After five years of doing science comedy, it looks like my pocket genre is finally getting some attention!
First there’s the Telegraph’s article “Science doesn’t make good comedy? You must be joking…” Seems science is becoming a topic for comedians; the article references the work of comedians Dara Oâ€™Briain, Robin Ince and Australian now big in the UK Tim Minchin. The article loses points for trotting out the usual stereotype in the first paragraph – supposedly comedy’s historical interaction with science is limited to “mocking the other-worldly white-coated geek with his test tubes, Dungeons & Dragons and no sex life”. Er…what? That’s a stereotype found in film and television – Big Bang Theory and Lab Rats, I’m looking at you – but not in stand-up comedy. Later the article suggests the best new comic application of science is finding new people to mock – those who are passionate but wrong. That’s fun, but I would hope more people will be like Minchin and Ince, who both point out there’s comedy to be found in relating the human condition to the biggest concepts in science. It’s also true that most science in comedy comes out in support of rationalist, humanist thought – and therefore as a counterpoint to religion.
Closer to home, mathematical comedian Simon Pampena and doctor-turned-improviser Sean Fabri – both friends and colleagues – are two of the comedians featured in the latest Age Comedy Festival article, “Stand-up guise“. (Being the major festival sponsor, there are a lot of these sort of articles, including the old standards “Can comedy be political?” and “Are women funny?” – the answer to both is, naturally, “yes”.) It contrasts the “day jobs” (or, in Pampena’s case, ex-day job) of the comedians with their on-stage careers. Pampena’s last show, Maths Olympics, was a corker – never before has the stage seen such a passionate attitude to the magic of mathematics. Super Mega Maths Battle for Planet Earth looks set to be just as explosive. Fabri, meanwhile, doesn’t take medicine on to the stage – but you can bet that if the audience suggest a scene about anything vaguely scientific, he’ll know all about it. (He’s playing with Impro Melbourne for Late Nite Impro.)
If nothing else, all this suggests the time might be right for a new Man in the Lab Coat solo show – and there’s still Science Week and the Melbourne Fringe Festival later in the year. Watch this space… In the meantime, don’t forget the Melbourne Museum Comedy Tour in this year’s comedy festival!