I like Chorley Little Theatre – they are passionate and you get Eccles Cakes...

Robin Ince
Robin Ince

Robin Ince arrives in Chorley next week with his Robin Ince is (In and) Out of his Mind show. The show takes place on Thursday, May 15, at Chorley Little Theatre. The LEP would like to thank him for taking time to answer our questions – within an hour of sending him them! – on science, Amazon and Brian Cox

Robin Ince is a stand-up comedian, actor and writer. He is best known for presenting the BBC BBC Radio 4 comedy and popular science series The Infinite Monkey Cage with physicist Brian Cox. As a close friend of Ricky Gervais, Ince opened as a support act for his Politics tour in 2004 and his Fame tour in 2007. He also appears on the DVD and often appears in Ricky’s video podcasts, mainly being bullied, annoyed and attacked by Gervais. He also ran the Book Club night where he read aloud from – and humorously criticised – various second-hand books. He also appeared in The Office as failed interviewee Stuart Foot...

You’ve played the Little Theatre before, one of many esteemed stand-ups to grace that unique old venue in recent years; long cherished in the area, it seems the Little Theatre has also gained quite a reputation further afield.

What do you like about the place to bring you back, or what is it you think attracts the best in comedy over and again?

It is run by passionate people and when a venue is run by people who really care, there is something about the experience for everyone involved, audience and acts.

There are so many venues struggling and towns with almost no entertainment, it takes people of determination to create this sort of venue.

On my first visit, I was taken on a tour, shown what had changed, what had been done, how everyone involved had shaped it into a grand venture.

It reminds me of the lovely British comedy, the Smallest Show on Earth.

And they give you Eccles Cakes.

Your new show looks at “psychiatry, psychology and skew-whiff brain dabblings”, while previous shows have focussed on subjects such as Carl Sagan and the theory of evolution.

What is foremost in your mind when you sit down and begin to write around such lofty subjects: enlightenment or entertainment?

I am not sure I have the ability to enlighten, what I hope to do is spread the virus of curiosity.

I want it to be entertaining, but I want it to have other ambitions, too.

I want people to leave excited by existence in this universe and filled with questions.

Can or should ‘science’ be funny?

There is no rule on what should or should not be funny.

We should be careful not to be too reverential of anything.

If you get too reverential then dogma and dictators may be ahead. Science covers everything in the universe; if there isn’t something funny in that, then you’re not looking.

In light of your new material, what are your feelings on the C4 Ricky Gervais sitcom Derek?

The show obviously touches on similar subject matter, albeit in a different way, but has received a mixed response.

You have worked with and thus will better understand Ricky Gervais’ approach.

Do you have any views on the show you’d be happy to share?

I don’t watch anything Ricky does just in case I get asked these questions.

We remain friends and talk of many things over the phone, but Derek is not one of them. I am not sure my show is too similar to Derek from what I have read about it.

When he is not making weird seagull noises at me, we quite frequently talk of religion and science.

We were talking about the big bang the other day, then it started to get really difficult, so he started making seagull noises again to soothe himself by annoying me.

Broadly speaking, how would you summarise Britain’s current attitudes to mental health and treatment of same?

Have old stigmas been overcome?

There has been enormous progress in the last few decades but there is still much to be done.

The human brain is very complicated and still quite mysterious, but we are beginning to discover why it does what it does and why it can seem to go “wrong”.

I was at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability recently having an EEG and it was fascinating to see how we can increasingly reach out to people who seemed lost.

You are certainly one of the higher profile current champions of bookshops, particularly the second-hand variety.

Have you any favourites in Lancashire – or the North West – and what would you say is their particular charm?

Lancaster has a whole heap of fine charity shops, I go there to bolster my sciatica. Annoyingly, I have not got to Chorley in time to browse. I plan on arriving in time for a look around ebb and flo bookshop and eat a brownie there.

Any thoughts on Amazon?

I don’t use Amazon as I try to use independent dealers wherever possible or, at the very least, a physical bookshop.

I’d hate to find that all shops were virtual one day.

Which comic, artists, writers have inspired you?

Rik Mayall, Alexei Sayle, Alan Moore, Howard Zinn, Arundhati Roy, PJ Harvey, Richard Feynman and on and on and on.

The guest list over nine series of The Infinite Monkey Cage reads like a who’s who of modern science, music, comedy and the arts in general.

Who have been your favourite guests and who is lined up for the next series?

I’ll answer Alan Moore again on that one; it was magnificent to have James Burke on, Colva Roney Dougal was a phenomenal mathematician, Ross Noble is great to spar with, I love making the show.

Is Prof Brian Cox REALLY as affable as he seems?

Sometimes we have blazing rows, especially when it gets to the possible limits of the human brain, and I greatly enjoy those rows.

He is a great communicator and his love of science and learning is just what you might predict from listening to him or watching the TV shows.

It is handy to have a friend to ring up at 11pm when you are confused about why the universe is as it is.