Life

Robin Ince – The Importance of Being Interested (at Ludlow)

Robin Ince turned up at Ludlow on Friday as part of his tour The Importance of Being Interested. Ludlow, by and large, did not. It was Ludlow’s loss because they missed an entertaining evening.

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If you’re not sure who he is, Robin Ince is the sane voice on the Infinite Monkey Cage, the BBC’s science/comedy show. When Brian Cox goes off on one of his surreal rants about Physics being the best science* it’s Robin Ince who pulls him back to reality. A person looking at things sensibly doesn’t sound like the basis for good comedy but, a bit like Douglas Adams, Robin Ince is a normal person in a bizarre world.

The show is about how weird the world is. Despite the frequent description of Robin Ince as grumpy, at its heart the show is actually very positive. Ince argues that now is the greatest time to be alive. Partly this is because not only do we know more about the universe than ever, our we also have a better idea about our ignorance. There is so much we don’t know that we could now investigate. Another reason for wanting to be alive now is that if you were alive in the fifteenth century you’d probably be dead.

Actually reviewing all the jokes, and critiquing how accurate he is about orchids would be missing the point. It’s a comedy show. Is he funny? Yes. But even if you have no sense of humour and are an expert on evolution, he’s still worth watching. The show uses Powerpoint. That means he has to be able to perform with Powerpoint or everything falls flat. Much as I like sites like Presentation Zen you can learn a hell of a lot on how to capture the audience by watching someone like Robin Ince. Like Dave Gorman he works with, and not against, Powerpoint.

It’s not a simple thing to copy, the presentation works holistically. You can’t simply watch the show and then lift ideas wholesale. What you can see is the difference talking with excitement and enthusiasm about a subject can make. I’ll be keeping an eye on his website so I can catch him again next time he comes close to Radnorshire.

The video below Science versus wonder? is a very compressed exploration of similar themes to the show.

* I’ve used Science to confirm that Physics is not the best discipline. I took a survey of scientists in the Annals of Botany office, and no one put Physics top.