What do I want to achieve with my stand-up? | Robin Ince on what he hopes to be

What do I want to achieve with my stand-up?

Robin Ince on what he hopes to be

My current tour was originally going to start with this.

Welcome to the illusory 
delusional me 
the public presentation of who I think I ought to be 
saved for your possible approbation or ridicule. 
The non-nose-picking 
not grudgeful 
never porn peeking
rarely masturbating…
…unless ethically necessary 
fair trading 
gift aiding 
because I want to be 
not because I was told to be
advert shunning 
never pandering
or mansplaining. 
And I want to be a vegan 
but I’ve got a protein problem alibi 
creator without an ego 
‘I hope this is OK, sorry if it’s not, I don’t want to let you down
I really do me to entertain…"
It’s the five-star seeking deliverance of something human…maybe
but always 
a work in progress 
under construction
on the brink of demolition 
now let's kick out the jams, motherfuckers.

It is one of my sort of poems. I wrote it on the tube on the way to a Sunday afternoon preview. 

I had been thinking about what comics are trying to present in stand-up.

Now I am back touring again, I have been thinking further about what I hope to be and do as I make shapes and bellow at strangers. 

The (sort of) poem was about the ambition of projecting to an audience who we think we should be. There are some who project a rebel pose, some who project a pose of kindness, some are convivial and some are brutish, some are just plain daft. 

The extent to which the comedian is like that off stage depends. I have known comedians who have been aggressively rude on stage and are an utter delight offstage. I have experienced comedians whose,  'matey, wouldn’t you want to have a drink with that lovely guy’ stage persona could disappoint many of the fans should they see the grouchy, fuck you, hate people, offstage reality. Most of my favourite comedians are on stage exaggerations of an offstage reality. 

On the list of ‘what do I hope to achieve from my solo shows’ – and in no particular order – then:

  1. I would like to reflect a version of myself that is better than the humdrum reality, but hopefully not so distant from it that I am alien to the spotlit me 
  2. I want to enthuse people. I want them to be as excited by the things I discuss as I am. This has been true of the science shows and is now true of the current show, which is more a celebration of artistic imagination than of experimental physics (though there is some of that as well)
  3. There is a section on mental health and suicidal thoughts and I hope that there is some pragmatism behind it. In its low culture, show-off, silly punchlines and strange child memory way, I want to think it may even be useful to someone. 
  4. I hope enough people turn up that I can do this forever and make some money from it.
  5. I hope enough people turn up so that I don’t feel almost the entirety of my adult life has been a stupid waste of time and that my ego is grumpy and crushed. 
  6. I hope they have a good time. When you watch me on stage, you may not realise, but there is a little holiday rep in my head secretly bellowing out to the audience:  ‘Are you having fun! I hope you are having fun! FUN!’ You may not think it when I am in the midst of something idiosyncratic, but I never forget that the prime intention is to entertain. They have chosen to waste their time on me, so at the very least I must attempt to give them everything within the bounds of my agenda.
  7. I hope people leave the show more curious and more excited about the things they can confront in the world. I hope they feel that the venal, the vicious, the dogmatic and the hate preaching may be assailable. 
  8. And so back to… I hope they leave and think: ‘He seems like an OK guy’ and round and round we go. 

But I know that because I have set up certain rules of what I should talk about and what I want to achieve, some may leave thinking: ‘Well, that was not my cup of tea at all’ –  like I overheard the technician at Richmond’s Georgian Theatre saying to the bar staff.

In Chippenham, someone said: ‘I can’t stand you on Radio 4, but I love your stand-up.’ That is probably the right way around for my ultimate hopes. 

I liked Gray Couzens tweeted to me after my Hull gig: ‘Even more eccentric than usual.’

And this sort of comment makes me happy. 

‘Your passion for what you love is infectious. I’ve not been to a gallery in a year…this weekend that will change’ – Si Williams 

But I still looked down the comments section under a Guardian piece I did until I found the negativity, so balance is still there.

I am on UK tour. Leeds, York, Nottingham, Norwich and many more, Details of all 40 plus gigs at www.robinince.com.

Published: 10 Oct 2017

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