Knock, knock – Who’s there – A comedian maybe…
This week I took my first steps into the world of stand-up comedy. Flattered to be asked to do it, the realisation then hit that I needed to produce 8 minutes of wit about nuclear physics; panicked I turned to every scientist’s best friend, Google. Frantic searches later I had discovered that a good stand-up punches 6 laughs a minute, the second-best joke should always go first and the best last, plus no joke should take more than 45 seconds to reach a punchline. Who knew there were so many comedy rules?
Fuelled with this knowledge I set about penning some jokes quickly discovering that my optimum comedy time was mid-transatlantic flight following a G&T. Forty-eight hours (and a good sleep) later, what seemed like comedy gold when stuck in the space of a gnat wasn’t quite so funny. With paper now mounting in the waste bin, and the clock ticking to the big event, I set about fusing the jokes into a collective narrative. One aspect of nuclear physics is Carbon Dating, so with that as my comedy backbone I prepared my first “set”.
The horror of practicing into a laughless mirror holding a hairspray mic was only pipped by the dress rehearsal – a necessary affair but one requiring the performer to attempt to be funny at 3pm in the afternoon to 4 other amateur comedians. Hilarious. With the organisers no alcohol and no sugar rules ringing in my ears, I had an hour to consume some food and debate whether my friends would ever talk to me again.
With loyal friends and family crammed into a trendy city den and the mic finally working, the excellent MC begain working the room to fabulous effect and the laughs started coming. As I watched my fellow performers smash their sets I began to look forward to my go. Walking onto the stage, eyes blinking against the bright lights, earning that first laugh was truly exhilarating.
So what have I learned? That although I often intertwine comedy into my lectures, festivals and evening talks, there is something very different about a comedy set. That the organisers of BrightClub know what they are doing. That the audience truly is on your side. That science is very funny and, most surprisingly of all, that I want to do it again.
So whilst I may not be heading to the London Palladium, I’m already finding the funny ready for my next go in the world of laughs. Bring on the hairspray mic it’s time to send in the clowns…
Many thanks to Surrey University for organising the Guildford November 2017 BrightClub event and the awesome MC Steve Cross
Picture credit: Steve Cross