In Lieu of Laughing Gas: STEMM Comedy Shows

This piece appears in the April 2023 edition of Science Victoria magazine. All issues can be read online for free at

“Science is often thought of as the antithesis to a language-based art like comedy,” says physicist and comedian, Dr Jessamyn Fairfield. “But I think there’s a rich overlap between the two.”
Both science and comedy require a willingness to adapt and tinker with ideas until things work. And for the best results, people need to experiment and think outside of the box.

Science is embedded in our daily lives; from the electronic devices we rely on, to the ingenuity of our plumbing and the medicines we take. Scientific research is a largely publicly funded endeavour, yet it is often made less accessible with jargon, academic journal paywalls, and other forms of gatekeeping. Good communication of science is imperative for evidence-based policy and a well-informed general public. Why not do it through comedy?

When conveying important messages about climate change, COVID-19, vaccination, and other global issues, simply stating facts does not always work. We all have our own views and biases. We can preach to the choir, but simply listing a longer list of facts will not necessarily help change minds. Another approach, however, might.

As you listen to a story told by a comedian, you wait for a punchline – something that will challenge your perspective or preconceived notion. A comedy show audience is already open to having their mind changed, even if in a subtle way. The malleability of the audience’s mindset in comedy is the reason Dr Jessamyn Fairfield believes that comedy can be a powerful tool for science communication.

Get ready to laugh, let loose, and learn some science with three science comedy shows coming up in April. We could finish up with a good science joke…but all the good ones Argon.

Sci Fight

Scientists and comedians will debate whether we are on the brink of the AI-pocalypse, as Sci Fight returns to The Howler on 13 April. A hot topic is artificial intelligence (AI) and ChatGPT: AI seems to be ‘all up in [our] business’ as it becomes increasingly sophisticated and advanced. Designed as a tool to make our lives easier (tailoring a selection of songs & movies, navigating through traffic, or even writing things on our behalf), it may also pose threats to humanity and society that we have not yet considered. AI ethics student, Joshua Hatherlay, and academic Dr Freda Werdiger, will be up against the likes of writers and performers Elizabeth Flux, Vidya Rajan and Rob Caruana. Join for a raucous night of debate adjudicated by comedian and science communicator, Alanta Colley.


The Scientwits

Science experiments will go awry with The Scientwits’ More Wrong Experiments! After their breakout success last year, The Scientwits return to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 12-23 April, performing shows at Albert Park’s Gasworks Theatre. Scientist Sam (Sammy Harrison), a science teacher by day and stand-up comedian by night, simply wants to conduct experiments in his lab. However, Sam’s assistant, Captain Chaos (John Burgos), constantly – ‘accidentally’ – derails them, making them bigger, messier…and far more exciting! This one-of-a-kind, high-energy, and interactive sketch comedy show for kids (big and small) is not to be missed – you might learn some science too.


The STEAM Room

Putting an A (arts) into STEM, The STEAM Room is open for business on 18 & 19 April. The STEAM Room began when PhD researcher and Sydney stand-up, Luke Steller, proposed to teach scientists how to perform comedy. Comedians convey their material in an entertaining and effective way, and Luke wanted to help people in STEM do the same. A team of scientists have been in comedy training over the past months to turn their research about psychedelics and the chemistry of tyres into stand-up sets. The show will also be headlined by Dr Karl, astrophysicist Kirsten Banks, and science drag queen extraordinaire, Diva Attenbra.