“I’ve got a bit of an identity crisis going on.” Cardiff-born comedian Rod Woodward is in a bit of a pickle.
“I’ve had this alter-ego called Mario deNiro since 2001 see. Mario has this strong Italian accent and that’s the act I was booked under at the Royal Variety performance last year. There was a bit of a cock-up on the night though as Geoffrey Palmer introduced me onto stage as Rod Woodward instead of Mario. So it’s not just Mario who now has the Italian accent – Rod Woodward does too!”
Born and bred in Cardiff, Rod has comedy running through his veins.
“My grandfather was a big influence on me growing up. He lived above us and was besotted with entertainment. Believe it or not, he was a wrestler so he was used to playing up to audiences and was the man who introduced me to stand-up comedy. He ended up being a builder – but he was always the one who cracked the ‘Manual Labour is not a Spaniard’ joke.
“The route I took into stand-up was a bit of a story in itself. I used to be a member of the Junior Variety Club as a youngster. Our branch put on this special dinner for former Cardiff boxer Steve Robinson. I was only 19 years old at the time but I had to make a speech so I thought I’d use it to crowbar in a few gags. The TV presenter Arfon Haines Davies happened to be in the audience and came up to me after and asked me if I was into stand-up comedy. I told him that I was but had no experience. He told me that a warm-up vacancy had come up at HTV Wales. At the time, I was about to embark on a journalism course at university but I decided to take a year out and try stand-up instead.
“By the second or third week, I’d run out of material as the same people kept coming to the shows. At that point, I was nicking anything I could to wangle it into my act. The rest is Geography!”
Since then, Rod has been tipped for the comedy premiership by such luminaries as Peter Kay and the late Bob Monkhouse after winning the Best Newcomer to Variety Award. Having supported Paddy McGuinness and Russell Brand on tour, he won the BBC 1 Wales comedy competition Funny Business. He performed at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas ahead of Joe Calzaghe’s super fight with Bernard Hopkins and to celebrate Cardiff City reaching the FA Cup final, Rod wrote and performed comedy song ‘Do The Ayatollah,’ backed by more than 100 Bluebirds fans. Set to the tune of the Macarena, it was a You Tube sensation and was featured on network radio and television shows, including Soccer AM and GMTV.
“My material comes to me in dribs and drabs. My comedy is very observational so these days, I take a tape recorder around with me as I always come across a gag when I least expect it. It’s easier to build up some material that way rather than sitting down and looking at a blank canvas.”
For any comedian, there has to be a drive to keep performing.
“It sounds really cheesy but the main satisfaction I get from what I do is the energy that comes from the audience. I think it was Peter Kay who said about the synergy from the crowd that drives him to do what he does. For me, satisfaction also comes from nurturing the idea of a gag, working it into a joke and seeing the results. Like any job, there are challenges. I remember doing a gig for the Territorial Army in their barracks in Llandaff North. I turned up to find two women ripping chunks of hair out of each other on the dance floor and then I was introduced as the entertainment! I thought to myself ‘Now this is a challenge!’ I’m learning from experience – all comedians get tough gigs but I’m learning now not to do Skinhead Conventions and gigs like that. I remember doing one gig at the Edinburgh Fringe to an audience of three – and two of them were critics! A comedian never knows when that tough gig is just around the corner.”
The highlight of Rod’s career so far was being invited to perform at the London Palladium before William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, on the Royal Variety Performance last year.
“Apart from that, the other highlight was the gig that my late father attended.”
His father was the well-known sports journalist Karl Woodward, who used to write for the Western Mail.
“He wasn’t very well but he made it to the gig and the after-show party too. He sadly passed away a few weeks ago so that gig, to me, is one that will stick with me for a long time.”
Despite his recent challenges, things are looking up for Rod and his blossoming career.
“I’m taking my new tour around the UK but I’d like to open it up to more venues across Britain. I think the day I walk into a shop and see my Christmas DVD on the shelves will be the day that I consider that I’ve really made it. I’ve enjoyed every bit of what I do so far and I’m going to ride it for as long as I can!”