Back in “the day”, Rob Newman bounding on to some arena stage would’ve sent massive crowds into a whooping frenzy.
So modest is the introduction for Robert Newman, as he is now billed, that he wanders off The Stand stage and back on again with a raised eyebrow before drawing a round of applause. Happily, by the end of the night, he is able to depart to a well-deserved ovation from the capacity crowd after a highly entertaining, erudite and thought-provoking show
Just before the interval, he warns that the second half may not be as rich in knockabout observational comedy as the first. From a man who has spent the previous 40 minutes talking about Richard Dawkins, epigenetics and mirror neurons and is fully aware that, after the break, he is not only going to talk about palaeontology, EU fuel classification and the Human Genome Project, but will also bust out the ukulele and drop in not one but two separate references to Dexy’s Midnight Runners.
The serious gist is a challenge to recent evolutionary theory, particularly Dawkins, for a narrow, negative interpretation of what Darwin’s notion of the survival of the fittest. Newman draws on various examples from nature to suggest that cooperation is as at least as important a factor as competition, and that the lessons implied by this observation might be usefully applied to wider political society.
It’s a relatively heavy theme for a stand-up show, leavened skilfully with a lot of excellent gags, although even then the dense layering means that close attention is rewarded all the more when the comedic pay-offs arrive.
Comedy with wit, intelligence, linguistic flair, a strong conscience and a fine Ronnie Corbett impression. Hard to say if Robert Newman would want it these days, but this should be heard by arenas full of folk.