Robin Ince: Chaos of Delight

The Forum, Northallerton. October 10 2018

I love Robin Ince. This is the third time I’ve seen the man who once called me an “Enlightenment Nincompoop” (which was meant – I think – as a compliment, and certainly accepted as one).

No, really. I love him. A strange little man running around on stage looking (and often sounding) unsettlingly like Harry Enfield on a bathtubful of wizz, engaged in what feels like comedy as Brownian Motion, a random walk of ideas, bashing around haphazardly from one thought to another, one laugh to another. There was meant to be a plan in the first half of this show, part of which included a trip through the slides sitting on his MacBook, just a little too far away from the mic, with a clicker that didn’t work. And it was a smaller audience tonight than some of the other venues, but no less appreciative for that.

So, all things considered, the plan didn’t quite happen. But that doesn’t matter, because we got to hear what he gets up to when he’s home alone and wanting a drink. Nicky Henson was apparently scared by that. There’s lots about Blessed and Cox, and his son, and thinking that you may be on the cusp of madness (and in a not entirely bad way, given that is pretty much the premise of what he does to earn a crust).

But back to those slides. There are lots of them (nearly 150, as it happens) though he doesn’t always get round to showing the ones he wants to. Actually, mostly he doesn’t get round to showing them at all because as he’s about to talk about one, off he throws himself into another direction. But we do get discussion of the man bearing an uncanny patina of Quentin Crisp, and what’s in his saddlebag in a 70s PIF. Which is nice.

The usual mode of his delivery tends towards “…and just another thing…” because the ideas and thoughts just keep pouring out; he simply can’t get through them all. But while he’s doing this he’s a whirl of voices, channeling Rik Mayall discussing Kafka’s purely academic interest (your honour) in six-breasted woman fawn- feeding grot, or describing his role in Alexei Sayle’s descent back into stand-up hell. Sometimes he even managed to sound like an old-school Ben Elton, coiled around the mic, rasping and railing. But it’s not all machine-gun. There are more reflective moments, with poetry, and at one point a rumination on contemporary nostalgia – not living properly in the now, and being distracted by an illusory fondness both for the past we’ve just escaped from, and the future we are hurtling toward. He talks too about the need to seize the joy in the present, because there’s more of it than we may realise. This is brought on from one of those slides, a piece of work by Rauschenburg, and for a moment I’m quite powerfully reminded of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, and Hector’s tactic of bombarding his charges with anything and everything, because some of it might just stick. It’s all rather beautifully and gently life-affirming, reminding you that there’s something to be said for that sometimes childish, simpler review of the world we have before all those pesky adult filters kick in.

He also has a new book, “I’m A Joke, And So Are You”, which I bought (I promised I would), and which he duly signed. I’ve already started it, and it has all the signs of being rather wonderful. It’s thoughtful without pretension, insightful without pomposity, and gleefully embraces the absurdity of everything. It’s just like his stand-up.

He’s off to Nottingham next, and the tour is ongoing. He’s always worth seeing, but this time even more so, I think.