The Joke’s On Us

30 11 2010

 

© decostudio.pl

Here’s an idea to garner some appreciation for the dire straits in which humanity finds itself mounting from the global biodiversity crisis. More importantly, I hope that ‘appreciation’ would translate into ‘action’ as a result.

The idea came, as good ideas often tend to, around a table with some mates1,2 and several bottles of wine. The idea got more outlandish as the bottles were emptied, and I have to say I can’t remember many of the finer details (probably a good thing).

But the nugget of that idea is, I think, a very good one. I’d like to hear your opinions about it, and some suggestions about how to make it happen.

(get to the point, Bradshaw)

Right.

The idea would be to create an international (televised) comedy festival called ‘The Joke’s On Us‘ where very high-profile comedians would be individually matched to high-profile scientists of various areas of expertise. Let’s say we had a climate change scientist like James Hansen sit down with, oh, maybe Eddie Izzard, the famous and highly regarded Gaia creator, James Lovelock, locked in a room for a few days with Michael McIntyre, tropical deforestation specialist, Bill Laurance, matched with Chris Rock, and that population bomb, Paul Ehrlich, with Robin Williams or Jerry Seinfeld. The possible combinations are endless.

What I’d expect would happen would that each scientist would provide the comedian with the latest information on his/her particular subject area, focussing on the evidence and why people aren’t taking it to heart. The comedian would then turn the material into something funny, focussing on our stupidity for destroying our own home via ecological disintegration.

Now, I’m not at all up to speed on who’s funny and who is not (I have my preferences, of course), and I have absolutely no contacts in the entertainment world. Hell, I don’t even own a television (truth). Someone would obviously need to bankroll this, and we’d probably start at a smaller scale (any Australian comedians willing to take it on – Wil AndersonShaun Micallef? Tim Minchin?) before the global attack.

I’m sure I could scour my own contacts (many famous conservation biologists listed here) and come up with plenty of people who’d be willing to donate their time. I’ve only really ever seen one semi-related example of such a thing on climate change (very funny), but our idea is to expand it to a full-on, live, on-stage, telecasted, road-tripping comedy phenomenon that would ultimately teach as much as it did entertain.

Clearly other approaches aren’t working.

Suggestions, contacts, and money welcome. ;-)

CJA Bradshaw

1Ramona Dalton
2Chris Dalton

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16 responses

30 03 2011
CJAB

Earth Station might be the first test bed for The Joke’s On Us

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11 12 2010
Plum Duff

Hi Corey – great idea. There is BBC Radio 4 comedy show called The Infinite Monkey Cage which very successfully combines comedy and proper science – and it never fails to teach me something I didn’t know already, and make me laugh out loud. I imagine you could podcast it from overseas…

And here in the UK we are also blessed with a funny as hell ‘stand-up mathematician’ called Matt Parker. So it can be done!

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2 12 2010
Tom Keen

Reminds me a bit of Tim Flannery’s appearance on the Gruen Transfer. Not quite the same thing, but amusing all the same.

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4 12 2010
CJAB

Yes, but we need to take it to 11. Thanks for the contribution.

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1 12 2010
AndyQ

Great. Glad you’ve posted this, Mr. B. Good conversation already. Hmm, perhaps the boys from the Chaser could do an environment special.

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30 11 2010
octopus

What about the Wentworth group? They may have some media contacts.

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30 11 2010
CJAB

Yep – onto it.

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30 11 2010
octopus

I think this needs a wealthy, influential, private philanthropist or philanthropic organisation to back it (e.g. Pew or similar American org with pots of moolah). Having said that I think it’s a brilliant idea and would support it if I had any money or influence (unfortunately have neither).
Some of the comedians you mention have links to the ABC, which may or may not be a good starting place. Or what about starting with well known scientists like Tim Flannery, who already have a media presence and therefore contacts?

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30 11 2010
CJAB

Good idea – I should contact Tim.

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30 11 2010
Megan Evans

It could be a way to communicate thoroughly depressing issues in a way that’s easier to digest (unlike me raising peak oil over a dinner with an uninitiated audience last week – awkward), particularly for a public who is generally unaware of scale of the problem and the fact that harming “the environment” will (at least eventually) impact on their lives. The trick will be to avoid teaming up scientists with comedians in a way that could be cringeworthy (case in point: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2010/nov/20/1 ), and for the audience to be inspired to take action in addition to being entertained. Paul Ehrlich said that we owe ourselves some enjoyment as the world goes down the drain, I guess we could also laugh at our own demise.

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30 11 2010
CJAB

Agreed – matching would require quite a bit of thought. Paul Ehrlich was telling me how he was mates with Johnny Carson of the USA’s Tonight Show (he apparently appeared on the show 20 times). He said it was a shame Carson was dead – he would have been able to do something like this.

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30 11 2010
CJAB

Hmm – your link appears to be broken.

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30 11 2010
Megan Evans
30 11 2010
CJAB

Fixed now – cheers.

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30 11 2010
Tweets that mention The Joke’s On Us « ConservationBytes.com -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ConservationBytes and ConservationBytes, ConservationBytes. ConservationBytes said: The Joke's On Us: http://wp.me/phhT4-1gP […]

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30 11 2010
MothIncarnate

Sounds like an interesting idea, but if like Minchin’s “Canvas Bags” song, it might not help. Than said, I reckon he and Micallef would be excellent choices – they’re both clever and satirical. :-)
I might be useful to defuse the heated political aspect that’s getting us nowhere and open up discussions in different arenas.

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