Thanks to Robin Ince I was drinking black coffee the morning after his gig.
Not because I was put off drinking milk by his sketch asking how many audience members would eat something made from human breast milk (more than in Wolverhampton, apparently, and the highest number so far on his Happiness Through Science tour) but because I came away from Chorley Little Theatre with a reading list going round in my head running from Carl Sagan to Noam Chomsky and Stephen Weinberg by way of Erwin Schrodinger’s cat. This mental cataloguing of the names of three Nobel Prize winning physicists caused me to forget on the drive home that I needed to buy milk for breakfast.
This show was as far from the Jim Davidson branch of stand up comedy as it is possible to get with dark matter, stellar nurseries and the Large Hadron Collider all thrown into the mix. Add a dash of Laurel and Hardy and a pinch of Melanie Phillips baiting (she of the Daily Mail) and you begin to get a flavour of what Robin Ince’s act is all about. Or perhaps not.
Described as a ‘militant atheist’, although not a label he accepts, Ince brought his two hour show to a two thirds full theatre comprised largely of an older audience no doubt attracted by his Radio 4 programme The Infinite Monkey Cage with Dr Brian Cox. The programme’s title attracted complaints two months before the show was written, complainants to the BBC apparently not understanding the theory that an infinite number of monkeys given an infinite number of typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare. ‘Ninety typewriters,’ suggested Ince, ‘and you’ll get a Dan Brown.’
I can’t ruin Robin Ince’s act by reproducing his material word for word because I couldn’t keep up with the torrent of ideas pouring from the stage, and because I’m not a scientist. Neither is Ince, but his enthusiasm for his subject, whether it’s explaining the reptilian brain or why he doesn’t believe Mr Potato Head would stop to offer Barbie a lift in Toy Story 2, meant that two hours flew by.
It’s a very rare stand up gig indeed that ends with the comic reading a passage from a book written by US physicist and Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman about the death of his wife. Ince finished by saying ‘I’ve stolen two hours of your life, Chorley, and you’re not getting it back!’. I for one was happy to be robbed.