Once again at the weekend I found myself marvelling at the wonder that is Robin Ince. Even though, whenever I see him, he tends to tweet later that the show was rubbish, I always have an excellent time (making me wonder whether I would, in fact, burst my spleen if I caught
him on a 'good' day). I've seen him a lot over the last year: one benefit for New Humanist, two Schools for Gifted Children, a Godless show and two Edinburgh previews, and I do feel the need to share with you how brilliant this man is.
He is angry, yes. But his anger is directed at things we should be angry about, like people who wilfully refuse to accept evidence-based science and (dangerously) mislead others, as opposed to spending a set ranting about coffee sizes. I am perfectly happy to watch a good comedy set about coffee sizes ("grande! Grande!") but with Robin Ince it not only feels directed, but you learn something too. He quotes Carl Sagan and philosophy, but doesn't do it pompously (in fact yesterday he was 'doing' voices) and they are integral to his act, not self-important window dressing to demonstrate how well read he is. If I can be forgiven for nicking one line to help illustrate:
Rene Descartes said "I think, therefore I am". But some people don't think, and they still are. This is unfair.
He has energy I can only dream about and I'm a decade younger. He, almost literally, fizzes onstage as he leaps from topic to topic, doing none of the material he prepared (and for which he often castigates himself, but which I think is brilliant. Always a different show with Robin Ince). He does vast numbers of benefit gigs. And – this is important – he puts together unique shows like Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People and School for Gifted Children, which allow scientists and musicians to perform alongside comedians, and the Book Club which was a space for people (not necessarily comedians) to try out new stuff, be it new material, monologues, whatever. I don't know of everyone on the comedy circuit (not by a long shot), but he's the only person I'm aware of doing this kind of thing, tirelessly, (thanklessly?). I also don't know anyone else who does comedy like he does, encompassing science and rationalism and actually campaigning with his sheer bloody passion.
Passion. That's the word. Robin Ince is fantastic because he has passion and he's doing something with it; he's not sitting on his arse complaining at the TV and newspapers, he's actually going out and making interesting things happen. (Also, in case you're worried his act is all shouty ranty, the bits where he talks about his small son are genuinely some of the most joyous moments I've ever seen.) Plus he's fucking hilarious. To demonstrate:
AND. It is also because of something I saw at a School for Gifted Children that, on seeing Ginza in Tokyo at night, all lit up and tall and shining, that this quotation from Carl Sagan was my first thought: these are the things that hydrogen atoms do when given 13.7 billion years. And I love him for planting that in my head.