As a comedian, Robert Newman seems somewhat unqualified to espouse a new theory of evolution, especially a theory that is rejected by most scientists. His idea is that the evolutionary progress of a species demands co-operation within that species and that the survival of the fittest theory is plain wrong.
Whilst his scientific background may be lacking, his comedy CV is impressive
A recent study by neuroscientists has shown that the neurons that flash when your shoulder is tapped are the same neurons that flash when you see another's shoulder tapped. The existence of these mirror-neurons suggest that in common with other animals, humans are genetically disposed to empathy. Newman postulates that, in early humans, it was those that were rejected by the strongest that were best placed to survive the elements. Whilst the strongest hunted alone, the less strong worked together – Survival of the Misfits.
Unsurprisingly, Newman is not a fan of The Selfish Gene theory and confidently takes Richard Dawkins to task. A story involving a naked Dawkins wrestling with a postal worker provided some properly surreal comic moments, even if it did leave a rather unpleasant image in the mind’s eye.
Newman's comedy is in turn, whimsical, satirical, surreal and just plain daft. He finds the funny in scientific theory and he avoids getting too bogged down in data.
Two decades ago now, Newman and his friend from Cambridge, David Baddiel, sold out Wembley Arena. They were the first of the new wave of rock and roll comedians that could fill such massive spaces. The Mary Whitehouse Experience, the 'youth' TV sketch show that they performed with Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis, was the biggest comedy show on TV in the 90s. Since then Newman has travelled, studied, written novels and occasionally performed stand-up shows. Whilst his scientific background may be lacking, his comedy CV is impressive. And it shows.
Robert Newman's New Theory of Evolution can be enjoyed purely as an uplifting and often hilarious comedy set. But you may also find yourself queuing up in Blackwell's later to buy a beginners book in neuroscience.