C’est ce n’est pas un review, or something. Not this bit, anyway. Here’s the thing: I go to see Robin Ince pretty much whenever he’s in town, a couple of times a year, maybe. So he’s seldom reviewed here unless there’s some kind of USP. He appeared in Liverpool again last week, as part of the comedy festival, again to a (modest) sell-out crowd and, as often is the case, with a science-based show. It’s always an enjoyable night out.
However this time, a mainstream reviewer was among our number, who, with most of Ince’s act flying straight over his head, went back to the office to bash out the most disconcerting hatchet job I’d read in that particular, erm, organ for some time. Now, let’s face it, a good hatchet job can be a lot of fun. There’s awards for them and everything. But this one was just thoughtless – the opinion of someone proudly displaying his ignorance of what went on, expressing a disdain for the people who ‘got it’ as a bit weird, and ending by saying the show was one to avoid unless you were some kind of Comic Book Nerd, ie, not him or his ‘ordinary bloke’ readers. If that kind of half-baked analysis is being a critic, it was enough to want to pack it all in. It’s been on my mind ever since.
Obviously, there are more important matters in the world and a science-based comedy show hosted by a middle-aged bloke in a cardigan isn’t for everybody, but this got on my nerves quite a bit. This ‘too clever, didn’t get it, audience weren’t like me = crap’ attitude is saddening. The review was ill-informed (the first online version actually got Ince’s name wrong), patronising and condescending, poorly-written, and undertaken with a complete lack of context or awareness. However, it clearly amused all involved, as the writer and his media organisation both saw fit to flaunt the link right under Ince’s nose online – which only flagged it up as little more than the clickbait they saw it for (‘Look at us tearing you, the way you make a living and your paying audience to pieces! Isn’t it FUNNY!! PLEASE RT!!’ Really?). Disappointing standards all round.
So there’s still not much to say about Ince’s set, apart from the fact it was enjoyable and interesting as always – this time titled ‘Robin Ince is In and Out of His Mind’, and loosely sticking to a theme of psychology and science, he flew off on conversational tangents, ranted about things a bit, worried things were going badly when he had a bit of a wobble after a few nights of insomnia, and updated us with tales of his now-six year son Archie, now losing his teeth (he was only just born when I started going to see Ince live). There was, of course, talk of his hugely successful podcast The Infinite Monkey Cage, and a chance to regale the story of the time Brian Blessed was a guest – an oldie, but always fun to see him perform – and of scientists he had been reading about. That’s the drill, and surely us contemptible nerds will be doing it all again next time.
Also allowing the audience into the inner workings of a fast and delightfully deranged comedy mind was Silky (or, Crosby-born, Leeds-based comedian Silky, to give him his full introduction-slash-title), who appeared in the same venue a few nights before, and whom together with Ince sadly constituted the whole of my Comedy Festival experience this year, despite there being loads of cracking sets to check out.
It was this year’s Edinburgh show, Tribute Act (given that title just so it had a name, as is Silky’s style); and for the most part was performed with such natural flair it was hard to tell what came off the top of his head and what was being told for the hundredth time. Silky is a bit of a natural compere, so will easily take up a big chunk of the set riffing with the audience – however, unlike with other comedians it all happily works as part of the act, rather than waiting to get that bit over with so the set can start (*looks at Ross Noble for starters*). And when the time is right, he’ll get out the guitar, on this occasion subverting trad love songs and twisting them into something more surreal, with a hilarious ode to life through a dog’s eyes being a bit of a highlight. Nothing seems to faze Silky and therein lies a big part of his appeal – whatever the circumstances he manages to bring the laughs.