If you’re even half as much a Robin Ince fan as Anglonerd magazine is, you’ll appreciate that Go Faster Stripe has released a mammoth sendoff to Ince’s standup career: a two-disc DVD set containing hours and hours of recent standup material from Ince, including a recording of Ince’s last big standup show before he retired. Robin Ince’s Last Ever Show is available both as a download and as a DVD set (region 0 format, playable on all DVD players).
Do you know about the experiments where scientists gave LSD to dolphins to see if they could learn English? How about the one where they gave cocaine to a bee? Have you tried staring into a mirror to force a hallucination? What about the rubber hand experiment? These science delights, and more, are what you can expect from comedian and science popularizer Robin Ince. There is also an ode to books. “Books to me are a fossil of the mind.”
An hour and fifteen minutes of brand new material! And if you’re expecting a tightly written performance clearly mapped out just for this retirement party, don’t worry–Ince’s trademark inner monologue rears its tangential head, derailing all forty trains of thought Ince had set in motion, culminating into one big trainwreck of the unfinished thoughts and truncated sentences that put Ince’s “science lectures” in the comedy genre.
Did you know the dodecahedron was a forbidden shape? That Richard Feynman’s sister banned him from the aurora borealis? That Bertrand Russell spent hours (unsuccessfully) trying to prove to Ludwig Wittgenstein that there was no rhinoceros in his office? To attempt to fit in the 60+ ideas that didn’t make it into the main show, Ince hosts a smaller (but longer) show, giving him a chance to muse on general relativity, Richard Dawkins, and what is the fruit of science anyway? (The debate seems to be down to an apple vs a banana, rather than the inside-jokey strawberry.) In this hour-and-a-half show, we get Ince’s love of Darwin’s worm experiments, as well as an impression of Darwin as an observational standup comedian. Around 75 minutes in, Ince has one of his brain implosions and everything goes a bit squiffy. If during a Robin Ince performance you don’t get the sense that you’re watching a man having a breakdown, you have caught him on an off night.
First Half of the Show
Prior to the main show, Ince was meant to give a short introduction to his support act, folk singer Grace Petrie, and then be off. However, his ten-minute introduction wound up being half an hour. In this 30 minutes, he talks about meeting Peter Higgs, recounts the moment in Chris Hadfield’s book where he’s hanging onto the outside of the space station, and does an impression of Brian Blessed doing an impression of Jesus. You may have heard Ince’s homeopathy stuff before, as well as his running gag that Professor Brian Cox is sucking the life out of him, which is why Ince looks increasingly older and Cox increasingly younger. However, there is likely some stuff in here you haven’t heard, like talking about his recent trip to America (for the American episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage) and Alan Moore winning an argument against Brian Cox.
Finally, we get to Grace Petrie, one of Anglonerd magazine’s favorite musical performers. Over the next half hour, we are treated to three songs from Petrie’s Whatever’s Left album: “Ivy,” “Why Bob Dylan Sang,” and “You Pay Peanuts You Get Monkeys,” which came with an audience sing-a-long. The biggest thrill is that she plays the Darwin song that she wrote upon Robin Ince’s request. It’s not on one of her albums (at the moment) but was debuted on the Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome.
In and Out of His Mind
Bonus show! This is an older recording of an earlier Robin Ince show. Chris Evans at Go Faster Stripe says, “We can’t remember why it went unreleased.” I have seen tour posters for this and other Robin Ince shows that I’ve been sad were not available on DVD, so it’s thrilling to find a lost treasure like this! I’ll warn you, it is two-and-a-half hours long, and that’s after Ince has cut out an hour’s worth of material. I’m just going to list a few highlights:
- More Brian Blessed anecdotes than you ever imagined! (Ince claims that if Blessed worked for NASA, we would be on Mars by now.)
- Ince would like to make a video of himself playing a bassoon to some worms, just as Darwin had done.
- A picture slideshow of all Ince’s favorite animals, from the Proboscis Monkey to the crab that puts sponge on its head when it feels stressed to sloths that are so lazy that they only eat food if it’s been digested by another animal already
- An accurate description of the event horizon, thinly veiled as a way to take a dig at the town of Crawley
- Ince’s wife doesn’t bring him to parties anymore because last time, he starting miming bonobo mating behavior. (I’d only ever heard this in Lost Treasures of the Black Heart podcast.)
- Reciting pieces of both Pale Blue Dot and Oh, The Places You’ll Go
- A breakdown at 73 minutes in as he realizes he only has ten minutes left before intermission
Robin Ince’s Last Ever Show is not really for the uninitiated because it is a massive amount of material (with the audio show, which I didn’t even get into here, it’s more than eight hours) and a huge commitment, but do think of it as an absolute must item for comedy collectors and fans. Buy it here! While there is some overlapped material from one show to the next on this DVD, it’s almost entirely new material from his other DVDs, so it’s well worth your twenty bucks (or ten for the download, currency exchange rates subject to change). If you’re not familiar with Ince’s style, I recommend starting with Happiness Through Science and working your way through.