Anyone who has been in a grad program (or still is), knows the feeling of gnawing doubt. Unsure how you ever got into the program. Unsure how to do science. Unsure if you even still like science.
Fortunately, when I was in grad school, I got the opportunity to participate in a stand-up comedy workshop organized by Bright Club. Bright Club, which was started by Steve Cross and has since spread across multiple cities in the UK, Ireland, and beyond, allows academics to climb up on a stage to deliver an eight-minute set of stand-up comedy inspired by their own studies or work. Two weeks after attending a workshop, I was already feeling the rush of adrenaline after standing on stage. And I was hooked.
The second stand-up set I ever wrote was a Disney-inspired ukulele medley about the ups and downs of getting a PhD degree. The response was amazing, I had found a way to put my struggles into words—and song—in a way that related to every other grad student I met. It’s not an exaggeration when I say that participating in Bright Club helped me through grad school. It gave me an outlet when an experiment failed, when I learned I had to extend my research, and when I faced the fears and doubts that I’d never get to call myself a “doctor.” Feelings, it seems, that many shared.
Geeky Comedy, now in Seattle
In 2018, I moved to Seattle. Excited about a new city, a nerdy one even, I went to an open mic night to see what the “scene” was like. I did not like it. I’m sure we’ve all seen it: everyone looks the same, makes the same joke about hating their wife/girlfriend, or about a body part they happen to have. There were no ukuleles to be seen. There was no way I’d ever sign up.
Fortunately (again), I eventually found another open mic, The Comedy Nest, that was more up my alley. It was a “safe space,” not just in the sense that no punching down was allowed, but I actually felt safe to try out my own quirky type of comedy: slightly nerdy and hiding behind a ukulele.
After participating in a couple of open mics, I started Geeky Comedy Seattle, and started organizing open mics of my own, and shortly after showcases and workshops. I clearly had found my niche.
Helping others find their voice
With Geeky Comedy Seattle, I’m hoping to do for others what Bright Club and The Comedy Nest have done for me: let them know that there is a space for them. A space where they can experiment with a new way of communicating. Where they can be themselves. Where they can try and probably fail at standing in front of an audience and tell their story.
Comedy gave me the confidence to tell my story. Maybe it can do the same for you? Join our workshop Make ‘em Laugh—Geeky Standup Comedy Workshop at SciTalk ‘23, and come find out for yourself. At the very least, you’ll have some laughs along the way.
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