The quandary of time, variety and space – our night in Hammersmith

On the day, I went through many running orders trying to balance the technical side and balance of art, science and comedy, but this is roughly what I remember of what went on at Hammersmith.


7.04pm Laser harps and jazz from Steve Pretty and the Origin of Pieces. The laser harp has to be on a high setting for a big room, so Steve burns his gloves and plays in a sort of “ow, ow, my fingers way”

Brian and I go on, I talk quickly, he looks at me. He plays a little piano.

Greg Foot comes on and talks algebra and risks a bowling ball dropping on his head in a circus sideshow mechanism. he proves his point.

Baba Brinkman and Dr Heather Berlin mix neuroscience and rap.

Josie Long does her maths exam with 3500 other people.

Andrea Sella deafens and blinds the audience in a display of alchemy.

Steve Backshall does the tango, no he doesn’t, he talks about parasites, while the cast of Strictly whoop the parasitology from the stalls.

Festival of the Spoken Nerd

NASA’s Carolyn Porco shows images of the solar system and talks of the human place in the universe.

Scroobius Pip recites his Letter to God poem.

Paul Able showed some footage of Patrick Moore talking to a man who could speak Venusian, then Jon Culshaw came on and created his own celebrity garble.

Helen Czerski demonstrates how coffee cup rings are a reminder of the ideas of physics confronting us every day.

Brian Cox shows some pictures and diagram and smiles at them.

Then, it’s jazz Lovecats with Brian on piano, the Steve Pretty band on brass and Robert Smith on vocals.

INTERVAL – the audience are treated for Stockholm Syndrome and there is discussion of a police negotiator becoming involved.

9.26pm – Just as the audience felt their tinnitus was subsiding, Fran Scott blew things up with aplomb, leaving the stage covered in coloured balls – A HEALTH AND SAFETY NIGHTMARE – like the last clues to the mass suicide at a jugglers’ convention.

A speedy Q&A with Carolyn Porco, Chris Lintott, Brian and me. Astronomy and drug references briefly fly before we find out that Johnny Marr goaded Brian to hit Phil Collins for sounding like he was a moon hoax believer.

Chris Lintott leaves us on tenterhooks about the quest for knowledge

Grace Petrie sings a love song to her dog and how it pissed on my shoes.

It’s sloth time with Lucy Cooke talked of sloths.

Ben Goldacre talked so fast, so very fast, still the hot nomination for next Doctor Who – time for epidemiology in the TARDIS.

Al Murray talked spaghetti.
and now THE CURE… (and they were damn good)
11.03pm and CURTAIN
and Friday was similar, but the show was a mere 3 hours 58 minutes. Milton Jones did the best Caterpillar joke.
Alice Roberts talked evolution.

Nitin Sawhney and Nicki Wells created beautiful things with voice and guitar (so much so that Brian forgot to introduce Carolyn Porco, so I did (but not as well as he would) “where were you?” “oh, I was watching Nitin and it was so lovely that I got my pointing figure caught in the backdrop”

Rufus Hound formed The Julias, a spoken word and music rendition of The Snail and the Whale.

Dara O Briain was his usual excellent stand up self, plus he finished on the solution to the equation Josie had pitched at the beginning of the show, that’s what the people wanted.

AND… Eric Idle swore with musical aplomb at the beginning – “go tell the elves, to fuck themselves” being one of the more delightful couplets.

And when Brian felt sad the show was over, well Eric was back, and everyone from the Cure to Alice Roberts sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”

The End of Robin and Brian’s Compendium of Reason, but Brian and Robin will return in Compendium of Solace in 2015. Tickets here.

Some people have said, “oh if I had known (fill blank here) was on, I’d have booked tickets”, but our rule remains, a few hints, but we always like to keep the bill a surprise. Not so good for marketing, but better for the night.

Happy Christmas!
Brian and I are on tour in USA in March
I am in Australia in April
And I am off to Salford, Berwick, Swindon, Edinburgh and many more