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Science is cool. The domain that was once the preserve of the geeks is now without dispute mainstream. The world’s biggest sitcom is The Big Bang Theory.

 Brainy and accessible folk like Brian Cox have made the wonders of the universe a fascination for us all.

And with the likes of physics-educated comic Dara O’Briain challenging us with the wonder of sums on TV, too, the nerds have risen to the top of the cool tree.

Starting out before their time, funny and clever comedy trio Festival of the Spoken Nerd have been melding science and belly laughs in their stage shows since 2010. 

“There have always been hardcore nerds,” Perth-born Spoken Nerd-er Matt Parker tells us ahead of a busy few months of brain-challenging, funny-bone-tickling activity.

“But people are realising that you can enjoy and take delight in science without it feeling like you are back at school. There is no test at the end [of our shows] – you don’t have to understand everything, you just come along and enjoy it.”

A great example of this is the Inspiring Science season kicking off this week at the British Library (March 11-24), which promises a combo of comedy, artworks, philosophers and extreme puppeteers (seriously) to get you excited about science.

The Spoken Nerds are appearing towards the end of the run, with their deliciously pun-tastic show Full Frontal Nerdity.

The esteemed institution let the Nerders “rummage through their archives” for the show, a pantheon to human history, endeavour and achievement hidden deep below the streets of north London. 

“We got taken down in to their basement, which is three or four levels down – deeper than anywhere on the Tube and one of the deepest points in all of London,” Parker enthuses.

“They’ve rooms and rooms of incredible books and so we each had to hone in on one avenue each.”

Helen Arney, Spoken Nerd’s resident physicist and musical comedian (and also a member of musical comedy act The Balconettes) went to their sound archives; stand-up and former Blue Peter resident science bod Steve Mould checked out the patents; and Parker went to delve into the history books, or rather the newspaper accounts of the past few hundred years that lie squirreled away.

“They have every British newspaper since the 1820s, and pretty good coverage before that, too,” Parker recalls. “I was looking through 1750s newspapers. They’re a very quick, contemporary account of things.

"Books are much more thought-through, they’re a cleaned up account of what happened, but papers are an account of what people were actually reading every day and what was really happening.” 

This detailed history of mankind’s evolution, and our dealing with that, manifests itself in the show with a look at technological moments, such as when the first telegraph signal was sent across the Atlantic way back in 1892, as well as a ‘best of the front pages’, with a few asides about past knowledge’s inferiority to our current ‘educated’ selves.

We can’t claim to be wholly wisened and know it all right now, though, as Parker hastens to add. 

Their Inspiring Science comedy-and-cabaret mind assault will be followed by Technobabble in April, a ‘best of’ performance that pulls together their computer-based shows with a focus on tackling what we don’t know about our desktop wonders – the little machines that shape our lives, but about which we know so little.


Interview - Festival of the Spoken Nerd: The comedy-science troupe on perfecting the formula for laughs and a little learning, too
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