Sunday, March 18

Festival of the Spoken Nerd at Cambridge – I want my money back!

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Having read great reviews of the FOTSN, which mentioned stuff like pyrotechnics, `bangs and flashes’ and stand up math, I was eagerly looking forward to the show but it turned out to be very disappointing. For starters at last night's show at the University Centre in Cambridge, we were informed that only songstress Helen Arney and “experiments guy” Steve Mould will be performing, as stand up mathematician Matt Parker was away in Australia, (very unprofessional indeed considering all the publicity material included his name).

They tried to cover this up by including videos of Parker on Australian beaches showing you how to impress ladies, by calculating the distance between you and the horizon and the total quantity of water in the world. All very nicely done but it left us feeling that we could have just watched it on YouTube if we wanted to. Another embarassing moment for the duo was when they called Parker on Skype to try to fit in some of his stand up math, but nothing was audible owing to the weak internet connection.

Although the concept of combining science and comedy is intriguing, this show failed to rise beyond that, as the performances were a big letdown. It felt like the show was hurriedly put together at the last minute by a couple of high school kids and all of it seemed terribly under rehearsed.
Helen Arney and Steve Mould
In contrast both the guest stand up comedians – Robin Ince and Prof. Richard Wiseman brought a dash of much needed energy to the stage and their performances saved the day to be honest. Especially Prof. Wiseman with his razor sharp wit and great comic timing was the star of the show. He shared some facts on how our brain and eyes play tricks with us – going on to show photographs of random day-to-day objects in which we see faces, because our brain is trained to see faces everywhere. His performance showed that there is a lot of scope in the sci-comedy genre, but it all hangs on the performance. The regular audience at such shows might already know all of the sciency bits, but they are only there to be entertained by lively performers. 
Prof. Richard Wiseman and some of his slides

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