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For the past few weeks I've been working at UCL training academics in the ways of comedy.  The Z List Dead List favourite, Steve Cross introduced me to the Bright Club a few years ago and I've been regularly Mcing and closing the nights across the UK. It is so much more interesting than a regular comedy night (I see too much comedy perhaps!) and watching a series of academics talk about their research is a great way to learn fun facts and find out about whole areas of the world I never knew existed. It is also a great demonstration of both how and how NOT to do comedy. 

Irving Finkel Speaking Passionately at The Z List Dead List 2016 - Photo: Sarah Higgins 

Irving Finkel Speaking Passionately at The Z List Dead List 2016 - Photo: Sarah Higgins 

The basic mistakes I see so often, particularly with scientists is their inability to make the story about THEM. If it is an incident at work, they distance themselves from it. A comedian knows, if a funny story happened to a friend, onstage: it happened to the comedian.  If they are talking about their subject they are hesitant to show any firm opinions... it seems passion about your research is seen as some sort of weakness among certain academics. But anyone who saw Irving Finkel scream "This man was a FUCKING GENIUS!" to a stunned and then guffawing Z List Dead List Audience at The British Museum, knows that passion is what sells comedy.

So the next session I have will be about performance, simple stuff, how to stand, where to put the microphone (so many people get this wrong) and you, know, not... erm... (mumble). Speaking with passion doesn't come naturally to a Brit however. So it is a good thing that the class I'm teaching has at least one person from North America to show them how it is done. This particular doctor also has the intriguing topic of research in that he makes computers hallucinate. Yeah... 

For anyone concerned that my teaching skills are not up to snuff, Dr Steve Cross (who has been training academics in public engagement since before science was sexy) gave me a breakdown of how he goes about teaching Bright Club speakers. I also got some tips of A.F. Harrold who runs poetry and writing workshops for both life size and short people. This was the first time I was training non comedy people how to be funny, and I was so relieved that every single person in the group I am working with seem really upbeat and engaged... and crucially, already pretty funny. 


Tickets are on sale to watch the Bright Club At Stratford Circus in London on the 9th of February. www.brightclub.org

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