Comedians often road test fresh material by playing small gigs to gauge audience reaction. None of that for Rob Deering, though – he prefers to try out his latest gags on the wife, even though she never finds them funny.
“It’s brilliant trying jokes out on my wife. Honestly, she’s the toughest audience in the world,” laughs the Londoner. “She either goes, ‘Mmmm’, or she goes, ‘I just don’t get it’.
“That’s how she reacts to all of my jokes. I haven’t written one that’s got a rubber stamp from the committee yet,” he adds.
His missus might not find him funny, but comedy crowds clearly do. With his cheeky chappie demeanour, cheesy singing voice and razor-sharp wit, Deering exploded on to the comedy scene in 2000, reaching the Daily Telegraph Open Mic Award semi-finals, the finals of the BBC New Comedy Award and the final of the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year Competition, as well as winning the prestigious Amused Moose New Talent Award.
Since then, the musical comedian-cum-quiz show host – he famously won a special edition of The Weakest Link in 2007, answering every question correctly – has established himself as a firm favourite on the live circuit.
As a former resident of the city, he clearly relishes returning to the Capital. “I’m a bit of an Edinburghphile,” he admits. “I used to live there and I always try to get up for the Festival or whenever I can.
“I’m not blowing smoke up Edinburgh’s a***,” he continues, “but I think good towns make good places for comedy. It’s amazing how sometimes you go to a town – naming no names, Swindon – and the people are not particularly happy to live there. They don’t necessarily know it, so it gives a kind of intangible grumpiness to the whole business.
“I think Edinburgh’s the opposite. It’s a bit of a magical, special place. It’s one of those cities that has a total character and atmosphere all of its own. And that translates to the gigs.”
Deering is a Fringe veteran, having performed here many times over the years. But does he feel it gets easier each time he returns?
“It was scariest the first time, I suppose, but I don’t think it gets easier because each show really ought to be better than the last,” he says. “Plus, as you get older, the Festival experience outside the shows shifts from being a month-long party to more of a stamina exercise. These days I don’t have time to be ‘recovering’ until the beginning of November.”
On Tuesday, he’s back at The Stand with his brand new Christmas show, so what can audiences expect?
“It’s a stand-up show, but it’s more than that,” he promises. “It’s a Christmas party, there’s lots of music, there will be presents and food and drink. I’m not saying come hungry, mind. Oh, and Father Christmas himself will be there.”
He thinks about that a moment and then pipes up again, “Actually, shall we just say it’s beyond stand-up? It’s beyond even my normal blend of stand-up and music. We’ll touch on all the things that I like to do, like getting involved with the audience and quizzes and, er, yeah . . . booze. Plenty of booze.”
Rob Deering Christmas Special, The Stand Comedy Club, York Place, Tuesday, 8.30pm, £10 (£8), 0131-558 7272