Bright Club is a variety night of entertainment combining light-hearted research talks from academics and performances from professional comedians. It has been running for several years now across various venues around the UK and recently made the leap to Dublin. Off the back of some grade-A flattery that pandered perfectly to my ego, I agreed to get involved as an academic for the April show. Although being comfortable with lecturing and presenting my science, I have no experience in comedy, or even drama for that matter, so this was a huge step outside my comfort zone. Thankfully, some helpful training from Niamh Shaw in the week beforehand showed me how entertaining starts with being comfortable with yourself in front of an audience. It was a great evening packed with songs, linguistics, one-liners, neuroscience, wit and visualisation.
This was a humbling experience. I think I managed ok with a story about intelligence, cooperation and “devious f***er” politicians, but I learned a huge amount. I learned that narrating a short coherent story without the aid of slides, or props to prompt you is really, really difficult. You have nothing to hide behind: all eyes are on you. You have nothing to jog your memory of your story. You can just stand up there and wing-it safe in the knowledge that you can just talk to each slide as it appears.
This is something that we as academics should challenge ourselves to do: give a talk (not necessarily a comedic one) that lasts 5 to 10 minutes on your research without any notes, slides, prompts or props. It will make you realise just how skilled stand-up comedians are, and how it’s a very different skill to be an entertaining speaker rather than an entertaining lecturer. Of course our job is to be an entertaining lecturer, but there is a lot to learn from the fear and loneliness of standing up in front of a crowd that is hanging on your every word and action. One way to do this would be to get in touch with Bright Club and sign yourself up for an event near you!