BootLeg Betty

Backstage At The Royal Variety Performance…Quite Hectic!

Wales Online
Bette Midler‘s demands, Russell Kane‘s lost shoes, Simon Cowell‘s chest and Prince William’s banter – the night a Cardiff comedian will never forget
Dec 09, 2014 16:06 By Sion Morgan

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For Cardiff stand-up Rod Woodward being asked to perform at this year’s glittering Royal Variety Performance was, as he puts it, “like reaching the FA Cup final”.

But the 37 year old wasn’t prepared for what was to follow at the London Palladium.

From being chucked out of a dressing room by Bette Midler, helping Russell Kane find his shoes, performing in front of a bear chested Simon Cowell and hearing about Prince William’s rugby banter, the comic was left feeling pretty overcome by the whole affair.

“It was undoubtedly the biggest gig of my life so far,” he said “and one of the most incredible nights of my life.

“But surreal, from the moment we left the house to the moment we got home.

“I was the only one on the bill I’d never heard of.”

Broadcast on Monday night, this year’s eclectic mix of acts, including the likes of Dame Shirley Bassey and Ellie Goulding were watched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

For Rod though the real entertainment happened backstage.

He said: “I was sharing a big dressing room with all the comedians, Jack Whitehall, Russell Kane and a comic called Trevor Noah when it became clear that someone had overlooked the fact that Bette Midler might need the toilet.

“They’d put her in a small room next to the stage and she was not best pleased so they swapped us and squeezed four comedians into this tiny room.

“The next thing Russell Kane, who is getting ready to go on looks down and can’t find his shoes.

“So we’re all turning the place upside down looking for these shows when Trevor Noah comes off the stage wearing them. The wrong size, different colour, orthopaedic inserts.

“That’s how nervous you are going on. You don’t even know if you have your own shoes on.

“The intensity is really strange.”

He added: “Then when I was on stage there was only one person I could make out.

“Every single person was in black tie except, at the epicentre of everything, with his shirt open to his belly button was Simon Cowell, so I was standing there expecting him to buzz me off at any point.”

But the most memorable moment of all came during the royal lineup.

“I knew William and Kate had been down in Wales recently watching the rugby and had been entertained by Dennis Gethin who is president of the WRU and also a good pal of mine,” he said.

“So I said to William that I’d seen him at the match with Dennis and he went off on one.

“He said ‘I absolutely love winding him up, ask him about me ribbing him at the rugby’.

“So I call Dennis afterwards and he said ‘yeah he was winding me up’.

“It turns out they were watching the game and Dennis turns to William and tells him to look at the physique of the number 20, who is built like a brick-proverbial.

“So William turns to Dennis Gethin’s wife and says ‘Jan I’m a bit worried about your Dennis, he’s taken a real fancy to the number 20’.

“Like I say, all it was a fairly strange night.”

Rod’s venture into comedy began around 15 years ago, while performing with the Young Variety Club in Cardiff.

It was there his first big break came, after being spotted by legendary Welsh TV presenter Arfon Haines Davies.

“He asked me to come down and work for HTV as a warm-up man at the studios in Culverhouse Cross, “ Rod said.

“Before that point I was looking to go to uni, maybe following my dad into sports journalism, having been told there was no job in comedy.

“Having said that when I told my careers advisor I wanted to do just that at the age of 14 he wet himself laughing, so I thought I was on to a good thing.

“I ended up taking a year out from University and ended up doing stand-up.

“I took my act to Edinburgh and entered a competition called So You Think You’re Funny, which was won that year by Peter Kay, and I started to learn from there, how to play the clubs, deal with the difficult audiences and so on.

“But there was no tougher audience than the HTV crowd, working on shows like Telephonin and Moon and Stars, because the weird thing was that the same people would turn up week in week out.

“You suddenly realised you had no act left because you were on first name terms with the audience.”

Having completed runs in Edinburgh and most of London’s Comedy Clubs Rod entered a competition called Funny Business on BBC Wales three years ago, which he won.

Since then his focus has been on making the breakthrough to national television, which eventually came after a gig in Liverpool’s Cavern Club.

“Some people from ITV came up to see me on that bill and next thing I was told I was being considered for a TV show, not knowing it was the Royal Variety.”

He added: “I’m hoping on the back of this to put together a little local tour.

“We’re finalising the venues now so look out for that in the new year

“From the reaction at the Royal Variety I’m hoping this is the start of bigger things.”

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