

When Rob Auton kicks off his latest run of Australian shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this month, it’ll be a chance for the English comic to return to a place that has welcomed him so warmly in the past.

“I was blown away by the difference in light, the plant life and optimism compared to the UK,” he says.

Since 2012, Auton has gained recognition for his near-annual shows, which have stayed true to their simplistic titles by discussing the theme from which its name is derived. After winning crowds over with the likes of The Yellow Show, The Talk Show, and The Crime Show, he’ll be putting himself front and centre with The Rob Auton Show. For him, it’s a chance to allow audiences to connect on a greater level than usual.

Rob Auton – The Rob Auton Show

  • Melb Town Hall – The Flag Room
  • March 28 – April 21
  • Tickets here

Explore Melbourne’s latest arts and stage news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

“I’ve found with this show that the more specific I am about my life the more people connect with it,” he admits. “It’s taken me ten shows on different themes to feel equipped enough to talk about my own life. Getting far enough away from my childhood to get some perspective on it and the bits of it I find funny.”

Auton’s comedy is unique in a world driven by social media and algorithmic engagement. Rather than quick quips and sharp observations, he adopts a more philosophical approach – something which evolved from his early appearances at poetry nights.

“[I was] just standing up and reading things out that I’d written,” he remembers. “Because they were poetry nights I could do whatever I wanted; it didn’t have to be funny all the time. Even in those short sets, I’d have some funny bits and some more serious bits. I’ve basically just tried to make a space for myself where I can do whatever I feel like on stage – seeing what I can get away with.

“All my favourite comedy shows have heartfelt bits in them and for me that’s what sets them apart,” he adds. “I like Austin Powers but for me if they’d have chucked in a couple of moments that made the audience cry it would have been a much better film.”

Looking back on those early forays into comedy, Auton notes he’d never expected his journey to last 16 years, but with every new show, the opportunities to make himself laugh have continued, and his impact on the comedic world has only continued to increase accordingly.

“To be honest it’s just about trying to keep making work I like,” he admits. “When I did my first hour long show in 2012 about the colour yellow, called The Yellow Show, I knew I was going to do another one the next year about the sky called The Sky Show but it felt like a massive task. Same with the year after. I’ve done ten now on specific themes and the next one still seems like a massive task. 

“It’s not like the world of comedy has kept offering me stuff, I’ve just kept trying and trying and trying, and over the years a picture starts to emerge of what you’ve been trying to do and I feel like I’m just getting that picture going really,” he adds. “Comedy for me has never been about trying to make people laugh but more about me making myself laugh and seeing if anyone else finds it funny as well.”

However, even with such critical acclaim to his name, and frequent television appearances, books, and more, Auton still doesn’t see himself as having ‘made it’ quite yet. For him, it’s all about sustainability of what he enjoys doing, and not wanting to return to his old job in an art supplies shop.

“I think the thing with being self-employed is that when you stop working the work stops,” he says. “It’s not like you sell out a show and then someone gives you a pass to another level. I used to think that if you made a show that sold out and did well critically it would change the fact that you have to write something new. It doesn’t; it never stops.

“I’ll do this Melbourne International Comedy Festival, but when it’s over I’ll want to write another show that’s good enough to get me back,” he adds. “It’s relentless and I can see why a lot of people don’t do it.”

Get tickets here.