The earlier standup DVD from this comedian Robin Ince Is as Dumb as You was a traditional standup whereas Happiness Through Science is themed around science. This is where Robin Ince is most at home, and if he’s lacking at all in knowing all the facts (he does give a disclaimer at the beginning), he makes up in enthusiasm. It’s a bit like watching a science lecture gone wrong, like you’ve given your professor speed that intensifies throughout the lecture until twelve ideas try to come out at once, making it impossible for him to say anything except to rush off into thirteenth anecdote. There are parts when he allows his subconscious to interrupt, taking up the position of the audience, but not in a Gaffigan way. In a schizophrenic way, like he’s writing in the margins of his DVD that he should remember not to do such specific improvisations. It’s not your traditional set-up/punch show (though there’s a thought-out pun about Cadbury), and I think it’s better for it. On top of being silly and having some really clever, laugh-out loud jokes about the Old and New Testaments of a car manual and Schrodinger’s Nostalgia (which insists that if you buy a DVD of your favorite childhood show, you must never open it), he really does make science spectacular. He talks about what it was like as an atheist explaining death to his three year old son, and it is beautiful. He even finishes off the show by reading from Carl Sagan, which isn’t funny at all, but it gives you, what Robin refers to earlier in the show as, cosmic vertigo.
Robin Ince is a comedian and science popularizer. He is the author of Robin Ince’s Bad Book Club and editor of the Dead Funny books. His standup DVDs are available from Go Faster Stripe. He co-presents The Infinite Monkey Cage, Book Shambles, and Vitriola Music podcasts. @robinince
Brian Cox does the commentary with Robin Ince. They are the co-hosts of the podcast on BBC Radio 4 called The Infinite Monkey Cage (recommended), so the commentary is basically like the Monkey Cage but three times as long and without any guests. Because they don’t have the sound on and because the commentary is recorded a year after the show, they don’t really know what Robin is talking about onstage and therefore don’t try to comment on the jokes. Instead, you can listen to it without watching just as a 90-minute discussion about science. Though, they do at times also discuss things like Hitler’s oomph and they psychoanalyze Robin by pointing out that whenever he has an imaginary person talking to him, they always look up, and when he as himself responds to the imaginary person, he looks down. The commentary is especially interesting because during the show, Robin mentions that they have found tantalizing glimpses of the higgs-boson particle, but by the time the commentary is recorded, they’ve discovered it and get to talk about that. Brian talks about in which circumstances he doesn’t view someone being a deist to be crazy or stupid. They discuss the ways in which biologists get more complaints than physicists. Brian also gets to plug his projects like The Wonders of the Universe and one of his books The Quantum Universe, which I am currently reading.
This DVD is available for purchase from GoFasterStripe.com. You can also watch clips of the show there for free if you want to try before you buy.
Jaime Pond is the editor of Anglonerd. She lives and works in NYC. Happiness Through Science is her favorite standup DVD ever. Follow her on Twitter.
Originally posted June 29, 2013