Robin Ince is as Dumb as You
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
From Radio 2’s Day the Music Died and all that stuff on Radio 4.
It is very unlikely Robin Ince is as dumb as you. He is almost certainly better read; as proven by a show that swoops impressively around all manner of diverse topics. Where else will you hear about an otters' killing capacity, Railway Children author E Nesbitt and cannibalism all in a few short minutes?
He is a human equivalent of the Tell Me Why? children’s book he brings onstage (one of a number of reference sources that illustrate his show, from internet printout to newspaper cuttings); full of useless but entertaining information.
Ince uses all this book learning to advance the idea that the world is becoming more stupid. There’s certainly evidence in the way Britain seems to be in thrall to a new generation of charlatans and snake-oil salesmen like homeopaths, nutritionist Gillian McKeith – whose programme You Are What You Eat he ridicules mercilessly - and stage psychics, whose lies and deception are an easy target for any comic.
Ince is a man clearly aware of the state of the world, and pulls in all manner of opinions and snippets of information, often obliquely, to support his convincing cause. His writing is stylish, intelligent and economical – it has to be, there’s a hell of a lot of ground he wants to cover. Even so, at times it feels like you’re learning more than your laughing.
Ince wears his wisdom lightly, he’s charming and amiable in his delivery, but showing a polite restraint which stops his liberal passions getting the better of him, even when confronted by something as bizarrely racist as a story portraying Martin Luther King as a savage cannibal. But such self-control restricts Ince from really letting rip and realising the full comic potential of his witty, insightful writing.
Nonetheless, this is proper comedy for grown-ups. You never feel patronised, or that Ince is pulling a cheap trick to get a laugh, choosing instead to deliver a wry, intelligent analysis of the state of the nation with a quiet charm.