Science 3 min read

Stand-Up Science: Comedy to Communicate Science

Fer Gregory /

Fer Gregory /

Two seemingly opposing worlds, not only science and art can meet, they can engage in a complementing dance.

We have grown to expect that comedy — as a form of art — is shown as acts with performance and an interacting audience. On the other hand, we think of science as a serious delivery, whether as an article or a seminar.

Can’t we have the best of the two worlds? Science communicators at the microphone, like comedians, telling jokes about science?

Sure we can! Some stand-up scientists are engaging people to learn about scientific concepts in unconventional ways.

Stand-Up Science Comedians

Stand-up scientists prepare their jokes, hold the microphone, and “warm-up” the crowd just like comedians do in their shows. But their task might be more difficult. They have to convey accurate scientific information and still have to make the audience laugh.

Their setup for the jokes is more complicated, and their punchlines have to deliver on a double level.

“Part of my job is to help distinguish the difference between fact versus myth for the general public,” Kasha Patel told an audience at a recent gig. “So, for instance, fact: you can get chlamydia if a koala urinates on you. Myth: your wife will believe you.”

Patel, a science writer and stand-up comedian founded the DC Science Comedy, which organizes stand-up science shows in Washington, D.C. She intends to expand it to other cities. The live shows include funny science stories, songs, and other fun bits.

Scientists, storytellers, comedians, authors, science writers, and other performers from across the US join Patel on the stage during shows.

Shannon Odell is a neuroscience Ph.D. candidate and a stand-up scientist. She tells the audience that “science and comedy actually have a lot in common.”

“Both are really just making observations about the world and then sharing it with an audience,” she says. “Jerry Seinfeld, he’d be like, what’s the deal with airplane food? … Whereas scientists are just like, what’s the deal with rising CO2 levels?”

The science comedienne thinks communicating science while laughing with people makes them more receptive to the message in the joke.

In a series of videos on YouTube, Odell explores the science of the human brain on alcohol, caffeine, breakup, and other stimuli.

Read More: How Science Can Help You Get Better At Video Games

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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