Comedy review: Robert Newman (The Stand)

Robert Newman
Robert Newman

The rise of so-called geek comedy has been unstoppable in recent years - with science merging with standup to entertain and educate.

From Robin Ince’s annual rationalist shindig ‘Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People’, to Dara O’Briain teaming up with Professor Brian Cox on the BBC’s Stargazing Live, it’s now become resolutely part of the mainstream.

Stepping into this crowded marketplace is former ‘rock n roll’ comedian Robert Newman who, along with David Baddiel, became the first comedy act to headline Wembley Arena.

Last week he brought his new standup set ‘Robert Newman’s New Theory of Evolution’ to Glasgow’s slightly smaller Stand Comedy Club - but the reception was as fervent as any arena could offer.

With this type of comedy there’s a fine line between standup and lecture - and it’s a line that Newman toys with constantly.

“I should warn you that the second half contains significantly less knockabout observational comedy” he warns, after 45 minutes of material about how it is cooperation not competition that drives the evolutionary engine.

Along the way he has plenty of time to rubbish Richard Dawkin’s theory of ‘The Selfish Gene’ that propels the strong onto genetic immortality.

Backing up his theory are a series of amazing animals. ”Researched thoroughly, not just taken from the box set of ‘Life on Earth’”, he quips.

There’s the nematode worms who can cannibalise both the bodies and knowledge of members of their own species.

Then there’s the incredible Dictyostelium discoideum amoeba, who can team together to turn themselves into a single multicellular slug, followed by a spore-filled fruit, so at least some of them may survive famine.

Some sections are admittedly short on laughs, but Newman always has a killer line to finish his more academic musings.

There’s also a couple of ukelele songs, an unerringly good Ronnie Corbett impression and plenty of satisfying callbacks to add structure.

He even comes back for an encore of more mainstream material which harks back to the old ‘Rob’ Newman.

Ambitious and fiercely intelligent - it’s a set which is well worth the ovation he’s given by a suitably dazzled Glasgow audience.