The ending of an era
To describe Robin Ince as a stand-up is to do him a disservice and creates a slightly unrealistic expectation for those that haven’t seen him before. He’s no pun master like Tim Vine. Nor does he just employ lowest common denominator observation like Michael McIntyre. Neither is every syllable planned to the nth degree as in a Stewart Lee show.
In fact, Robin Ince delights at going off piste. His shows are packed with delightful flights of fancy and odd tangents. There are jokes but there are also stories about Nobel prize winning scientists and impressions of famous comic book writers. More than that, he’s a funny guy, engaging and clever.
Before the show, the house music is Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Robin starts with a story of trying to explain Nick Cave to someone who has never heard of him. The description that he came up with is that you should imagine an ocean liner that is sailing and sailing for eternity, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are the lounge band. A group with beards and instruments led by a chimpanzee preacher. He goes on to talk about a previous show in Nottingham where Alan Sillitoe’s grandson came up to him to correct something that Brian Cox had said.
Then it’s the General Election. Robin talks about walking around on the Friday afterwards knowing that something isn’t right, like Day of the Triffids. Looking at people and thinking, “was it you?” Now, with Cameron’s recent speech about “as long as you obey the law” no longer being enough, Robin’s friend Alan Moore, who wrote V for Vendetta, thought he was overegging the pudding.
And then there’s UKIP – “Duchemp’s urinal made flesh” If they hate foreigners so much, why do they all live at the seaside? That’s the first place that foreigners will come to. All of which has led Robin to believe that, at his age, he only needs two emotions now; joy and anger.
We are then treated to some of Robin’s impersonations. Popular keyboard player turned TV scientist Brian Cox and astronaut Chris Hadfield are great but the piece de resistance is Brian Blessed. Especially when doing Blessed showing how to play Jesus, “Why have you forsaken meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?!”
A long-winded, rambling introduction ends with some tales of touring. For example, overhearing an awkward threesome in a Travelodge where, after one of the participants had left, the other two were arguing with each other about why it hasn’t gone the way they’d expected. As Ince himself says, the show is like “out-takes from Mulholland Drive”
Grace Petrie, who has been waiting patiently, finally gets to showcase some of the tunes from her new album. This includes “Ivy”, a song about rushing back from Glastonbury for the birth of her niece, complete with Dolly Parton 9-5 breakdown and “Why Bob Dylan Sang” We were also treated to old favourite Farewell to Welfare, which sadly still seems as relevant as ever. Finally, we’re all led in a sing-a-long to “You Pay Peanuts, You Get Monkeys, You Pay Nothing, You Get Nowt” and, after a shy start, the Broadway crowd soon get into it.
Robin Ince returns with a story from a zoo keeping friend of his. They had a new gorilla at the zoo and everyday they kept finding nuts and bolts in the gorilla’s bed. They never worked out where they were coming from.
He also talks about the opportunities he gets just for being a comedian who talks about science. He’s had three brain scans just for fun and has had a go at the rubber hand illusion. His response to which was, “well, that’s a hand” but it did make him think about the way that we perceive the world and why people believe what they believe.
However, he isn’t allowed to watch TV with his wife – she ends him up to his attic room to watch it alone. This image of domestic bliss seems to be what Ince has in store once he is no longer doing stand-up. He looks back on his career and his lack of standard beginning/middle/end style show, asking, “why flood the market?” Even Stewart Lee has asked him why he doesn’t try doing fewer ideas.
In an attempt to keep the show on track, he’s started trying an “Ice Cold In Alex” challenge where he brings a cold beer out with him at the start of the second part of the show and tries to finish the show before the beer gets warm. I guess that the performer having a warm beer is a small price to pay to discover that if you give bees cocaine then they over exaggerate how much pollen there is in nearby flowers.
We then hear a story about a recent visit to a Costa Coffee. One of the customers was giving aggro to the girl serving in there. No-one else was doing anything so Robin stepped in. The guy told him that he could, “punch you into next week”, Robin replied, “you should get a job at CERN” The guy didn’t get it. Fortunately, before violence ensued, someone else who was better equipped to deal with such a situation, stood up and got involved.
Finally, we get onto “crying porn” If you don’t cry at the first 10 minutes of Up then you are probably a replicant. Robin’s personal favourite that always makes him well up though is The Wild Geese. It just goes to show how much we empathise with fiction, probably because, “reality doesn’t have an orchestra”
It doesn’t have anything approaching an overarching theme and some of the tangents lead down dead ends. However, it’s a show full of warmth, intelligence and some real laugh out loud moments. If he really isn’t going to “shout at people in a room” anymore, this was a great way for Robin Ince to bow out.
Article not previously published. This was the show that Robin did after I interviewed him