We had the pleasure to talk with Anders Sahlman about his approach to Science Comedy, as well as about his aims and opinions in this field.
In his view, comedy and science are inextricably linked concepts. In fact, being a comedian, rather than a scientist, he would not deal with science, if not through comedy.
One of his main goals is to cause great emotions in people, creating their subsequent involvement in the subject. In this way, the public is prone to understanding the topic and possibly – but not necessarily, since Anders is a comedian and his first objective is therefore the entertainment – learning. He aims at opening people’s eyes, replacing the generally static and arid communication manner of scientists, with a more convincing and engaged one, which catches the attention of the public and keeps it involved. There is no formula to be funnier while conveying scientific concepts, however there are some elements which would improve a presentation, according to Anders Sahlman: enriching the speech with the own personality and character would be a starting point, in order to avoid presentations lacking of emotions. Furthermore, the audience should be given some information beforehand, so that it can better understand the topic, and the crucial concepts have to be highlighted, without though including too many information.
Anders Sahlman’s communication method is based on “trials and errors”, meaning that he follows the audience’s flow and, according to its feedback, he understands what does the public likes, what results as funny and effective, and he can eventually shape his following speeches on the basis of that.
As done with other science comedians, we have asked Anders Sahlman to answer some questions:
Why and how did you start to do science comedy?
I started after a stand up course in late 2013. I want to point out that I’m not joking about science per se, more about people’s prejudices of scientists.
Do you enjoy most the scientific part or the comic one ? Why?
Why do they have to be separated?
If you had to choose only one “definition “ would you consider yourself a scientist, or rather a comedian ?
Comedian, as I’m not a scientist. I work as a science communicator.
Do you have any particular hobby ? Is scientific comedy itself a hobby for you?
Comedy is now part of what I do for a living.
Do you think humor is an effective way to teach something, even when it comes to complex subjects, such as science?
Using emotions are always good if you want people to learn something – whether it’s humour, drama, disgust, etc. Scientific presentations are always devoid of any emotions. Scientists usually just want to present information and let the audience find out for themselves what is most important in their presentation. That’s impossible since the audience are not experts in the subject. That’s why scientists are considered boring to listen to.
Would you suggest other effective ways to communicate science to people?
First try something, then evaluate. Then try again. That’s the formula for creating standup, but it’s useful in every creative endeavor.
Try to communicate with emotions. Find out what the audience likes.
Which field of science would you consider comedy most suitable for?
You can do comedy about every subject if you’re not afraid of invoking emotions.