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082: The Science of Comedy with The Peer Revue’s Niki Spahich

Two scientists walk into a bar. One steps on stage and delivers ten minutes of raucously funny stand-up comedy.  The other enjoys an evening of laughter as enterprising STEM professionals share their science.

Scientists doing stand-up may sound like a joke, but it’s actually the latest innovation in science communication.

Weird Al Einstein

Begun in 2016, The Peer Revue is a program designed to make scientific research accessible by making it funny.

This week, we talk with Niki Spahich, one of the co-creators of The Peer Revue, about how the idea began and what it’s like to turn scientists into comedians.

The process starts with a workshop to train STEM professionals in the basics of joke writing and story telling.  They pair with practicing comedians to review their material and work on timing and delivery.  Once they’ve developed a routine, they get to step on stage in front of a live audience to deliver their set.

Most get laughs, but they all get the chance to share their work with a broad audience.  Making cutting-edge research accessible to people outside the lab is certainly no laughing matter.

Worst Dissertation Project Ever

Every day since February 24, 1988, someone in Richard Lenski’s lab has seeded the same 12 Escherichia coli cultures into new media to shake overnight.  A new Nature paper describes the genetic evolution of these bacteria over the last 68,000 generations.

Aren’t you glad you weren’t the grad student tasked with a 30-year dissertation project?

Also in this episode, Daniel and Josh travel to Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough, NC to sample the hard-to-find Dromgoole Pumpkin Ale.  It’s made with whole pumpkin pies, but will its fall flavors register on tastebuds already saturated with Pumpkin Spiced Everything?  Tune in to find out!




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