The arrogance to stand on stage, the sheepishness to avoid the curtain call

written on the train home from the last 9 lesson – expect the usual errors. 

I am on my way back from the last 9 Lessons at that point of adrenaline when you are not quite sure you feel about the killing off of a creation. There were some wonderful performances, I will single out no one as they were all at their best, and remarkably concise too. I decided I would end the show in my duffle coat, rucksack on back, carrier bag in hand. A brief thank you to all, a hint of Thomas Huxley, “the known is finite, the unknown is infinite”, down the front steps of the stage and off. I then heard commotion, I think Mitch Benn’s voice, and Andrew O Neill chased me, but I said, “no, I don’t really do going back on stage”. It was lovely that the acts hung around, but rather than take the curtain call, I ran. 


I have had a few occasions where I have wriggled from the grip of a group kind enough to give me an extra public vote of thanks, my wincing Englishness squirms within me, a preposterous trait. 

Why is it so much easier to dwell on hate or insults than people’s happiness at what you have done? 

140 characters of spleen on Twitter can dwell in your gut and corrode the mind, while a compliment may be passed off as just luck or possibly an accident of typing.

Why do so many I know squirm when offered plaudits. What strange desire is there for a negative existence, a hair shirt to scratch in? 

It is an odd character trait that many of my friends possess. Do I really possess a self-regarding affectation? 

I remember a comedian who would often walk offstage and say, “oh dear, I don’ think that went very well.”

I soon learnt that it was far better to say, “no, not one of your best, I don’t think the audience really got it”, rather than, “what are you talking about? That sounded fine to me.”

By agreeing with his original declaration that “it hadn’t gone so well”, he would then spring to his defence and say, “what do you mean? I got some great laughs and blah blah blah, I was brilliant”.

Others I know really mean it. It can only take the lightest of fluffed lines and all they see is a tripped over adjective, spreading itself across the rest of their performance like spilt ink.

Then, there are those who are quite the opposite. Performers who seem to possess laughter tinnitus, however the gig goes, whatever the glassware hurled at the stage, they swagger off content, sometimes even arrogant, in the failure they never heard. 

A few, but it is a few, are so balanced they can walk off self-aware, but not self-loathing or self-loving. 

We all have our coping mechanisms, even if some from the outside, seem to make it harder to cope, that is all part of the mechanism. 

I know I am an idiot, but I am getting more use to my inner and outer idiot, and it all seems to work out. There is no straight line of constant happiness is an illusion at the freeze frame of the end of a movie. The frustrations, confusions and furies are required for the good bits to work too. 

If we don’t have a few “what the hell was I thinking” moments a month, then maybe you haven’t been thinking at all.

So I may have missed my close up, but 9 Lessons was a pretty good adventure, and for those nights that I kicked in a door (I was very cross) or pulled tufts from scalp as things overran or gherkins weren’t electrocuted due to technical malfunctions, there were many wonderful and surprising things and a parade of passionate performers, scientists, poets and musicians. Here is to the next thing. 


I had played with the idea of walking right out of the building. It was to be no goodbyes, my Alan Ladd departure, but then I realised just how ultimately self-aggrandising that was. So I popped back to the green room to do some tidying up. Thanks for the book tokens. I am cock-a-hoop, meanwhile my wife said, “great, more books, just what we need”. Just so you know, there was a sarcastic tone in her voice, maybe even more than just a tone.

I will put up a roll call as soon as I can. Thanks to everyone who has been part of it. New projects with the likes of Josie Long, Grace Petrie, Joanna Neary, Michael Legge and George Egg next year – Dirty Book Club, Utter Shambles, Your Art is Dead and on and on…Off to much of the UK, from Bristol to Nottingham, Sheffield to Norwich. All details HERE
Happiness Through Science DVD (w/ Prof Cox commentary) is HERE



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4 Responses to The arrogance to stand on stage, the sheepishness to avoid the curtain call

  1. Chris W says:

    Thank you!

    I was so pleased I was able to get a ticket for the show last Wednesday. I listened, I laughed, and I learned new things – it was fabulous. Detector arrays in snakes and Swift, Feynman and Darwin to music, useful tips on hotel room cuisine, and far more than I could mention in a comment of any reasonable length.

    So, many thanks to you and all involved for your passion and hard work, Happy Christmas, and very best wishes for the New Year and all your future endeavours.


  2. Psi says:

    Thank you for this post Robin (and thanks of course for 9 Lessons, I came to two (I was going to put ‘I came twice’ but that sounded quite bad) and wish I had been at them all). I have this same feeling and attitude to praise and positivity and I used to think most people did. However in the last year or so when I’ve struggled with depression I’ve realised, or been counselled to realise, that essentially it’s a contributor or an aspect of mental illness. The big problem with that is not only what to do to change, but really accepting that changing it is desirable. My own wincing Englishness is a character trait I really feel defines me. Who or what would I be without it?

  3. ALISTAIR Bisatt says:

    Really enjoyed the show last night. . . Perhaps not wanting to accept the plaudits is all to do with having to live up to them?. . . Anyway you and all the other artists were superb last night (I brought the whole family and haven’t seen them laugh so much in ages, if at all). Look forward to whatever projects arise next year and beyond. .

  4. thebadlizard says:

    This year was my first (and last) 9 Lessons, thank you! One regret of 2013 was being in the front row, but missing out on the hotel iron pancakes. Incidentally my iron is now ruined. Happy New Year whatever you are doing.

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