SMART comedian Simon Evans is a Genius is his new touring show title, although it would appear that not everyone agrees, as Selby Town Hall's audience will judge tonight.

"Why, when he has put in so much effort, committed so wholly to the cultivation of the whole Genius thing, does society now seem so indifferent, not merely to Evans’s claims to be numbered among the genius class, but to the very idea itself?" his tour publicity asks.

Evans's Genius show is bursting with questions. What is Genius? Is it a high IQ? A ruthless disregard for convention? Any ploy used successfully to carry a third pint glass without spilling it?

Is Genius the combination of unexpected influences to conceal the processes of creativity? "The Beatles wrote great songs, but arguably revealed their genius only when they drew not just on Little Richard but William Burroughs, the Cabaret Voltaire and Bernard Cribbins," suggests Brighton comic Evans. "Maradona revealed his true genius when he emulated not Pele but Michael Jordan."

Whatever Genius is, it seems to be in desperately short supply in public life at present, he posits. "Is there a conspiracy against elite intelligence, or just an instinctive nationwide repulsion? Is a politically brilliant mind now seen as little more than the pupal stage of the paedophile? Is it just their inner lizard coming through?"

Few of these questions will be adequately answered but all will at the least be squinted at, quizzically, he says, in Evans’s eighth solo show, now on the road after last summer's Edinburgh Fringe.

York Press:

"Why are we frightened to acknowledge someone has fantastic talent," asks comedian Simon Evans

Tonight, in Selby, he will be reflecting on the nature of intelligence; the possibility of original thought; the struggle to find the authentic self and...octopuses, while "exposing the brain to itself as only a grubby mirror in a seedy bedsit of the imagination can".

"There's a degree to which I'm trying to tackle things that I feel warrant serious debate, and there's the more observational comedy element too," says Evans. "It started as a eulogy for our intellectual ambitions, while realising I'm not quite where I might wish to be and am forgetting things now that I'm in my 50s [he turned 53 on Wednesday]."

"The term 'genius' is used too often – not that it bothers me – when describing comedians, pop stars and footballers, and it's become a controversial term in university circles, but I like to ask, 'why are we frightened to acknowledge someone has fantastic talent?'. I don't think we can eliminate the word 'genius'; I think it does exist, but the question is: what ignites it?"

Evans also mulls over "what you would expect to be the base level of intelligence, particularly for being in politics". "If we encounter intelligence, we're too scared to vote for it; instead people are responding to assurance," he says. "I sometimes wonder if it reflects Britain's place in the world, managing our decline.

"There's demoralisation that we should still be contributing more than we are now, but we're still making advances, we still come up with cutting-edge scientific achievements, but if you just walk about being demoralised, as we do...that's where we are.

"Whereas [British philosopher and political economist] John Stuart Mill said our greatest strength lies in our eccentricity, not being intimidated by societal norms."

Simon Evans: Genius, Selby Town Hall, May 11, 8pm, SOLD OUT. Doors open at 7.30pm.

Did you know?

Simon Evans was a contestant on Celebrity Mastermind, where his specialist subject was Ernest Shackleton. He won his heat and was only prevented from winning the final due to there not being one.

He anchored and wrote seven series of the news satire The Way It Is and has presented five series of Simon Evans Goes To Market on BBC Radio 4.