You probably didn’t realise it, but comedy is an exact science. The proof was discovered by Mark Twain, and it can be described as fundamentally as the relationship between energy and matter:
(Comedy = Tragedy X Time)
If we take this to be true, then scientists are surely some of the funniest people on the planet. I can think of no other career where one spends so much time enduring so much tragedy.
My own short career was no exception. Some highlights of my first few months included:
-Nearly killing myself with a life jacket.
-Hiding my field experiments so well that even I couldn’t find them.
-Concocting a myriad of ACME clam-killing traps that failed to kill clams but succeeded in injuring me.
I didn’t get why these experiences were funny at first, I certainly wasn’t laughing when I first managed to injure myself with the winning combination of an electric-fence generator and an aquarium full of clams, but everyone around me was laughing so I remained open minded. So, when Bright Club first approached me about doing a comedic science show, I jumped at the opportunity.
It was a blast. It was a platform to air all my grievances about my unrequited love for science; Like therapy, but cheaper and with less crying. For 9 minutes I got to wax poetic about the one weird thing that I’m obsessed with, and, in a welcome change, people actually listened.
Little did I know at the time, my future boss was in the audience, so when the time came for me to admit defeat in my old job (You haven’t known humiliation until you’ve been outwitted by a creature that doesn’t technically have a brain) she already knew that I’m perfectly capable of talking about science in a way that doesn’t intimidate or alienate people. It helped me secure the position.
That was just one of the knock-on benefits of participating in Bright Club. Every time they asked me back, I said yes. I got to meet incredible people and visit exciting, exotic, places… like Galway. Along the way I met my partner, I met collaborators, and I got called a pervert by that beardy fella from QI. I was living the dream.
On the back of this portfolio I’ve been invited to two more comedy festivals in the UK this year, I’m working on my first book, and I’m currently in a job where I get to marry my love of science communication with my commitment to social activism. Bright Club was the catalyst that sent me careening down this new and exciting path, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.
I can’t promise that Bright Club will be this transformative for you, but I can promise that you won’t regret it. It’s a rare chance to share the work you do like an actual human being, unencumbered by the stifling tedium of academic convention. It’s liberating, fun, and empowering.
You may be worried that you’re not funny, but if The Big Bang Theory has taught us anything, it’s that people have a very forgiving definition of the word “funny”. Trust me – You’re much, much, funnier than you think you are. You are a tremendous dork who is obscenely fascinated by one weird thing. Take a few minutes to share your ridiculous passion with a room full of strangers. Nobody is better equipped to make them care than you.
I started out by saying that scientists are some of the funniest people on the planet. I truly believe that. Every last one of them has at least one story that can make us chuckle. You’re among friends. Don’t be shy and come tell us yours.
This post was written by Rob O’Sullivan, whose Bright Club set about aliens can be watched here.