Earnest sociologist does stand-up comedy

Sometimes it’s good to push yourself – in a protestant-work-ethic style, rather than a recreational-drugs-and-eyeballs way. This new year, my attempt to go beyond my comfort zone was to do a stand-up comedy set as part of Bright Club at Dundee.

I’ve written on stand-up comedy before now but I’ve been firmly placed in the theory rather than practice side of research…

The idea behind Bright Club is that you get inexperienced, socially awkward academics to try their hands at doing stand-up comedy about their area of expertise. What could possibly be a weakness in that? Luckily, there’s a professional on hand to compère and hold the whole thing together.

We did an evening of introductory training with the brilliant Susan Morrison (@suziemo) before being sent off to write some stuff. (This being academia, we were of course given recommended reading. In this case, Logan Murray’s Get Started in Stand-up Comedy.) One run through with our co-performers and then a rehearsal in the venue and we were ‘good’ to go.

Being crammed behind the stage curtain on performance night was certainly a tense experience. When lecturing, you’ve always got a second shot at making a point or clarifying something. Stand-up comedy is a one chance thing. If it doesn’t work first time, or you just mess it up, you’ve got to move on to the next thing. It is a nightmare of pressure for control freaks and those wringing in performance anxiety.

I’d like to say, that once I got on stage all my nerves disappeared – but they didn’t. I revelled in the laughter and applause – I didn’t. And I felt a rush of feel-good endorphins after I’d done my set – I didn’t.

But would I do it again? Now the dust has settled a bit I’d say I would. I’d just do it better!

Take a look at the video to hear a ‘sociology ninja’ spout on about why sociologists make bad stand-up comedians, the trouble dentists have with spreadsheets, and the problems they have with humans.

Photo by Johan Lange

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