It’s hard to categorise Jon Ronson’s live shows. To call them stand-up would imply the presence of jokes but they’re far more involved than a simple book reading. They’re kind of like meandering Ted Talks, complete with slide presentations, delivered by the world’s most endearingly anxious man.
This time Ronson brings his podcast series Things Fell Apart to the Leicester Square Theatre, recounting and embellishing its stories and weaving in other tales both new and old. Things Fell Apart looks at the origins of the so-called culture war: the seemingly inconsequential actions that Ronson suggests led to the toxic situation we find ourselves in today, such as the obscure christian filmmaker who convinced the religious right that they don’t like abortion.
He discusses for the first time in public his one-time friendship with the disgraced comedy writer Graham Linehan – a man thrown off Twitter for his anti-trans rants – recounting details from an unpublished interview between the two men. Ronson recounts how Linehan turned on him – once tweeting about him 40 times in a single day – after he refused to defend his erstwhile poker partner; but there’s no gloating here, rather a genuine search for how things got so bad.
He also retells some of the best known stories from his 20 years as a journalist, such as the story of Justine Sarco, the young woman who became an international hate-figure after a tweet to her 200 followers was (probably wrongly) interpreted as racist and went viral.
Few people have such an infectious enthusiasm for the intricacies of the human mind as Ronson, nor such a genuine desire to unpick society’s problems. If this all sounds rather heavy, it’s also very funny, delivered in Ronson’s trademark upbeat, knowingly awkward style. The evening finishes with a surprise interview that’s genuinely life-affirming – I won’t spoil who it’s with but it’s worth the price of admission alone.