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Science comedy

Just to prove this isn't all about the print medium, here's a link to the news that Vic Reeves is to present the next series of Brainiac on Sky One.

Quote from Reeves: "Science is my God and my ultimate goal in Brainiac is to destroy the moon with dynamite." What Ben Goldacre has to say on the matter is yet to be seen.

Science comedy is one of those topics I wish someone would do some cultural studies of science research into. There is more and more of it, some laugh at images of science and some use comedy in promoting/ explaining science (I'm sure people can think of other examples).

Interestingly, Sky say they feel Reeves' "anarchic" style of humour suits the show. I've noticed this comedic anarchy in relationship to science education in the Horrible Science books, and I'm sure there is something to be explored here. Is science especailly funny to rebel against because it holds so much authority? Is laughing at science somehow taboo/ naughty - is that why it's funny? Or is it just as funny as anything else in life, but it's only recently that boundaries between comedy and science have loosened enough for us to start seeing any?

Final point that's just come to me before I press "publish" - I've linked to Ben Goldacre above because he has been very vocal in his criticisms of Brainiac, but I guess his column is a form of science comedy too, albeit for a slightly different audience.


Remember that Johnny Ball was a Butlin's redcoat (ie. stand-up comedian) before he joined Playschool, and thence Think of a Number. And one can probably find gags in the lecture notes of Tyndall and Faraday. One could also argue that von Guericke's hemispheres demonstration was an early form of science outreach, and it certainly had a degree of theatricality about it.

In truth, I'm not sure there's anything genuinely new in what Brainiac does. It's clearly entertainment rather than science; the problems appear when the audience fails to make that distinction (discuss, 20 marks, etc etc).