Fairly or unfairly, the public’s perception of science seems to include a series of less-than-flattering words that begin with “S”: stodgy, stuffy and serious. But it doesn’t have to be that way; science also can be silly.
Brian Malow would wholeheartedly agree with that assessment; in fact, he believes in science’s humor potential so much that he’s made an unusual career out of it, performing across the country as a “science comedian” for the past decade.
Whether he’s giving quick one-liners like “I just started reading ‘The Origin of Species;’ don’t tell me how it ends!” or longer musings about how the constant weight fluctuations between his parents— whenever his mom lost weight, his dad gained weight— was a prime example of the first law of thermodynamics, Malow seamlessly intersperses scientific terminology into jokes about everyday topics, like parents and relationships, that are the staples of comedic routines.
And that little extra science kick, which has given Malow the kind of distinctive niche that every comedian seeks, might be a valuable tool in making the average person more knowledgeable about science.
“After listening to some of my new material, a friend once told me, ‘Your jokes contain more information than other comedian’s jokes,’” Malow says. This inspired him to begin adding more educational content to his routines – wrapping education in a bit of laughter is a great way to teach people without them knowing it.
At the very least, Malow hopes to inspire more enthusiasm about science during his routines, which have run the gamut from intimate shows at places like Washington, D.C.’s Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academies to a nationally televised appearance on the “Late Late Show” with Craig Ferguson.
Although Malow has no professional scientific background, he embraced science early on. Growing up, he loved reading both science fiction and nonfiction, and he was especially influenced by authors like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, who could write both types of material with equal skill.