What follows is essentially a paradoxical attempt at self-promotion via the technique of self depreciation. Feel free to read a few lines and then resume the search for horrific animal-based porn that brought you here by accident (this is, in fairness, how I get most of my blog hits). But anyway, here’s some news that I got quite a while ago now, but just haven’t had the time or inclination to report it properly here. But now I do. So I am. With me so far?
My limited, unexpected and already clearly over-stretched appeal seems to be based on two things. 1: People’s surprising tolerance for overly-descriptive and grammatically dubious long winded sentences, like this one. And 2: My efforts to combine Science and Comedy.
The second factor there is the important one. The first one can be resolved by just sticking to my twitter feed, where sentence length is physically limited, or maybe just reading half of every sentence I write here. I can’t imagine it makes any less sense overall, and it’s a trick I used when reading up on all the relevant journal articles for my PhD, which I still managed to get somehow.
But efforts to combine science and comedy are seemingly still rare in contemporary UK. The skeptic community seems to be still gathering in strength and popularity, the promotion of evidence based medicine and policies is getting more traction, and the comedy scene is bigger and more popular than it’s ever been (whether this last one is a good or a bad thing is, like all comedy, largely a subjective matter). Attempts to combine these things, though, remain relatively sparse. But it’s not unheard of. Far from it, in fact.
I think the reason I get as much publicity as I do is due to both my being based in Cardiff, which gives me serious ‘big fish in a small pond’ value when it comes to science-based comedy. It’s not that small a pond though, I’ve not really encountered any other fish in it yet. That and a flew surprisingly popular blogs are all that stands between my current profile and total obscurity. Comparatively, it’s like saying ‘almond white is all that stands between magnolia and vanilla white on the Dulux colour chart’
It should tell you everything you need to know about me, the fact that I actually looked that up. Also, that I giggled somewhat at the term ‘ready mixed creams’. No idea why, but there you go.
But now my reign of tyranny is coming to an end. The professionals are coming to town. The best science/comedy folk in the UK are coming to Cardiff, and once people see how it’s really done, my brief spell of attention will fade, and rightly so.
I speak, of course, of the Uncaged Monkey’s tour. Robin Ince’s mighty rationalist comedy machine is making its way to the Welsh capital in May. The powerhouses of the science/sceptical/comedy communities are joining forces and touring the country, and seeing as those involved probably have a combined IQ that hits 4 figures, they’re aware that the country includes Wales (seriously, it’s weird how many high-profile tours seem to overlook this fact).
As a combined generous act of inclusion/’look how bad it can get’ gesture, I’ve been asked to contribute to the event in Cardiff as a special guest. I’m pretty sure my set is being used to give the staff something to listen to as they hoover under the seats after everyone leaves, but I’ll take it.
However, given the nature of the skeptic/rationalist communities and those who object to it, I’m sure there will be accusations abound regarding this huge, high-profile tour promoting science and reason, about ulterior motives, elitism and conspiracy theories, usually concerning the suppression of the existence of unscientific theories, magic and illogical principles for the benefit of Big Pharma puppet-masters. So, to save time and effort, from someone who is ‘on the inside’ to a certain extent, here is the true nature and the ulterior motives of those involved in the Uncaged Monkey’s tour (Cardiff event).
Officially: A talented and experienced comedian with an almost pathological need to obtain books and learn new things. As a result of getting his big-name friends and colleagues to help promote science and rationality in a comedic (or just plain interesting) fashion, science-comedy is currently fashionable. Specialises in angry, crazed rants and withering criticism or poorly written literature.
Unofficially: Robin Ince is actually the world’s most powerful homeopath, chiropractor, crystal healer, psychic, and fortune teller. He is also a devout Christian. His obsession with acquiring books and reading about new things eventually led him into the study and appreciation of all things ‘pseudoscience’, and his tenacious and meticulous nature meant he eventually mastered them all. This was in the late 1800’s, but he was able to work out the powerful cocktail of vitamins and raw foods necessary to halt the ageing process. He has since worked tirelessly to fight the rising tide of so-called rationalism occurring in the world today. His efforts are funded by all the profits generated by Ricky Gervais. Ince controls Gervais, and almost everyone else within his sphere of influence, in a manner not unlike the mice that control humanity in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; manipulating them by letting them think they’re in charge. The purpose of all these exploits is to subtly build up to a sell-out science/rationalist event at a venue like a stadium, at the climax of which a powerful (but all natural) psychotropic gas will be released which will cause all speakers and attendees there to abandon their beliefs and embrace pseudoscience and the world of magic. Or it will kill them. Either way, every little helps.
SUMMARY: Despite initial impressions, Rob Ince is clearly some sort of powerful druid. Or possibly a Wizard.
Officially: The UK’s go-to guy for all issues concerning the abuse or misuse of science in the mainstream media, marketing and beyond. His background in psychiatry, neuroscience and statistics gives him a powerful grasp and understanding and, perhaps most importantly, a willingness to use statistics and the related evidence when it comes to analysing and debunking claims of dubious scientific validity. He is a member of that elite group of skeptics and scientists, the ‘I’ve been unsuccessfully sued by powerful but dangerous quack(s) for speaking an obvious truth’ allegiance (rarely shortened to IBUSBPBDQFSAOTA, for obvious reasons). Specialises in talking about impressive science very rapidly, and being borderline assaulted by high-profile individuals who don’t like it when evidence contradicts their beliefs.
Unofficially: Even a stopped clock is right twice a day (or just once, if it’s a 24hr digital clock, assuming it’s not displaying some scrambled unrecognised time like34:65 or something), and for once the pseudoscientific conspiracy theorists are right; Ben Goldacre is a tool of the Pharmaceutical industry. Only they’re more right than they know. During his time as a cognitive Neuroscientist, Goldacre agreed to take part in a cutting-edge experiment in return for a ridiculous amount of cash. This experiment effectively turned him into the world’s first cyborg. He is programmed to destroy anyone attempting to exploit non-scientific (and non-pharmaceutical) theories for personal gain, using widely read articles and inhuman levels of data processing. The former is paid for and supported by Big Pharma profits obtained via auctioning off the seized properties and resources of innocent homeopaths and chiropractors Goldacre has destroyed. The latter is made possible by several hard disk-drives and processors implanted in his skull and wired directly into his brain (mostly into the temporal lobes, but also the corpus callosum to facilitate hemisphereical communication). He occasionally criticises the pharmaceutical industry in a classic case of misdirection. The cyborg enhancements are almost undetectable, but a glitch in the interface is what causes his rapid speech patterns, and his signature curly hair is maintained in order to hide the numerous USB sockets embedded into his scalp. The ultimate aim of Goldacre’s modifications is to make him the most trusted source of science information in the world, to the point where his opinion outranks the process of peer-review. Once this happens, he will suddenly start promoting ‘new’ types of antidepressants.
SUMMARY: Despite initial impressions, Ben Goldacre is a cyborg designed and maintained by Big Pharma. The vast wealth he receives for his efforts is spent on Christmas cake, which is what powers his cybernetic enhancements.
Officially: A well-liked and widely respected award-winning author, presenter and scientific journalist/investigator. Simon Singh is known for his dedication and enthusiastic manner in making seemingly complex and difficult scientific concepts more easily understood and engaging. He is also a member of that elite group of skeptics and scientists, the ‘I’ve been unsuccessfully sued by powerful but dangerous quack(s) for speaking my mind’ allegiance (IBUSBPBDQFSAOTA).
Unofficially: Singh is actually well on the way to developing a powerful global religion in his name. He is known by many names to his followers, ‘The Guru’, ‘The Brahman of Bogus’, ‘The Codebreaker Christ’, ‘The treatment or trickster God’, ‘Singh of the Singularity’ and so on. Singh’s efforts to debunk alternative medicine, climate change denial and other pseudoscientific practices are tantamount to the Biblical incident where Jesus threw the money lenders out of the Church; he’s essentially clearing the decks before he becomes the all powerful religious icon he is believed to be. His books and articles, read together, actually form the basis of a new gospel (The Big Bang = Genesis, Trick or Treatment = Ernst’s Gospel etc.). He is already better than Jesus as, via the technique of serial reincarnating, he has died and risen again many times, not just the once. As such, the effects of Singhism have been subtly accumulating for many years. E.g. Simon Singh is the original Simon from the game ‘Simon Says’ (where children are taught that ‘Simon’ must be unquestioningly obeyed, and anything he does not say is false). The act of hymn singing is also actually a distortion of musically praising ‘Him; Singh’. His involvement in big touring events like Uncaged monkeys is a way to further spread his word to a wide audience. Once all other forms of false beliefs are discredited and abolished (Singh shall have no other idols, other than him), he will announce a dress code and introduce tithing.
SUMMARY: Despite first impressions, Simon Singh is a centuries-old religious icon, poised to overthrow all other major religions on Earth (except scientology, which amuses him greatly).
Officially: Possibly the most famous science presenter in the UK at present, Brian Cox is an accomplished professor of physics and works directly with the LHC and other high-energy facilities. He is perhaps best known for presenting popular programmes detailing the wondrous aspects of the solar system, the Universe and more (not sure what ‘more’ there is than the Universe, but you get the point). He is regularly involved in scientific discussions in the media, and has a bizarre background in Pop music as former keyboard player of 90’s pop group D:Ream.
Unofficially: Brian Cox, with his softly spoken demeanour, earnest enthusiasm and trendy appearance, is planning global annihilation. An extreme sociopath since a childhood trauma involving a Cornetto and a friends bicycle pump, every aspect of Cox’s life is dedicated to the eventual destruction of human kind, and the Earth itself if necessary. His dedication to high-energy physics is the result of his deep desire to develop a catastrophic doomsday device (the widely dismissed planet-swallowing black-hole generating capabilities of the Large Hadron Collider were the only reason he got involved with it in the first place). His ‘Wonders...’ programmes are actually his way of gleefully pointing out how pathetic and meaningless the human race is, and how the Universe won’t miss one pathetic planet, and also to emphasise to people how insignificant they are, in order to sap any desire they may have to fight against his world-ending schemes. Even the D:Ream song ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ bore the marks of Cox’s destructive hatred for mankind. The original lyrics went ‘Things can only get better... when you’re all dead’, but the studio intervened. Brian Cox enjoys doing high-profile speaking events as he gets to look directly into the eyes of the pointless beings whose demise he will shortly be bringing about.
SUMMARY: Despite first impressions, Brian Cox is an evil warlord wanting to bring about the apocalypse. Government funding cuts imposed by the coalition means MI5 may have to stop sending James Bond to thwart him so regularly, so he may soon succeed.
Officially: A sharp and intelligent stand-up comedian, Addison is known for lecture-esque comedy shows in both live and radio formats, the majority of which focus on science or rationalism in some form. He is also regularly seen as an actor in the political TV satire ‘The Thick of It’, where he belligerently mocks an older man and is horrifically bollocked by another with disconcerting regularity. His manner of speaking makes you feel somehow less intelligent just by hearing it. In a more just world, Stephen Hawking’s voicebox would sound just like him.
Unofficially: At a very young age, Addison discovered the Fountain of Youth. Except it wasn’t a fountain, it as a pond near his house. This is why he still looks like he might get ID’d in pubs despite being nearly 4 decades old (chronologically). After discovering he had been granted eternal youth, Addison decided to dedicate much of his time promoting science, rationalism and reason, to the point where everyone rejects the notion of a ‘fountain of youth’ outright. Faced with the possibility of several lifetimes of accumulated interest, Addison has been quietly investing in and promoting left-wing media franchises, and secretly incorporating subliminal messages and commands into all of his live/broadcast output. These commands are essentially random and un-linked instructions, they’re basically the society-manipulating version of a “testing, testing. One two, one two”. He has discovered there are other high-profile comics that don’t age, and is using the scientific and sceptical communities to consolidate his position before making his move and engaging them in combat, to the death (by decapitation).
SUMMARY: Despite first impressions, Chris Addison is a society manipulating immortal, sort of like a stand-up comedy version of one of those guys from ‘Highlander’.
Officially: Helen Arney is a delightfully talented songstress, who combines her scientific background with quirky, whimsical music and stand-up. She is increasingly being seen at festivals and live events in front of large crowds, and can often be heard on Radio 4.
Unofficially: Helen Arney is actually a mythical creature. Part pixie, part elf, part siren, part succubus, part fairy (mythical creature biology doesn’t follow the same rules as ours does). She uses her siren song and musical abilities to confuse and cast a glamour over her audiences and listeners, which then makes those under the spell amenable to her will. By focussing on scientific and rational audiences, her power is increased tenfold, as converting followers with no other-worldly beliefs are considered to be far more valuable in the magical kingdom. As such she is on course to become queen of the fairies (and others), and by casting her musical spell over large audiences of scientifically minded thinkers she is coming ever closer to opening a portal to this world where the armies of elves riding centaurs and firing gremlins from bows made of unicorn gut, who will storm our Earthly realm, and steal all our milk. Why milk? I don’t know. They’re other worldly beings, logic is not required.
SUMMARY: Despite first impressions, Helen Arney is an otherworldly sprite who is working to unleash a force of magical beings on our universe. In a nice, quirky way though. So that’s fine.
MYSELF: I check the Dulux colour chart when making pointless long-winded comparisons. Enough said.
So yeah, that’s that. Uncaged Monkey’s, 9th of May, St David’s Hall. Come along, it’ll be great. Mostly.
Email: Humourology (at) live.co.uk