Thursday 10 May 2012

Robin Ince at Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub 9/05/2012

I did originally think about just writing the word “Brilliant!” and leaving it at that. It would have been accurate and concise, but it wouldn’t have done justice to the evening. Robin was like a man possessed, in fact at one point I’m sure he was channelling dead physicists and not so dead Northampton based comic writers. He had with him a few battered texts and a selection of postcards upon which were written varied thoughts, scraps of words and quotes. For the first half of the night he worked his way through some of these in an almost frenetic form of free association as the ideas trapped by the ink sparked a chain reaction of thoughts that branched into new avenues of humour.

At one point he commented on the length of time he’d been talking and I honestly hadn’t noticed. It didn’t seem that he actually wanted to go into the traditional sitp interval that is followed by the obligatory question and answer session. This was confirmed by the fact that once back on stage he then asked and answered all his own questions as, with a fantastic disregard to expectation, he carried on working through his cards. Nobody, I am certain, minded and he picked up the pace as if he’d never stopped with energy levels that  would make Cern envious.

This wasn’t just a comedy gig; I wouldn’t even call it a routine as I bet he’d be hard pressed to replicate it too closely. It was science communication at its best. Not in the sense that he gave us a load of information, although there was a lot of that there, but in the sheer contagious nature of his wonder at the world about him. He portrays and invokes that astonishment that you see in the young, that we all had before some of us allowed the apparent monotony of life to blind us to the actual marvels of existence. Amongst the laughs and humour there was a challenge in his talk, at least for me. See that dog turd I just stepped in, it’s the result of millions of years of evolution, a few hours of chemical and biological processes and a moment’s distraction, staring up at the stars.

I’ve seen Robin a few times before, listened to many podcasts and read his tweets. I even interviewed him briefly for a podcast. It’s an easy mistake for the fan to begin to think they know a person from the bits of themselves that they make accessible through media, social or otherwise. I wouldn’t pretend to know Robin but he was a pleasure to host, easy going, humble and happy to mix in with the crowd and chat until the bar closed. I don’t think that he could have given any more of himself. All this for no more payment than a veggie burger, a few beers and a room in a less than salubrious hotel at the back of New St Station. “Brilliant” doesn’t even cut it.

This review is by Patrick Redmond (@paddyrex) one of the organisers of Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub. Photo by the wonderful Simon Brettell.


Si said...

Once again Patrick you've summed up my thoughts far more eloquently than I can myself. It was a brilliant night and Robin was a lovely bloke. The barrage of information, science, anecdotes, stories and jokes that went off on so many tangents left my head in daze. It was coming so fast that, rather annoyingly, I can barely remember anything other than some reference to Derek Jacobi and a trombone! As you've already said "BRILLIANT"

raetsel said...

Very good summing up of the evening. I've seen Robin live a few times but this was different and perhaps that was partly because he knew exactly the sort of people who would be in the audience and he could just go tearing off knowing we would be happy to try and keep up.

I brought a friend along who I have been trying to get to a SitP for a long time. The next day he emailed me to say how much he enjoyed it and, crucially, how Robin had inspired him to have renewed enthusiasm for his PhD research in neuropsychology. Not, as Robin tweeted, because my friend thought Robin's mind was broken, but because Robin had put across so well what Science really is about.

It's that word again, Brilliant.

@paddyrex said...

Cheers guys, it's always nice to get some feedback. It really was a great night.

wyldetwo said...

Great post Patrick, thanks. I especially agree about his 'child-like' marvelling about life, the universe and everything!