Having weaned himself off stand up comedy, instead occupying himself over the past few years with such other matters as a little show broadcast on Radio 4 entitled Infinite Monkey Cage and the recent associated international arena tour with co-host Professor Brian Cox including a sold-out date at the 3,000 seat Edinburgh Playhouse, the upstairs room of The Stand 2 is perhaps a bit of a comedown but Robin Ince still has plenty to say about his favourite subjects of life, the universe and everything.
“He’s forty eight, why is he still doing stand up?” he asks of himself in the third person. “It’s a psychological necessity so he doesn’t kill.” Instead that frothing rage at the new world order is visited on the capacity crowd who have squeezed themselves into the cramped room to witness a middle aged man in a comfortable cardigan attempt to express the persistent craziness which has become the hallmark of modern life in rational terms.
Describing the show as “part stand up, part Stockholm syndrome,” any members of the audience with even a hint of self-awareness and empathy for others are indeed complicit and on side within the first few moments of his tirade at the current state of affairs of a country run aground on the policies of austerity and beating the hollow gong of Brexit so as to drown out any rational voices of dissent.
“Life is complex,” he says. “It’s impossible to not be some measure of hypocrite if you have any measure of conscience or social awareness.” Yet he tries to do the right thing even though clinging to principles comes at a cost, having turned down a panel show when he found out his co-host would have been Katie Hopkins and now being obliged to boycott Marks and Spencer as part of the Stop Funding Hate campaign, “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Bursting with words and ideas and absurd observations, his internal monologue of doubt and anxiety amplified across the room, at times it is almost a confessional of the fear of growing old perhaps brought into focus during the recording of the 2016 Infinite Monkey Cage Christmas special when his concern over whether his own precarious innards would last until the end of the session was suddenly overshadowed by the news that his mother had died.
It’s a cold and unpredictable world of precious little comfort and Ince has always been prepared to not only to stand up but march in the company of the men and women fighting the good fight, amongst them Peter Capaldi whom he met on the March for Science (“Wasn’t the Doctor Who season closer great?”) and his young son who recently joined him on a Women’s March.
Having put a schoolmate in his place by telling him “there’s no such thing as girls’ books and boys’ books,” Ince is justifiably proud of his offspring, and while much of what Ince senior says may simply be common sense, that in itself is a commodity in rare supply in these days when politicians think their promises can be forgotten as easily as their Internet history can be wiped. “Kindness is not a luxury good for the middle classes,” we are reminded, a simple lesson to be put into everyday practice when remaining pragmatic in the face of insanity.