FutureSmash

This post comes to you via a guest post from @dr_fi. She recently took part in FutureSmash at the Science Museum Lates. Basically, this is a chance for scientists to discuss science with the public in the context of the future, making people laugh and a bit (often more than a bit) of alcohol.

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Subject: Re: FutureSmash

Why not? I could give it a bash! Not sure how funny I will be but it will be a good challenge!

Cheers

Fiona

Press send. Email sent. Thought process initiates….did I just sign up to do some science comedy? What was I thinking? I should never reply to emails without taking in the full implication of what is being asked. What was being asked? I read the email again,

Subject: FutureSmash

Dear Fiona

Any interest in doing this at the Crick Institute Science Museum Late next month?

“FutureSmash…………comedy………current research…….scifi……..researchers……comedians………………jokes……..science…………..audience to vote…….………competing head-to-head………….8 minutes……….jokes…….”

Panic starts. 8 minutes worth of jokes. Competing against comedians. Did I agree to do this? My inbox pings

Subject: Re: FutureSmash

Hurrah! I’ll tell the organizer and he’ll be in touch

Regards

Public Engagement

So that was how it started.

A week later I met the organizer to find out more. I was basically told that all I had to do was pick a fictional future from a film (eg Gattaca or Avatar) and explain how it was definitely going to happen using science and jokes.

Problem 1) I have zero knowledge of sci-fi films. The organizer reeled off a list of possible films, none of which I’d seen, and most I’d not even heard of.

Problem 2) I was the only newbie. All the other scientists had done stand-up before. Though to ease my mind, I was told I would be competing head to head against another scientist rather than a professional comedian. Well that was something.

A week before the show and I started to regret signing up. I spent hours Googling sci-fi films. I wanted my science to be correct and interesting but needed it to be funny. I decided on the topic of gut bacteria and the increasing research of its importance in the health of our minds. I simplified it and exaggerated a little to make the bacteria the evil baddies (but see here for an intro on gut bacteria and more info )

After my first practice, I was buoyed by my friend’s comment,

“It is much better than I thought it would be.”

Then I received another email:

Subject: FutureSmash – Slight change

Dear All

One of the scientists can’t participate anymore so now there will be three comedians and three scientists. So each scientist will be competing against a comedian

Hope that’s ok

I tried to reassure myself. What was the worst that could happen?

1) No one laughs.

2) People fall asleep – well at least I was used to that from lecturing and surely that would be unlikely given the 8 minute timeframe

3) People walk out – again unlikely in 8 minutes

Which left the main issue of no laughs…..

On the day, I arrived at the Science Museum and met the other presenters. We were given food vouchers and wisely decided to spend them all on beer and crisps. Who needs a proper dinner?

I was up first and decided to make a grand entrance by crawling along the floor (based on learning the art of ‘non-verbal entrances’ at a public engagement workshop the day before*) . My friend asked after what on earth was I doing, so I guess it failed to make the impact I’d hoped.

After a shaky start with a few points when I blanked on what I wanted to stay next, I got into the flow and really enjoyed it. I even managed to cope with some heckles (you would have thought my sister in the audience would be more supportive).

So here is a video of my debut comedy act, with full disclaimers and a little swearing.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I finally did.

And a photo of my prize after the audience voted for my fictional future.

FutureSmash Prze

*LT tease: I’ll be writing up some tips from this workshop in my next post!

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Thanks to @dr_fi for this insight into her first foray into mixing science and comedy.

Get in touch @LaurenTedaldi if you’re trying some new forms of scientific communication and would like to share the experience!

Fred Humphreys

Scientist at University of Portsmouth
I'm a research scientist based in Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. My passions include biology, gardening and walking.

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