In and Out of Robin Ince’s Mind

Took my son to Newport Riverfront yesterday to see Radio 4’s leading science comedian Robin Ince on his latest tour. I am still a little sore from laughing. Robin is the consummate polymath and pulled in so many obscure references (“overly specific” was his own adjectival phrase for them) that I’m sure every other narrowly read nerd in the audience got as much pleasure from it as I did.

The poster promised us a comedic lecture on neurology and psychology. Even the slideshow that started up some ten minutes before the main performance alluded to the modern evidence arising from those fields demonstrating that freewill is totally illusory. “Great!” thought your humble narrator, “A pile of evidence to shove in the face of my close-minded friends who get all defensive when I start on one of my rants about determinism! With laughter thrown in!”

What we got was not really anything of the sort, but was a worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyable evening nonetheless. Art films, the Radio 4 Core Audience, Jane Austen, postcards from Budleigh Salterton (with no reference at all to Brigstocke) , and the behaviour of groups of middle-aged couples on trains all came under Ince’s frenetic and captivating spotlight. A couple of times he paused to ask if he was talking too quickly, but to be honest anything we missed was generally because we were in convulsions at the previous punchlines.

Robin is clearly a capable mimic too, bringing into the Studio with him his projections of, among many others, Professor Brian Cox, Ubervoice Brian Blessed, and eccentric author of Watchmen Alan Moore. If you ever meet him on a railway platform, ask him to tell you about the time a Wizard defeated a Particle Physicist in a science argument on Radio 4. Assuming you can get past the hordes of neurologists asking to smash his phantom hand up with a hammer…

Robin Ince’s style is very open and engaging. You get the sense you’re listening to the real man, not a mask put on for the stage. The kind of guy you’d be listening to ranting away over a few coffees (he gave up alcohol a while ago). And that’s clearly what he is. As he told us “My wife gets this 24/7, that’s why she likes me to keep going away on tour.”

He finished with a very warm tribute to the recently deceased Rik Mayall. He was right when he said that pioneer’s influence will live on and we saw a worthy example of that last night.