In between a break from his tour, Robin Ince has been a special guest on Professor Brian Cox’s Universal: Adventures in Space & Time shows, and will be heading back on his extended Chaos of Delight tour, with a date at Ropetackle Arts in Shoreham-by-Sea on 2nd November. Heading into December, Robin rejoins Brian at the Eventim Apollo for their show Christmas Compendium of Reason, before he heads to Kings Place with Nine Lessons and Carols for Curious People to close his year. Chatting with us, Robin says more about the Chaos of Delight tour, heading to Ropetackle Arts and his shows with Brian Cox.
Can you tell us about your Chaos of Delight tour?
It’s increasingly unavoidable to notice that people are furious and scared and suspicious of each other. We are going through strange times and I thought I would put on a show that is filled with joy and delight – it is about the wonders of the brain, the delight of curiosity and the delight of being delightful.
You’ll be playing at Ropetackle Arts, Shoreham-by-Sea on 2nd November, what do you enjoy about performing at this venue?
The audience have always been lovely, the cake is fantastic and the volunteers always have interesting stories. Shoreham is the sort of seaside town that I love, and it also has one of my favourite charity shops SOLD. I thought the Stephen Hawking corner they created in their book section after he died was a lovely example of their creativity.
How has the tour gone so far and what are you looking forward to for the extended run?
It has been a lot of fun and quite surreal with it being broken up by doing a couple of arena tours with Brian Cox, so I am going from 12,000 people at The O2 to the Ropetackle – my more natural home.
How do you keep your material up to date and do you rework the content of your shows during a tour?
In terms of being up to date, current affairs doesn’t really bother the show, what does change is what I have been reading most recently, the art galleries and the towns I have been to. Also, I change the slide show every day, so I am taken unaware by things I chose to put on the screen when I was on the train there – and as I am coming straight from Penzance to Shoreham, that’s a lot of potential slide changes.
What can you say about the Nine Lessons and Carols for Curious People shows you will be doing towards the end of the year?
I’ve always described it as The Royal Variety Show if it was programmed by the Royal Institution Christmas lectures, a great big jamboree of experiments, explosions, comedy and music.
What can people expect from your shows with Brian Cox?
Hopefully there will be just enough balance between enlightenment and baffle, I think it is also the most human show we’ve done (not that Brian isn’t human, that was just a rumour put about to explain his eternal youth and intelligence).
How and when did you and Brian start working together?
About twelve years ago. I was putting on shows mixing up science, music and comedy and I got him along. Then I had a small part in a pilot he was doing for Radio Four. That show came to nothing, but the producer of it, Sasha, heard something in it between Brian and me and so began The Infinite Monkey Cage.
Can you say more about your show at Eventim Apollo, Brian and Robin’s Christmas Compendium of Reason?
I can tell you nothing – we are all sworn to secrecy. It is very exciting to hear the noises the audience makes when our surprise guests come on. I think the most shocked delight was when we introduced the astronaut Chris Hadfield, but we have had such amazing guests – including Duran Duran, The Cure and Orbital plus some remarkable scientists and comedians. I thought we were running out of favours, but this year’s show has possibly our greatest line-up. I really want to tell you, but…
How do you come up with topics to talk about for The Infinite Monkey Cage show you host on BBC Radio 4?
We sit around and start thinking about what excites us. It can also be based around a scientist who might be available, so we may build a show around their achievements. I think the latest series is the one we’ve had the most fun with – from dinosaurs to the perdieci table and finally an astronaut episode with Helen Sharman and Tim Peake. I also went public about having the strangest dream about Corfe Castle, I hope that my journey to Shoreham doesn’t lead to fevered dreams of Arundel.
Why did you decide to bring science and comedy together?
It gives me an excuse to spend my whole day reading and the whole night going to Observatories. I love learning new things and changing my perspective on the Universe and by putting on shows about such things, I have to keep researching – my life is a perpetual self-constructed Open University course.
How did The Cosmic Shambles Network come about and can you talk more about it?
My friend Trent and I were talking about how many scientists we had access to, and we thought it would be great to build a site where people could access hundreds of interviews with scientists explaining their methods and their passions – from Alice Roberts, Helen Czerski and Richard Dawkins to people still doing their PhDs. It grew from that and now we do regular Science podcasts as well as using it to bring back Book Shambles. All my projects are just a public extension of my passions.
You’ve previously released books including your most recent I’m a Joke and So Are You, which was described by Chortle as ‘one of the best books ever written about what it means to be a comedian’, are there plans to write more?
My next book will be out just as soon as I write it. Hopefully there will be a new one next year which takes I’m a joke as a starting point and then investigates how we can psychologically deal with the ideas of science that many have shattered our comforting myths.
CHAOS OF DELIGHT is touring the UK and heads to Ropetackle Arts in November.
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