The Chick Peas of Hugh Grant (Ross Noble’s Toilet Training)

Part 1 of this hoopla is here

In the run up to Christmas, over 12000 people will have watched me introduce scientists with stories of chimeras, particle behaviour, galaxies and astronaut toilet training (this is just in London, sorry other places, I come to you when I tour on my own and promise these larger enterprises will get to you one day). I have been working on these projects for a long time now, and each time I see one of them come to fruition, I am cock-a-hoop. The stress, confusion, last minute cancellations, last minute additions and falling over drainage pipes turned into cannons by chemists and chipping my knee, is all worthwhile. 

All of these projects arose from my annoyance that popular culture thinks we are all idiots that wish to remain docile, untaxed and unmoved by our entertainment, save for an occasional phone vote. We must physically engage the audience in the act of dialing a number, but we must not mentally engage the audience in new ways of thinking. 

Some years ago, there was a brief chat about Monkey Cage going to TV, the main stumbling block being that Brian Cox is TV gold whereas I cancel him out by being TV arsenic. In those conversations, we were told of what must be done to make it “televisual”, “you know, more like Top Gear, with all colours, and a crowd, and shorter bits on stuff so TV people don’t get confused by having to bring their long-forgotten ability of paying attention back to life.”

I think the idea that you and I are bored idiots is both insulting and wrong, and I hope that the mixture of ages, class and genders in our Christmas audience is a demonstration of just how myopic and self-serving that bullshit is. It is a joy to put on these shows, to see the rapt attention that an audience can have, even after 4 hours and with 11pm approaching, whether that is for ideas of perception, particles or primate behaviour. 

If you treat people like dull receptors of banalities, eventually that is what they may become. So thank you to everyone who I meet when touring, whose faces I see when we put on our big shows, whose applause at the behaviour of mercury, disprove this. 

Progress occurs by paying attention.

Being interested rewards. 

Pondering on being a self-conscious speck in a bloody big universe leads to moments of startled wonderment and also looking at pretty things through telescopes if you’re lucky. 

Anyway, I only came here to tell you about what happened in Hammersmith on Saturday. 

Laser harps were played and musicians gloves were singed.

Simon Singh guided us into the intriguing mathematical secrets hiding in The Simpsons.  

Grace Petrie sang of Emma and Charles Darwin’s love and fear. 

Aoife Mclysaght talked of genetics and chimera, but I didn’t hear it all as I had to fall over something while checking another act was on the way (unlike Rufus Hound, they didn’t risk the bus) 

Andrea Sella played with Mercury again (ah what wonders of science the blistered and calloused hands of chemists are)

Alice Roberts talked of pelvises and birth. 

Chris Addison proved that directing Veep and acting have not dulled his sharp eye, this time his spear-like cornea pierced the cosmetics industry.

Chris Lintott gave us a brief update on the current sky at night. Jim Al Khalili and Brian Cox were pitched in a battle of Life Scientific and Infinite Monkey Cage, which scientist could most concisely answer physics questions in 6 minutes. It was Jim, Brian kept gazing wistfully halfway through his answers. 

Chris Hadfield’s Space Oddity was even better this time and later he went on to use a Ross Noble as a mannequin to explain astronaut toilet training.

Later on, Ross Noble, after three failed attempts, would cue Hugh Grant to walk on stage and deliver humous to him; a silent cameo of chick pea absurdism. 

Fran Scott propelled bottles into the audience again via hydrogen and electricity. 

Josie Long sough out punchlines to mathematics. 

Hi Top Drop brought pink hair, youth and rap to the stage and dealt with a tech cock up with aplomb (not easy in front of 3500)

Stewart Lee told of us his fictional wife with the increasing level of misanthropy which hangs from his brow to his shoe tips, then Ben Goldacre did his fast talk, slow dinosaur joke, campaigning with an increasing amount of Mussolini gesticulation. 

Emperor Yes created a cacophony of interstellar harmonies in celebration of Carl Sagan. 

Festival of the Spoken Nerd repeated their Thursday performance with even greater success, then we ended on a delightful hymn from Ronnie Golden and Barry Cryer, and an  extra chorus with Brian Cox on piano, Jim Al Khalili on guitar and everyone else on noise.

And that, ladeeez and gennellman, is VARIETY!

The proceeds of the show go to Medecins Sans Frontieres, The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, The Manchester University Scholarship Fund and

I am off with my new science shows again in 2014 – Nottingham, Norwich, Bristol, Sheffield and many more, plus tours with Grace Petrie and Josie Long and much more, all dates HERE

Happiness through Science DVDs (incl Brian Cox commentary) HERE

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14 Responses to The Chick Peas of Hugh Grant (Ross Noble’s Toilet Training)

  1. cemerson says:

    Don’t forget Chris Lintott! And Brian’s bit about exoplanets (amongst other things).

    What a fantastic night! I’m glad there are people like you who recognise that some audiences like to be intellectually challenged rather than spoonfed mediocrity. I know 9 lessons is done now, but long may your variety shows continue!

  2. Rob Stephen says:

    My wife and I went to both Brain and Robin’s Christmas Compendium of Reason on the Saturday and to Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People on Sunday (We didn’t go to the Sunday afternoon kids show, I think it’s then called stalking)

    Both shows were excellent, interesting and informative. Thank you for putting them all together. I hope the tours go well, and that if you want to carry on doing more science-variety shows that you come up with what you want adn keeps you interested

  3. Actually, seems like we really missed out on Thursday!

  4. David Lamb says:

    One of the best night’s out I can remember. I don’t think a soul minded the over running. Thank you so much for organising it, and more next year please! I have also adopted ‘chance moves in mysterious ways’ as my default response to coincidence stories.

  5. I came to the Thursday show and it was easily the best live show I’ve ever seen. Science is my biggest interest, which might sound like quite a generalised thing to say as it covers many disciplines, but the show ticked all the boxes…and I got to see a true hero in Chris Hadfield!

  6. A fantastic night out, my 13 year old daughter was enthralled by the whole thing! It certainly stimulated her better than a dumbed down phone vote show and I’m glad she prefers it!

  7. Kia says:

    I really wish I could have come, but no, I had to go to bloody school and listen to a mental eurythmy teacher make up excuses for why he STILL hasn’t give us that cake he promised yet, and about how science is stupid and teaching kids lies is more productive than how to teach (which I had a very long argument in front of the class with him about, which then led to me spending my lunch break trying to explain to a new age hippy in my class about how I don’t believe anything, and I’ve no bloody idea what happens when we die, or how we’re conscious, followed by a chat with the computer nerd in my class about consciousness and religion, and I discovered he, who I had so respected for him being the only superior mind to mine in maths, was a scientologist – why oh why do I go to a Steiner school (I know why, it’s hilarious)). Also the airfare and tickets and accommodation were a bit pricey. But still, I’m basically weeping at what I missed out on, and I really hope to come see you when I finally come over for uni (if you aren’t performing anymore, I am going to hunt you down. I swear.).

  8. Jan Clancey says:

    It was a fantastic night. Proves that comedy and science DO mix.

  9. Demi McD (@demimcdowell) says:

    Thank you all for one of the single most brilliant nights I’ve had, inspiring, but absolutely hilarious at the same time- and all for some great causes! Inspired for my final project at university now! Bought our tickets for next year! Have a great Christmas! And thank you again!

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