Robin Ince Isn\'t Waving

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Robin Ince is a compulsive hoarder of all things he likes; snapping up armfuls of obscure French DVDs from Fopp, rummaging through charity store bookshelves in the hope of some quirky, forgotten classics, or even collecting together all his favourite comedians in his rightly acclaimed Book Club gigs.

His tastes are infinitely precise, and that's reflected in his work. Not for him the broad strokes of the 'haven't you ever noticed' school of observational comedy, a fact he acknowledges with deliberately hamfisted attempts at it. Instead he'll launch into an anecdote with 'My favourite Robert Helpmann story is...' assuming not only that his audience know who Robert Helpmann is, but that they've all got their own list of Robert Helpmann stories which they've meticulously rated into their own top ten, too.

It's an almost academic commitment to a very specific type of popular culture, even if such erudition can be an obstacle to some audiences. But then, his audience are, by now, his sort of people who don't mind a show being, in his words, 'ramshackle' if their values are reinforced.

The show offers an eclectic mix of distractions, from his own accordion accompaniment, courtesy of Martin White, to extracts from a booked called How To Pick Up Sexy Girls, which features a lot more graphs than you might expect.

These punctuate witty stand-up routines, the best of which is a sublime rant about the flooding of his basement flat with sewerage, costing him hundreds of his precious books, records and DVDs, in which Ince gets rightly furious at the intransigent water company man denying the very effluent he was standing in. It might have been an incident which caused 37-year-old Ince to re-evaluate the worth of a generation still clinging to teenage passions for movies and music when we really should be well into adulthood, but it doesn't look like it has.

Ince's breath of pop culture knowledge does enable him to draw on a wide range of references, to evocative effect. His account of his terror at finding himself menaced by youths in a dark Newcastle alleyway is a thing of gothic splendour, created almost entirely from such reference points.

It all underlines Ince's appeal as an intellectual, pedantic, well-read (even if it is all the wrong books) and staunchly middle-class comic. If that sounds like your bag, you'll love him.

But if you didn't know, or at least want to know, that Robert Helpmann was the ballet dancer who played the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, you might be better off somewhere else.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Aug 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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