Robin Ince

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Robin Ince
Robin Ince - EdSciFest 2014.JPG
Birth nameRobin Ince
Born (1969-02-20) 20 February 1969 (age 53)
MediumStand-up, television, radio
EducationCheltenham College, Gloucestershire
(boarding independent school)
Royal Holloway, University of London
Years active1990–present
GenresObservational comedy, political satire
Subject(s)Science, literature, philosophy
Notable works and rolesBook Club, The Infinite Monkey Cage, Nerdstock

Robin Ince (born 20 February 1969) is an English comedian, actor and writer, known for presenting the BBC radio show The Infinite Monkey Cage with physicist Brian Cox,[1] and his stand-up comedy career.


Ince in 2013

After attending York House prep school, near Croxley Green in Hertfordshire, Ince was, from age 13, educated at Cheltenham College,[2] a boarding independent school for boys in the spa town Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, followed by Royal Holloway, University of London, from which he graduated in English and Drama in 1991.[3]


Stand-up comedy[edit]

In 1990, Ince first appeared at Greyfriars Kirkhouse at the Edinburgh Festival where Eddie Izzard was running a venue. At the time Ince was performing in a play called 'Shadow Walker' by Trevor Maynard.[4] He had appeared at the Cafe Royal as part of the Edinburgh Fringe show 'Rubbernecker' alongside Stephen Merchant, Jimmy Carr and Ricky Gervais in 2001.

As a friend of Ricky Gervais, Ince opened as a support act for his Politics tour in 2004 and his Fame tour in 2007.[citation needed] He also appears on the DVD and often appears in Gervaise's video podcasts, mainly being bullied, annoyed and attacked by Gervais.[citation needed]

In 2008 Ince had a residency at the Dorchester Arts Centre, trying out new material for his upcoming shows.[citation needed] In late 2008 he released a live stand-up DVD entitled Robin Ince is as Dumb as You, released by Go Faster Stripe.[5] Then between January and April 2009, Ince performed his UK tour Bleeding Heart Liberal, playing 51 dates. Towards the end of 2009 and into 2010, Ince toured his next show entitled Robin Ince vs. the Moral Majority. In 2011 he started on the road again, performing his 'Happiness Through Science' UK show, which continued to add many dates and was extended into 2012.

In April 2015, Ince made a blog post announcing his retirement from stand-up comedy, writing about impostor syndrome, the commercialisation of the comedy scene and a wish to spend more time with his son. He concluded "Let’s see if I can give up stand up for longer than I gave up whisky, or if the addiction is such that I’ll start busking jokes outside the Hayward Gallery by August."[6] He returned to performing comedy a year later.[7]

In September 2016, Ince performed at the Keep Corbyn rally in Brighton in support of Jeremy Corbyn's campaign in the Labour Party leadership election.[8] Ince staged a stand-up tour, Pragmatic Insanity, in September 2017.

Live events[edit]

In 2005, Ince began running the Book Club night at The Albany, London, where acts were encouraged to perform turns of new and experimental material. The club got its name from Ince's attempts to read aloud from – and humorously criticise – various second-hand books which the audience and he had brought in for the occasion. The Book Club proved to be so successful that Ince took it on a full UK tour in 2006, the same year he won the Time Out Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy.[9] In 2010, Ince published a book entitled Robin Ince's Bad Book Club about his favourite books that he has used for his shows.

Ince has curated Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People (later renamed as Nine Lessons and Carols for Curious People) since 2008, a Christmas stage show with performances from comedians, musicians and scientists.


Ince started his television career as a comedy writer, working on The 11 O'Clock Show, for which he also performed as an impressionist, including an impersonation of John Peel. He also appeared in The Office as failed interviewee Stuart Foot. Ince has also appeared on clip shows on British television, where he and other comedians appeared as talking heads.

The second Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People stage show was screened on BBC Four in 2009, billed as Nerdstock: 9 Lessons and Carols for Godless People.[10]


He co-starred with Mitch Benn and Alfie Joey in the BBC Radio 4 series Mitch Benn's Crimes Against Music.

Ince and physicist Brian Cox present the science series The Infinite Monkey Cage on Radio 4.[11] The programme won a Gold Award in the Best Speech Programme category at the 2011 Sony Radio Awards.[12][13]

He is a regular contributor on Steve Lamacq's BBC Radio 6 Music programme, appearing weekly as the show's "music profiler".

In the summer of 2022 he presented a two part BBC Radio 4 series "Robin Ince's Reality Tunnel" exploring the internal and external aspects of reality. This was an edited version of a live performance given in Hulme, Manchester in April 2022


  • Bibliomaniac: An Obsessive’s Tour of the Bookshops of Britain (Atlantic Books, 2022)[14]
  • The Importance of Being Interested – Adventures in Scientific Curiosity (Atlantic Books, 2021) ISBN 178-6492628
  • I'm a Joke and So Are You: Reflections on Humour and Humanity (Atlantic Books, 2018) ISBN 9781786492586
  • Robin Ince's Bad Book Club: One man's quest to uncover the books that taste forgot (Little, Brown Book Group, 2011) ISBN 9780751542134

With Brian Cox and Alexandra Feachem:

Podcast and internet[edit]

Josie Long and Robin Ince performing Utter Shambles at the 2013 Long Division Festival in Wakefield

Ince presented the Utter Shambles (previously Show & Tell) podcast for Paramount Comedy with Josie Long, and presented BBC Radio 4 Extra's Serious About Comedy from 2005 until its end in November 2007. Regular panellists in the show included Book Club performers Josie Long, Howard Read and Natalie Haynes, comedy critics Bruce Dessau and Stephen Armstrong, and many others from the British comedy industry. He now presents Book Shambles with Robin and Josie with Josie Long which is funded via Patreon and music podcast Vitriola with comedian Michael Legge.

In 2013, Ince co-created and launched The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome, an online video based science magazine and archive. Ince acts as host and co-producer on the project. Contributors have included Brian Cox, Helen Czerski, Stephen Fry, Chris Hadfield and Stewart Lee.

In 2017, Ince co-founded the Cosmic Shambles Network with Trent Burton, an organisation that creates podcasts, documentaries and events "for people with curious minds".[15]

Personal life[edit]

Ince is an atheist and supports the Rationalist Association via New Humanist magazine by organising events at the Bloomsbury Theatre and at the Hammersmith Apollo featuring scientists, musicians and comedians. The first of these was Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People in Christmas 2008,[16] and more recently he has fronted a Night of 400 Billion Stars. Regular contributions come from Josie Long, Chris Addison, Ricky Gervais, Richard Dawkins, Simon Singh and Philip Jeays. In 2009, Ince organised two events with Josie Long, called Darwin's Birthday Spectacular, marking both the scientist's 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book On the Origin of Species. He was appointed a patron of Humanists UK, and later of Dignity in Dying.[17]

On 15 September 2010, Ince, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the UK being a state visit.[18]


Other appearances[edit]

Ince has appeared at several science events, including the line-up of UCL's Bright Club in both 2009 and 2010, and took part in the Cheltenham Science Festival in 2011 and 2014.[20][21][1][22]

He is a supporter of the yearly festival Pestival which showcases science, music and comedy, and a regular attendee of the Latitude Festival.[citation needed]

Ince gave the British Humanist Association 2012 Voltaire Lecture, "The Importance of Being Interested".[citation needed]

Ince was the lead singer in alternative rock combo TheReg from 1992–1994.[citation needed]

Live credits[edit]

  • 2017: Pragmatic Insanity (UK tour)
  • 2016: Gloom Aid (The 100 Club)
  • 2014: Robin Ince Is In (and Out) of His Mind (Trinity Science Gallery)
  • 2013: The Importance of Being Interested (UK tour)
  • 2011/2012: Happiness through Science (UK tour)
  • 2011: Uncaged Monkeys Tour with Simon Singh, Brian Cox, Ben Goldacre and Helen Arney
  • 2011: Ince and Legge @ Stand 5 Comedy Club, Edinburgh Fringe
  • 2009/2010: Robin Ince vs. The Moral Majority (UK tour)
  • 2009: The Return of Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People
  • 2009: Charles Darwin Birthday Spectacular with Josie Long
  • 2009: Karaoke Circus, Edinburgh Fringe
  • 2009: Carl Sagan Is My God, Oh And Richard Feynman Too, Edinburgh Fringe
  • 2009: Night of 40 Billion Stars, with Chris Addison and others
  • 2009: Bleeding Heart Liberal (UK tour)
  • 2009: Charity night @ Grovel bar in Manchester
  • 2008: Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, Christmas Show
  • 2008: Things I Like About Carl Sagan And Others, Edinburgh Fringe
  • 2008: Comedy Nights @ Dorchester Arts Centre (throughout the year)
  • 2008: Crewe Limelight Club's final comedy night
  • 2007: Robin Ince Knew This Would Happen, Edinburgh Fringe
  • 2007: Lion's Den Comedy Club @ The Cross Kings in Kings Cross
  • 2006: Robin Ince Isn't Waving @ The Assembly Rooms and Edinburgh Fringe 2006
  • 2005: Ricky Gervais and Guests @ The Dominion Theatre
  • 2005: Robin Ince is as Dumb as You @ Pleasance and Edinburgh Fringe 2005
  • 2005: Book Club @ Underbelly, Lowdown at the Albany
  • 2004: The Award Winning Robin Ince – Star of the Office, Series 1. Episode 5 (First Bit) @ Underbelly
  • 2001: Rubbernecker with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Jimmy Carr @ Cafe Royal

TV credits[edit]

Radio credits[edit]

Film credits[edit]

  • 2006: Writer, Razzle Dazzle.


  • Robin Ince is as Dumb as You (2006)
  • Nine Lessons and Carols For Godless People (2008)
  • Ten Lessons and Carols For Godless People (2011)
  • More Nine Lessons and Carols For Godless People (2012)
  • Happiness Through Science (2013)
  • Robin Ince's Last Ever Show (2015)


  1. ^ a b Roger Highfield (15 June 2011). "Robin Ince: Who needs religion?". New Scientist. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  2. ^ "What I learnt at school: Robin Ince". Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  3. ^ Royal Holloway Notable Alumni in English
  4. ^ Robin Ince in "Shadow Walker", reviewed in "The Stage" 23 August 1990
  5. ^ "Robin Ince is as Dumb as You".
  6. ^ Ince, Robin. "Losing My Religion – on why I am giving up stand up". Robin Ince's blog. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  7. ^ Ince, Robin (4 March 2019). "Beyond a joke - RSA Journal". Medium. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  8. ^ Vowles, Neil (5 September 2016). "Comedians back Jeremy Corbyn for major Brighton rally". The Argus. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Robin Ince's Book Club". 22 September 2006. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  10. ^ BBC - Nerdstock
  11. ^ Manjit Kumar (1 May 2011). "Robin Ince: The science of comedy". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 May 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  12. ^ "Frank Skinner and Jason Byrne win at Sony Awards 2011". The British Comedy Guide. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  13. ^ "TV scientist scoops top radio award". Express & Star. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  14. ^ Anderson, Hephzibah (25 October 2022). "In brief: Bibliomaniac; She and Her Cat; The Babel Message – reviews". The Observer. Retrieved 29 October 2022.
  15. ^ "About". The Cosmic Shambles Network.
  16. ^ Bennett, Steve (16 December 2009). "The Return of Nine Lessons And Carols For Godless People". Chortle.
  17. ^ Ince, Robin (4 October 2012). "Greedily, I want the right to live AND the right to die". Robinince's Blog. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  18. ^ "Letters: Harsh judgments on the pope and religion". The Guardian. London. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  19. ^ Layzell, Paul. "Honorary degrees recognise contributions to science". Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  20. ^ "Bright Club". Bright Club. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  21. ^ Carole Jahme (4 November 2010). "Laugh and learn at Bright Club". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
  22. ^ "ROBIN INCE: BLOOMING BUZZING CONFUSION". Cheltenham Science Festival 2014. Cheltenham Festivals. Archived from the original on 9 June 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014. Comedian and science enthusiast Robin Ince presents an unhinged stand-up comic lecture
  23. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Comedy of the Week, Robin Ince's Reality Tunnel". Retrieved 24 July 2022.
  24. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Schrodinger's Quantum Kittens". 30 January 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2013.

External links[edit]