The greatest show on earth

December 14th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, onanism | 22 Comments »

Ooh, starting tomorrow is this year’s run of our amazing super-nerd-comedy-musical spectacular Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People. It’s a galaxy of stars, Richard Dawkins, Johnny Ball, Barry Cryer, Chris Addison off the Thick of It, Brian Cox, Richard Herring, Simon Singh, me, and many many more random people. This is variety at its most various. Bloomsbury shows all sold out, returns only, some tickets still available for Hammersmith, but I recommend moving fast.


This is what Time Out says

This is what people said last year

And lastly, since it’s Christmas, I should mention that you can buy this great book for less than a 9-pack of toilet paper. Go on. Give it to someone who disagrees with you and start an interesting argument.

If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

22 Responses

  1. Bascule said,

    December 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Oh Bah Humbug! I’m going to church!

  2. twaza said,

    December 14, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Remember, health and safety disapprove of carrying candles.

    I trust you all will be carrying candles in the procession.

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    December 14, 2009 at 4:53 pm

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  4. Seany said,

    December 14, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Johnny Ball? Oh noes…

  5. richie507 said,

    December 14, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Oh, Ben, just seen you on The One Show, one of the briefest talking head moment’s I’ve ever seen!

    But brilliant nonetheless.

    Not that it at all relevent to the above article.

    Merry end of the year to all

  6. ae35 unit said,

    December 14, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Will there be any midgets!!?

  7. julie oakley said,

    December 15, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Who on earth thought that having a show headed up by Richrd Dawkins would attract the punters? His cheerless, smug, whiny little voice is enough to turn the most committed atheist to religion. If only you could have a show without him…

  8. mj76 said,

    December 15, 2009 at 11:43 am

    I’d like to become an atheist but I’m worried I don’t have the required smugness, anger and belligerent certainty. Is there any hope for me?

  9. philippe muller said,

    December 15, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    By the way, any chance that “bad science” could be translated in French soon ?
    I’d love to lend it, but my english version won’t impress most
    of my friends or enemies.

  10. JoanCrawford said,

    December 15, 2009 at 2:21 pm


    Projecting, much?

  11. Seany said,

    December 15, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    “Who on earth thought that having a show headed up by Richrd Dawkins would attract the punters?”

    Did you see the bit on the poster where it says ‘All Bloomsbury Shows Sold Out’?

  12. JustAnEngineer said,

    December 16, 2009 at 12:13 am

    It was a great show. Thoroughly enjoyed almost every second. The shout from an anonymous member of the crowd of ‘Fuck off, Johnny’ was a magic moment!

    Can’t wait until next year…

  13. speedweasel said,

    December 16, 2009 at 7:00 am

    @julie oakley

    If you’re done complaining about Dawkins’ tone, perhaps you’d like to make a criticism of substance?

    I’ll wait…

  14. SteveGJ said,

    December 16, 2009 at 10:26 am


    Don’t worry mj, whatever level of that qualities you deem to be necessary to achieve your ambition, you have clearly long ago surpassed it by a very considerable margin.

  15. julie oakley said,

    December 16, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Seany and speedweasel it’s just a show, and this is just a flippant comment on a blog. I’m not a theatre critic and you probably won’t find any lurking around here. Tell me, have you never had such a visceral negative response to a particular ‘performer’ or ‘entertainer’ that you’d rather have teeth pulled than see them?
    Actually from the smug whiny one, I’d love to see the show.

  16. julie oakley said,

    December 16, 2009 at 11:29 am

    sorry that should have said ‘apart from the smug, whiny one’

  17. Teapot said,

    December 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Interesting to see Ben and Chris Addison on the same bill,
    as I’d always sort of assumed they were the same person (its the hair I think). Ah, but will they ever be on stage at the same time?

  18. paulhardy said,

    December 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    “I’d like to become an atheist but I’m worried I don’t have the required smugness, anger and belligerent certainty.”

    Don’t worry mj76 — you can pick up plenty of tips on this from watching non-atheists such as Cormac Murpy O’Connor, Jonathan Sacks, Melanie Philips etc. Sadly you’ll learn nothing from disappointingly non-belligerent atheists such as Claire Rayner, Linda Smith, Ronnie Barker & Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

  19. Andrew Clegg said,

    December 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Couldn’t make it this year, but I went last year, and I have to say — the musical ‘comedy’ really let it down. Was there much of that this time?

    I can’t remember a single musical act that I actually enjoyed, sorry if that sounds harsh, but all the people I went with were visibly squirming and wishing we were at the end of a row through most of them.

    I think the problem is that while being a reader of this site, for example, is a pretty good predictor that you’ll enjoy the other speakers, it’s a pretty terrible predictor of musical taste. Because that’s an (almost entirely) independent variable.

  20. SteveGJ said,

    December 17, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Just got back from the Bloomsbury, fun, but nothing like the lineup at the Apollo last year.

    However, I must – really must – have a rant about Johnny Ball, and not about his take on global warming (which apparently did not go down well yesterday – it wasn’t repeated today).

    Now this might be like kicking everybody’s favourite uncle, but frankly this guy had no place in front of that audience. But I’d go further than that – the guy is a positive danger to science education in this country. He has not got a clue.

    About fifteen years ago, I saw him spewing out a line about Isaac Newton having contributed nothing more than a slightly warmed over version of what Galileo and Kepler had already discovered. He is still repeating this rubbish. What he has absolutely no concept is that far from “discovering” gravity (which is what he described Newton as being famous for – of course the ancients had described gravity), what Newton actually did, for the first time, was invent a theory of gravity, along with laws of motions, that allowed a beautifully elegant way of describing how the force of gravity kept planets in the orbit, how cannonballs would describe a parabolic arc, allowed the mass of the moon to be estimated and much, much else. That was the true revolution he brought – the first true unifying theory in physics, along with mathematical precision of prediction, which held good until almost the 20th century. Against that, Kepler and Gallileo merely described what they saw.

    He also had the cheek to refer to estimaes of how far you would fall in one second without even a nod to Newton’s laws of motions which allows this to be calculated.

    So what on earth was Robin Ince thinking of inviting this children’s clown along for? Some form of yearning for his past childhood? He had no place there, and in my view he has no place talking such rot in front of children either. The man demonstrated no sense whatsoever of the deeper, underlying meaning of physics.

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  22. TheLady said,

    December 24, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    I saw the show at the Apollo, and while I didn’t enjoy the Johnny Ball bit especially, I thought the point he was trying to make about Newton was interesting: that he had synthesised previou knowledge to arrive at his amazing insight, and that he had so much less knowledge available to him than we do now (we’ve got him, for starters!). With that in mind, it should be a doddle for today’s scientists to come up with a solution for global warming, so let’s get to it. It was a pretty optimistic message, suitable for the time of year, even if it wasn’t 100% Science Pedant proof. *shrug*

    Ben, I enjoyed the bit about the nocebo effect tremendously – never heard anyone talk so fast in my life! Wish you’d had more time, which leads me neatly too…

    Did that bastard All Murray totally overrun his time or what? We had to leave before the end to catch our train, and since I hated the steaming guts out of his skit, if that was in any way his fault I’m gonna get on the phone and start ordering hundreds of pizzas to his house or something. Stupid misogynist piece of wank. Who thought it was a good idea to get him onto an atheist show to tell fart jokes and harrass women and children in the audience?