Robin Ince : Happiness Through Science

Let’s not beat around the bush: it was not very busy in the Spa Theatre last night for Robin Ince‘s show. I am one of a bunch of 75, if the box office are to be believed. I’m not sure why this is, though Robin does note that the demand to see the spiritualists and mediums here is fairly. Perhaps Scarborough still languishes in the days before Enlightenment, or George Carlin‘s maxim, “think how dumb the average person is, then realise that half of them are even dumber then that”, might be being demonstrated. Empirically

Still, small audience or not, Ince, by his own description a “middle-aged man in a cardigan”, is a revelation. Well, he is if you’ve never heard him anywhere before. This is my first time seeing him live, but I’ve heard him a number of times on the radio. The show is in two, fairly loose, parts. Both meander more thana little, but his is not a criticism: it makes everything feel less slick and scripted, and much more personal. And he really seems to be having fun. Judging by the audience reaction, I think we are too. Each time I have, I’ve wondered several things, including: bloody hell, he can’t half talk and (most importantly): I bet he’d be interesting to watch in a proper show.

And indeed he is. He is a wonderfully literate, compassionate angry, lucid, comedian. And he’s an atheist. Not surprising for someone who hangs about with Brian Cox and Richard Dawkins, really. Anyone familiar with Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage will have some idea of Robin’s lack of patience with the idiotic wing of religious belief, which is actually quite refreshing and admirable.  What you may not be expecting is the flood of impersonations that he does, but all of unlikely subjects: Richard Feynman; an uncanny Carl Sagan and, most arresting of all: Professor Brian Cox.  Ince claims that he’s tried to make him sound more like Orville the Duck than Cox, though I think he’s entertainingly close to making him sound like George Formby (which would make Wonders of the Universe an interesting watch)

Quite a lot of Robin’s ire is directed at the Daily Mail. But not specifically, he also gives the Guardian, The Express and many others a bit of a shoeing.  He also quite right gets angry about the general state of science journalism, which is unsurprising given the amount of time he’s spent with the estimable Ben Goldacre.  This forms part of a wider discourse on the role of “balance” in scientific debate, via way of musings about equine reiki.

It really was a lovely evening: funny, literate, witty, and intelligent. It’s just such a pity that so many people in Scarborough didn’t bother to go and see him: they missed a treat.

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