Brains are fascinating organs and their function and purpose is one of the remaining mysteries of our fragile existence as it is said we do not understand fully what the majority of the human brain does. I took a personal vow a few years ago never to be bored; to cultivate insatiable curiosity and to cram as much information into my brain as possible. So I was anticipating great things, on many levels, from Rob Newman's latest stand up performance at the Pegasus last night.
The show opened with a brief introduction to Rob and the charity benefiting from tonight's performance, Cyc du Soleil (http://www.hammerandtongue.com/cyc-du-soleil/) who harness 'renewable and creative energy to run high-quality, low-carbon entertainment around the UK,' and indeed the introduction by one of the charity's directors was an amusing, mini stand-up routine in its own right.
Rob's opening premise was that modern brain science is doing us more harm than we know. He then preceded to regale the audience with detailed experience, knowledge and criticism of modern neuro babble referencing Ramachandran's Phantoms in the Brain and Eagleman's The Brain: The Story of You. Neuro babblers of the world and other similar charlatans, in Rob's eyes, should be afraid, very afraid of receiving a letter – a short letter – from Rob summarising why he found their theories so 'speciously magnificent'.
Many threads and themes wove their way through the performance and many satirical impersonations were used to illustrate some of the central, comedic arguments. When discussing the connection between the brain and emotions, Rob gave the audience an hilarious impersonation of Paul McCartney performing 'Eleanor Rigby', post the plastic surgery which rendered his face into a permanent expression of 'wild surprise and vague curiosity'; Rob's performance as Brian Cox explaining his version of the evolution of the brain over time reduced the audience to gales of giggles.
As well as hilariously eviscerating modern neuro babble and extricating the humour from dry scientific papers, Rob also explored his own personal experience of neurological experimentation – an experiment at UCL trying to identify the part of the brain responsible for love, what the press later referred to as the 'love spot' – and the reasons he was rejected from the sample set: basic non-compliance. He, of course, responded to this rejection with a letter – a short letter. And then was lured into a further experiment gauging the brain's response to guilt, which involved one of many references to Darwin whose work Rob clearly revered.
In the latter part of the show Rob expanded some of his arguments and theories to cover such wide-ranging subjects as gender, Christianity, Freud, the homelessness gene and his mocking theory that modern children are obese to avoid having to work as chimney sweeps. Cephalopods and octopi in particular were a recurring theme - but I have to ask who, as hilarious as the frequent impression was, is Brian Scanlon - Rob's personal nemesis?
So I left the Pegasus effectively entertained and amused – this performance was no disappointment. I had many more facts and theories to add to my insatiable curiosity hoard and it was all in a good cause. If you want to catch The Brain Show Rob will be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe and Cyc du Soleil are available for hire and will be supporting many more acts providing such enthralling evenings of eco-friendly entertainment.
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