December 10, 2009 6 Comments
Ah, science plus comedy, the perfect mix. No, really. I’m serious.
Last night I went to see Robin Ince’s School for Gifted Children present The Darwin Birthday Spectacular. To be fair, although Darwin was mentioned, the title seemed to be slightly ill-fitting as the evening was more of a celebration of science as a whole. The show was a curious mix of stand up, lecture and book reading – which might sound awful, but it was immensely entertaining.
Ince was the ‘MC’ for the evening – although to just call him an MC would be grossly unfair. His thoughtful stand up was as interesting as it was funny, as he explained why he has come to love science. He then introduced Ben Goldacre, doctor and journalist, who gave a witty talk about how badly clinical trials are reported on, in the media, and how this distorts public opinion. He illustrated his point with the examples of fish oil trials and the MMR vaccination. Both stories were hilarious for their absurdity – but they were equally worrying, people’s lives are being threatened by some crazy decisions. Special thanks must go out to Dr Ben – he arrived from London just minutes before he went on stage and then had to rush immediately back to the train station when he had finished.
After the interval came Josie Long, who, those with an obsessive compulsive memory (me) will remember, was the reason that I bought the tickets in the first place. I wasn’t disappointed. She hilariously recounted a version of Charles Darwin’s letters home from the Beagle. Long’s whimsical style of comedy is extremely refreshing in this climate of cynicism and she’s one of the most instantly likable performers I’ve ever seen.
The final ‘act’ of the evening was science writer Simon Singh. He gave a fascinating, and funny, talk about topics ranging from hidden messages in Led Zeppelin songs, the ‘Bible Code’ and a brief history of the Big Bang. Singh is currently embroiled in a libel case brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association. He is choosing to defend the case using his own money – whether or not you think that chiropracty is valid, this case is vital to preserve free speech and genuine scientific discourse in this country. You can read more about the case and sign a petition to support Simon, here.
As an indication of how much I enjoyed the evening, I’ve been online shopping today and bought the DVD of Robin Ince’s (and an all-star line up) Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People – from the exemplary Go Faster Stripe, here. I also, from the rather more mundane Amazon, bought Josie Long’s DVD, Trying is Good; Simon Singh’s book, Trick or Treatment?; and Ben Goldacre’s book, Bad Science. I guess I liked it.
If only every evening could be spent like this. The world would soon be a much better place.