By Matin Durrani
Being funny is hard.
(“I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again.”)
Being funny about physics is even harder.
(“So what’s new?”
“Oh you know: E over h.”)
And being funny about physics at CERN’s first ever official stand-up comedy night is likely to be trickier still.
So good luck is what I say to those involved in the LHComedy event, which takes place on Friday 30 August from 7.30 to 11.30 p.m. (Central European Time) at CERN’s Globe of Science and Innovation in Geneva.
Billed as “an evening of science-themed stand-up comedy”, LHComedy will feature six CERN scientists – Sam Gregson, Alex Brown, Benjamin Frisch, Claire Lee, Hugo Day and Clara Nellist – explaining their research and promising to “lift the lid on what it is like to work at CERN”.
The show will be hosted by Helen Keen of BBC Radio 4’s It is Rocket Science and will also feature self-styled “geek-pop cabaret sensation” Jonny Berliner as well as someone called Pierre Novellie, who was apparently a finalist in last year’s Chortle Student Comedian competition (no I hadn’t heard of it either).
The show may, apparently, “also have an additional headline act”.
So what’s the secret to making science funny? I e-mailed Sam Gregson, who told me his trick is to use the stereotypes that go along with being a scientist – you know, social awkardness, recluseness, being terrible with the opposite sex, that sort of thing – and showing how outdated they are “by being fun, open and confident”.
“This evening is a great opportunity to enthuse people worldwide about the fantastic work going on at arguably the world’s most important scientific facilitity through an exciting, vibrant and upcoming medium,” says Gregson.
In fact, he wants you to try it yourself. “My advice to all scientists is to attempt a science comedy set based on their work,” he says. “Trust me – if you can make people laugh at the same time as informing them, no other piece of scientific outreach or public speaking engagement need hold any fear for you!”
The event is free of charge, but entry is by pre-booked ticket only, which you can obtain from the official event website.
But be warned: LHComedy will be in English and adult comedy is not excluded.