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Stand up for Science

Bright Club

Throughout the UK and Europe, an organisation known simply as ‘Bright Club’ hosts stand up comedy, amongst other performing arts including poetry and rap. I should begin this by saying; I’m totally no expert here. Don’t believe me? Watch the video below! You can also search ‘Bright Club’ on YouTube and find a great many more academics who have done a much better job than me.

My first attempt. My love of puns will become immediately apparent

Bright Club and #SciComm

How does stand up comedy work for science communication? It’s a fair question, and the main objection I’ve heard is “my science isn’t funny”. Well of course it isn’t! We all want our science to be taken seriously so of course, purposefully making jokes about it sounds counter-intuitive. Why should you want people to think what you do is a joke? You don’t, but there are still almost certainly funny things about it. Some easy starting points include:

  • What’s it like to be a scientist? 
  • What do you do day to day? 
  • What frustrates you about it? 

The Thinking Person's Variety Night

You might think this tagline sounds elitist, that thought’s certainly occurred to me in the past, but it’s also important. Bright Club has a nice niche carved out, it’s certainly not a traditional form of science communication but it also doesn’t try to compete with mainstream comedy. The paying public expect something for their money. If you try and run up against professional comedians, it's much more difficult. By sticking to the USP of science-based humour, using things that are personally relevant, the format creates an atmosphere where people are prepared to laugh, but also to learn.

Why should I??

This is clearly not for everyone. But, having said that, if someone had told me 2 years ago I was going to do stand up, I wouldn’t have believed them. The key message here is that it’s really not as hard as you’d think. My starting point was simply that I; a) enjoyed listening to and watching comedians and b) was looking for a new way to try and improve my communication skills. I went along to a training session, in much the same mindset as many people would, thinking that there’s no way I would be funny enough but that I might learn a thing or two. Within two hours I’d written the skeleton of a 10 minute comedy set, which a week later had precipitated into what you can see in the link above.

Becky Boulton (a real Bright Club pro in my opinion!)

It wasn’t easy to get up there but after the first couple of jokes, I soon found a rhythm to it. I can definitely improve (last time out I forgot an entire third of my routine) but I’ve found that since then that I’m loads more comfortable giving academic presentations. I got involved with Bright Club last year and I have to say it was pretty intoxicating. In a job where quick and positive feedback can be very hard to come by, stand up comedy is an activity that can be very affirming. 

Interested?

A few steps you can take....

  1. Check out other Bright Club performances on Youtube, there's loads of brilliant stuff
  2. Get in contact with your local Bright Club. They can offer training sessions for interested people. You won't be under any obligation to do it but who knows what you might learn
  3. My attitude was to do it before I chickened out but other people might prefer a longer lead time.... both are fine!
  4. It's a pretty supportive atmosphere. You aren't likely to be heckled and the audience will be there, prepared to have a good time.
It really is quite intoxicating, but also just a really cool night out. Even if you don't fancy actually standing up, I'd thoroughly recommend going and sitting down to watch it

You can have these for free... (you might not want them)

What do you eat off a tectonic plate? A continental breakfast

You should always have arguments on a hill. After that, everyone will be inclined to agree

The best thing about jokes about the placebo effect is, even if some people don’t get it, they still think that they do

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