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Interview: Robin Ince
HE’S Ricky Gervais’s best mate and he’s described as one of the great underrated comedians. And after a 15 minute conversation with Robin Ince, I’d say he’s also one of the cleverest.
Not just comically intelligent either — he could shame a room full of people with his high IQ.
It’s evident from Robin’s show that he’s not the type of comedian to tell “knock knock” jokes. A set which questions the wisdom of the self-proclaimed moral majority with discussions on Guantanamo Bay and Charles Darwin certainly doesn't sound like you’re average stand-up act.
But that’s exactly what Robin wanted. He refuses to be “dumbed down” — something he says is happening to society. He shouts about botched foreign policy and then slips in jokes about astronomers with noses made of gold and the Poo Fairy, just for fun.
Robin is also the founder of The Book Club, a nomadic club night. The club has proved to be so successful that Robin took it on a full UK tour this year and also won the Time Out Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy.
A close friend of Ricky Gervais, Robin has supported his comedy pal on his Fame and Politics tours. Their strange relationship has been chronicled in two documentaries. Robin also appeared in the first series of The Office.
But Robin — who has also written several feature films and is the co-writer on Channel 4’s Skins — admits that, despite their close friendship, he actually prefers touring without Ricky.
“When you’re supporting someone like Ricky you’re never the main act,” Robin tells me. “You will only even be the support and I wanted to do something for me this time.
“I enjoyed the massive arena tours with Ricky but I’m really loving the more intimate venues I’m playing. There’s something a lot more personal about my show doing it this way,” said the 40-year-old.
“And, to be honest, although it’s fun travelling around with you’re friend to the different venues, I don’t mind being on my own on trains. I actually quite like it,” he admits. “I’m weird like that. I read a quote once that said; ‘being on your own is all right so long as you have someone to tell about it later. I love reading and I enjoy finding out new things. It excites me. So being on a train for several hours at a time gives me that opportunity to fill my brain with more things.”
But being on the road all the time does eventually take its toll and, as we spoke, Robin was on a train on his way home for a two-week holiday with the family.
“My wife won’t let me read a newspaper while I’m off or I’ll start getting angry and shouting about all the stories in there.
“I’ll have fun watching my new son play. It's a strange form of relaxation. I think we’ll do some animal impressions. He likes those. The orangutan is my personal favourite.
“He’s so funny but I always restrain from doing jokes about babies. Everyone does them and they’re so easy. I actually have banned myself from ever doing a joke that starts with ‘and another thing about childbirth’."
It seems comedy comes as second nature to Robin, who revealed he will be sneaking his notepad out during his holiday, when his wife isn’t looking, to jot down ideas.
But would he still do this job if it didn’t pay the bills?
“I’d still go out and do stand-up because I’ve tried to give it up loads of times,” he said. “When I first began, I used to get really excited doing a gig for £18. I actually lost £10 of that on the bus back, which was quite annoying, but that was enough for me. I didn’t have a big game plan.
“I don’t know why I do it. I think it’s an enormous character flaw. Nearly all of my friends who do stand-up spend most of their lives questioning why they do it. We all feel a little bit sick before we go on and come off saying ‘was it all right?’ so basically stand-up is a character flaw.
“It’s quite a depressing period just before you go on stage, but we love it once we get out there.”
- Robin Ince brings his Bleeding Heart Liberal tour to Burnley Mechanics on March 20 at 8pm. Tickets from 01282 664400.