Rob Rouse: Yes, I used to be a geography teacher
Rob Rouse had to get out of Geography, because it was a bit too 'rock and roll'. Here he talks about how he managed to escape his 'shady' geographical past...
The first time I ever toured I was asked, in pretty much every interview I did, about the fact that before stand-up, I'd trained as a geography teacher.
Bizarrely, this nugget of information had always been out there. I'd certainly never tried to hide it, it wasn't a dark secret or a shameful past I'd tried to put behind me, or some hideous depth of depravity I'd plumbed like a struggling actor doing a 'one off' porn flick just to put bread on the table.
I'd very much been 'out' as a former geographer. If I'm honest, I'd outed myself many years earlier. I'd 'self outed'. And, for the record, I've never felt any stigma about it and my conscience is completely clear.
However, on that first tour, it seemed that every local radio or newspaper journalist, whether working for BBC Radio Lincoln or the heady heights of The Richmond Agriculturalist And Cattle Feed Supply Free Advertiser would latch onto this geographical nugget and shake it like a terrier in a hen house.
"So you used to be a geography teacher? Tell me about that"
"You were a teacher weren't you? Geography, am I right?"
"Now it says here that you were a geography teacher..."
Eventually I cracked; although, as I'm writing this, while trying to type the word 'cracked', I just unconsciously typed the word 'cried'. Coincidence? You do the mathematics. I hate mathematics.
So in riposte I wrote a routine about my former Geography 'addiction' - a skit on the perils of getting too deep in Geography, how innocent weekend dabbling can rapidly escalate out of control and destroy so many innocent lives. It became something of a 'banker' for a bit and formed the opening bars of my next Edinburgh show and subsequent tour.
So, very much like Cheryl Cole being able to 'tell her own story', I too was able to tell my own story and put all that idle accusatory chatter to bed whilst crucially making the audience SPLIT THEIR FUCKING SIDES AT MY PAIN!!!
"But as long as they're enjoying themselves", I would tell myself, I didn't mind and would just deal with the heartache when my dressing room door closed behind me after the show. Very much like Cheryl Cole probably does. Although I imagine someone probably shuts the door for her.
And do you know what? Suddenly the questions stopped. Interviews for the second tour tended to focus on the fact that we had a toddler and my girlfriend was pregnant with our second baby. It felt like I'd finally moved on. I could breathe again.
Until this year. Father now to a little girl as well, writing and performing what I think is the best, most honest, funniest stand-up I've ever produced, the Geography questions have come back to haunt me once again, and this time they want blood!
"Tell us more about the fact that you used to be a geography teacher"
"Tell us about it all over again!"
"Please keep telling us about being a geography teacher."
I even resorted - I'm ashamed to say - to turning a blind eye to an accomplice updating my Wikipedia page with unsubstantiated claims that I was the Formula 1 fastest racing champion, World Strongest Man and Champion Arm Wrestler. Interestingly, none of these facts have ever been questioned or even broached in subsequent interviews. Once again, you can do the mathematics my friends. I hate mathematics.
So it seems that I'm destined to always have this corduroy-shrouded millstone around my neck, the foul stench of a coffee and fag-breathed spectre breathing down the back of it, striking me to the floor with a leather patched elbow... right on my neck.
If I ever made it onto Parkinson, which I'm aware can't happen now (not least because Parky himself seems to have diversified into an elaborate pension/Parker Pen fencing business - but then again, they're good pens), I'm sure he'd still try to pin me down on my former life. Perhaps I still haven't come to terms with it myself? Perhaps there's still more work to do?
Or maybe I've got it all wrong and everyone is unbelievably fascinated by Geography, because it's actually the very pinnacle of cool, maybe having been a geography teacher is a bit like being prohibitively good-looking, like Brad Pitt and whatever one achieves in other arenas you'll always be the Geographical 'piece of fluff' in their eyes. Perhaps in life you've just got to play the hand you've been dealt.
Who knows? I can assure you of one thing however, there is no mention of the 'G-word' in my new tour show. It doesn't even get a look in. It's all part of the healing process as I move on with my life and look to the future with a new found hope.
As for my shameful porno past, it was in the pre-internet era - don't look for it; you won't find it... Let's just say that, for once, the Geography, History, Modern Languages and Science departments, all found something they could finally agree on.
Rob Rouse is currently touring his new show 'Life Sentences' all over the UK. All dates and details can be found at www.robrouse.com. Rob can be found on Twitter as @robrouse - try to avoid mentioning 'Geography' if you talk to him.
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