The lousiest advice my friend Ricky Gervais
has given me? Ricky rarely has time to give me advice as he is usually too busy screeching in my ear or singing
Halfway Up The Stairs
for two to three hours. I would advise anyone who meets him never to accept his advice, "Go on, put your hand in that."
I have been researching imposter syndrome recently and it is interesting to find out that it is not universal. [Musician and comedian] Tim Minchin told me that he doesn't have it, he is aware of his limitations, but also aware that others have limitations too. I don't think it is a vital mechamism, it is important to try and get a handle on it and be aware that in a busy room you are not the only one under a calm surface thinking, "Bloody hell, should I really be here?"
When I find my heart's rest I am probably with my 9-year-old son and we are listening to incidental music from Doctor Who. I love going to small seaside towns and building pointless structures out of pebbles and eating chips. I also delight in musical festivals. If Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are on, then it's perfect.
Radio is a more personal medium. It doesn't have the divide between you and the communicator that television has. It is a voice in your ear and it may be with you in the car, the bath or the garden. The listener has to do part of the work, we use the words and then hopefully they draw the pictures in their head. Also, there are far fewer lines of attrition to go through from idea to result. In TV, there are so many people to dilute your idea. In radio, you just go off and make it.
I never wake up in the morning and think, "Hmmm, as an atheist, what should I do today?" I rarely think about it. My desk doesn't have a sign saying "What Would Richard Dawkins Do?" on it. I often think of Kurt Vonnegut's advice, "Goddammit, you've got to be kind." I think if you you can avoid being dogmatic in whatever your beliefs are it frees you up into thinking not "I am right", but "I reckon this is the least wrong thing to do at the moment". The actor and Quaker Paul Eddington (Yes Minister), when asked how he'd like to be remembered, said: "He didn't harm anyone and that is a very difficult thing to do." I think with most beliefs it is best to hold them lightly, to be ready to change if good evidence comes your way and to try and make sure Vonnegut's advice is the near the top of your agenda.
I think I have to say "I'm sorry" more often than "I love you", so it's easier - I have had more practice.
If I were a vegetable? I would be nothing, I'd just be a vegetable. I have decided I will refuse to be a vegetable. What if this question is a trap and when I get to New Zealand, Customs cage me and turn me over to the relevant scientists saying, "Here is the one that gave his consent to be turned into a lettuce." Then I am put in a machine and I come out some hideous half-human/half-lettuce creature and they say, "Damn, our machine still doesn't work, put him on the compost." So for personal safety reasons, I am not answering this one.
I try to avoid at all costs highly opinionated people who can't explain themselves. People who are proud to be mean. Clumsy tree surgeons. Anyone who brings a harmonica on to a plane.
Art doesn't have to be analysed. Reaction to it does not require it to be "correct", so it can have an immediacy, but I am wary of creating divides beyond definitions. Looking at a star-filled sky is not looking at art, nor is it looking at science until you start questioning why the stars are. Great art and great science both feed our curiosity, both ask us to be open to experience, you can be as subjective as you want. One needs to aim to be objective.
The greatest poem about love: Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road or Nick Cave's Into My Arms. Or There is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths.
My haiku about the far right in Britain mimicking Trump:
Hypocrite Sits Fondling Ego
Hopes Fear Thrives
Kindness Lurks to Topple Him.
Is that 17 syllables? I haven't done that for a while.
Like many at the moment, I am tetchy with those fighting for the return of baseless intolerance. There are too many people battling to make other people's lives worse who, when asked why, have no decent answer, just a load of rumours and bullshit. They declare that cruelty is a necessity for survival. Hypocrisy is particularly robust and flagrant at the moment.
I sometimes worry that there is not enough boredom at the moment. There are so many ways of filling your time, but from boredom comes creativity. I don't think it is true that "only boring people are bored", maybe "only boring people remain bored". Interested people may become bored, but then they'll hatch a plan to escape from it.
School was not a happy time, which is a relief as that means I never look back with nostalgia, merely look forward with greater excitement. I recall the terror when I thought, "but what if schooldays are the best days of my life, life will be terrible." I am relieved to say that they were not.
Being a certain type of traditional English person, it is a matter of intense embarrassment to dwell on any sense of triumph. The first time I did a stand-up gig where everything seemed to work was a wonderful feeling. There are moments when I am working with people I admire, sat in a studio with the writer Alan Moore (Watchmen) or doing a musical with Eric Idle, and I think, "Well, this has all worked out pretty well."
In summing up my parenting, I think my son would give my impersonation of C3-PO a good review. "We had some adventures." I think we have fun and we both know there is plenty of love to share.
What! No one warned me New Zealand audiences might be slow to give standing ovations. We demand love! I hope that we are going to be doing so many different things, from science experiments to musical chaos via mathematics and Josie Long's experiments in how to detect ghosts that whatever the reaction, it won't be from lack of trying. I love working with the people I am touring with and if the enthusiasm is not contagious then we will get Dr Helen Czerski to contaminate local water supplies with something that will make people enthusiastic.
I don't think it is a surprising revelation, as I have been interested in New Zealand cinema for years, but I love the films of Taika Waititi. There is something beautiful about the idiosyncratic art that comes out of countries like New Zealand and Canada.
I like the inexplicable, it is a fun thing to toy with. Working out where thoughts come from and how the you-ness of you is made by your brain is one hell of an adventure.
Robin Ince hosts A Cosmic Shambles Live, an evening of stand-up comedy, scientific discoveries and live music, ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Tuesday April 4. See aucklandlive.co.nz for more information.