Loose Canons: Robin Ince
Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have inspired or informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.
“When someone writes a history of modern comedy, they should make room for Robin Ince.” - The Guardian
A whirring haze of cognitive energy and liberal anger, Robin Ince is the multiple award-winning comedian best known for co-hosting smash hit, Rose D’Or, and Sony Award-winning BBC Radio 4 and podcast series, The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox. In a boon for all comedy and science fans, next week Robin brings his popular UK comedy/science show Cosmic Shambles LIVE to New Zealand. The show feels a bit like a TED talk but better - it's interspersed with stand-up comedy and short sets by local music artists. The New Zealand shows include UK comedian Josie Long and comedian/mathematician Matt Parker, NZ comedian James Nokise, musician Lawrence Arabia, as well as NZ and UK scientists.
A renowned populariser, Robin is a regular at science and comedy festivals, TED talks and the like around the world. He has been the curator and host of some of the most acclaimed live science shows and tours in the UK including Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, Uncaged Monkeys, and Brian and Robin’s Christmas Compendium of Reason. Recently he has edited two anthologies of horror stories written by comedians, Dead Funny and Dead Funny Encore. He currently hosts the acclaimed Book Shambles podcast with Josie Long and the podcast Vitriola Music with Michael Legge.
If you listen to any one of Robin Ince's podcasts you'll know that he's brimming with obsessive fascinations. Well, well, the perfect subject for our Loose Canons series.
He is the reason I have severely curtailed the amount of stand up and travelling I do. I find the new form of love that is generated when you have a child remarkable. Before he was born, I was terrified. “How the hell do you become a parent!?” Some nights I’d lie awake thinking, “it’s probably best I just die in my sleep, I don’t know how to do this.” Fortunately, I didn’t. We have a lot of adventures together and he is great company. Constructing Lego with him while watching Doctor Who is a damn good way to live. He is also funny enough to provide me with material during creative blocks.
This is the latest influence. Before I got on the plane to change hemispheres, I made sure I went and visited the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at the Tate Modern one last time. His art is inspired by curiosity and joy. Every room offers something different; a pencil drawing of William De Kooning’s that he has erased (with De Kooning’s permission), a large vat of bubbling clay, a stuffed ram with a tyre on it and daubed in paint… Rarely have I seen so many people walking around a gallery smiling.
There are walls and walls of delight. Watch his 1997 interview with Charlie Rose - there is nothing that's not adorable.
Two comedians in particular - Rik Mayall and Barry Crimmins
“Do you love me? Do you think I’m great? Do you really like me? Would you like to see my bottom, really like to see my bot?”
Rik Mayall is one of the reasons I became a stand up comic – you can blame him. Utter devotion to noisy stupidity. He's a reminder to always perform with total commitment. I've organised a few nights celebrating his work and it's beautiful to see a whole room enraptured by his genius. His death was a very sad day for British comedy. That night, doing a show with my friend Michael Legge, we were bigger and more stupid than ever.
Barry Crimmins is a recent discovery though he has been working since the 1970s. Bobcat Goldthwait made a brilliant documentary, Call Me Lucky, about his life so far. He's brimming with humanity and has fought important battles, both political and personal, and he knew Kurt Vonnegut. He lives up to Vonnegut’s advice on how to live your life: “Godammit, you’ve got to be kind.”
Browsing Secondhand Bookshops
in the Faded Glamour of Small Seaside Towns
I love browsing in partially-organised secondhand bookshops that are a short walk from a cake shop and the sea, preferably a cake shop on a pier. I am unable to walk past secondhand bookshops. If they are closed, it makes me sick to think what might have been in them. I love the potential in every book, I read the blurb and scan a random page and think, “hey, there might be a show in this.” I recently bought a book from 1953 by a man who believed he'd worked out how UFOs work. It created much envy amongst my friends. My excitement mounts when I find pencil notes in the margins or a forgotten postcard that was used as a bookmark. Sometimes I buy a book just for the postcard inside it.
Then, I like to sit on pebbly beaches with a faded paperback of a sixties kitchen-sink novel or maybe a Shelagh Delaney play and imagine I'm a beatnik. I find that these are the places where I experience instantaneous nostalgia; I'm experiencing a happy memory as the memory itself forms.
Making Lists Of Things That Inspire Me
Making lists of things that inspire me really inspires me:
Myla Goldberg’s Bee Season
The films of Hal Hartley
Looking through telescopes
Standing in radio telescopes
Having a brain scan
Mr Smith Goes to Washington
Breaking the spine of a notebook
The essays of Arundhati Roy
The thoughts of Roy Batty
The Alice B Toklas Cookbook
Hypatia, the librarian of Alexandria
All librarians who go to work on bicycles
Nobel prize-winning bongo players
and Oliver Sacks
Cosmic Shambles LIVE plays at the ASB Theatre, Auckland on Tuesday 4 April.
Tickets are available here.
Tickets for the Wellington and Christchurch shows on Saturday 8 April and Monday 10 April respectively are available here.