Alex Horne is a comedian and the host of The Horne Section, a live music variety show on BBC Radio 4. He is also regularly performing live across the UK and his 2014 show Monsieur Butterfly was nominated for the top comedy award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He makes frequent appearances on a variety of television shows and also found time to author a book on bird watching.
I quite like the idea of an ostrich as a mode of transport.
On first memories of science
Well, when I was smaller than I am now, quite a lot smaller, my father was - and he still is actually - a bird watcher, so I think that was the main thrust of science on to me. I think science was knowing what things were called, I suppose, I guess that’s what I thought science was…I mean, that’s one area of science. But he sort of, um, he’s a good bird watcher, he’s not a twitcher, he's a birder so he knows, sort of, not just which birds are where, he knows why they do what they do, so I guess that was quite a positive influence. Also, I quite enjoyed burning things, you know what I mean; I like birds and burning things.
On bird watching
I think my interest in bird watching is purely bird watching watching. I’m really interested in watching bird watchers more than birds, as a tribal things I think it’s quite a…I don’t think it’s vastly different from football fans really, I think people travel a long way to go and watch something which is normally pretty disappointing but then they can all bond after it at the event in the pub. I’m sort of reluctant, I’m sort of getting into it…I’ve got a family now and a garden and these birds arrive and the children ask me what they're called, so there is a need to be able to sort of look like I know what things are in the world. So I quite like it; we've got little red kites where we live in the Chilterns and I’m sort of training them - so they just eat carrion, so I’m chucking out a lot of chicken nuggets and now I’ve got three or four of these things in the kitchen and I watch them. None of that’s true, I don't have any kids or a kitchen. I do have some kids, I’ve got three or four. Three. That’s bird watching.
On favourite birds
The best bird without a doubt is the…I’ve got two: I quite like the idea of an ostrich as a mode of transport because ostriches can do 58 miles an hour so you don't have to…you're not going to get people speeding; I think it’s quite a well-regulated mode of transport and you can ride them, obviously. But there’s a particular pigeon that used to live in Kensal Green three doors down from us and I would see him a lot in the mornings, it had a sort of scar, a little sort of lack of a wing. It was quite an impressive pigeon, and one time I was on the tube, to…doesn’t matter where, but it was, let’s say, Baker Street, don't think it was…but I got the tube to Baker Street and the same pigeon got on the tube with me and everyone was very excited because there was a pigeon on the tube. Because pigeons are good mood enhancing, bit like when a pigeon lands on a court in Wimbledon, people are very excited because they've paid to see tennis but now they've got tennis and a pigeon, so it’s a bargain. And the same with this, you know everyone thought, my life’s not great but there’s a pigeon, and then the pigeon got off at Queens Park and I went, ah, that’s a shame, and when I got back that night, it was in the same position just outside my house in Kensal Green, so it commutes. I quite like that.
On worst birds
I mean, without doubt the worst bird…I mean I don't really like giraffes, I know that doesn't count, can I say giraffes, I really don't like giraffes as a…I know they're not birds but it’s probably one of those things, on QI there’ll be an episode where they go, you know a giraffe is actually a bird. So I’m going to say giraffe because I just think giraffes are so awkward and I don't see any good qualities in a giraffe. There’s no loyalty, they’re horrible to touch…have you ever touched a giraffe? I don't know if you've ever touched a giraffe, giraffes are horrible to touch, they're very slimy. And they're just so awkward looking, they stumble they fall over so often; I really despise giraffes.
On science at school
At school I was very poor at geography, very good at…my attendance was strong, I was good at turning up; it was a boarding school, little choice there.
I had three teachers, one of them was called Dr Day, [he] was my biology teacher and his nickname was Top it Up because he always used to say “can you just top it up a little bit”. My only memories of science are the nicknames of the teachers, so there was Mr Top it Up, chemistry teacher was…he was Welsh, you know, Welsh guy, and then the physics teacher was Doughnut Moore because he used to eat a lot and when we sang “feed me till I want no more” we used to sing “feed me till I’m Doughnut Moore”.
On the best science learnt at school
So the best science discovery, without doubt, I like the periodic table, you know, whoever discovered that table, I think as tables go it’s a pretty good one, I mean, I really enjoy it as a table. I don’t really know what it is but its sort of satisfying, like the tube map, I quite like it as a thing. I like the abbreviations. I’m going to vote for the periodic table but I don’t really know what it is, is it good? Are they all on there? They all fit? They got them all? I think it’s the right size and shape for the elements. I think that’s the worst answer of my answers, which is not a great accolade.
On moving into comedy
I don’t really like science, I know this is a science thing…I find it very difficult, science, I have got that sort of brain…I’m more sort…football, love a game of football. I didn't like science at school and I did a show about quantum…I read Hawking’s book and I did try and understand it and I did understand it for four weeks and then it went, and that’s my problem with science, I can’t absorb. I think my brain is like my phone, my old Nokia, where you fill up the address book and then you have to delete people and I think it’s like that in my head, my head is full of enough stuff so to absorb any science I have to lose people.