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Stand-up for Bacteria

Philosopher comedians offer their deepest, funniest thoughts on disease, microbes and the thing that could make up two pounds of your body weight...bacteria!
Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PW, Fri 26 October 2018

The University Museum of Natural History has recently launched their Bacterial World exhibition, exploring the microscopic world of germs and how influential they are on our lives. As part of the launch of the exhibition, the Museum is hosting a very special edition of Stand Up Philosophy, which is part comedy, part TED talk, only funnier. Bacteria may not seem like the most philosophical of topics but the fact that the human body may contain over two pounds of bacteria raises some interesting questions about our identity...

This show will bring a Petri dish full of the finest comedians on the circuit, all with a unique perspective on bacteria and disease: doctors with hilarious tales to tell, scientists bringing new definition to 'observational comedy' under the microscope, and some avant-garde character comedy involving Rod Stewart, grime music and a drawer full of ankle socks. You'll have to go along to find out how these are all connected!

October 29, 2018
Infectious: funny, intelligent and so very, very Oxford.

The basic premise of these regular but infrequent shows is that five well-informed people share a comedy routine loosely based on a seemingly unfunny subject. Last night’s show was about the sexiest of all topics: bacteria. Held in the lecture theatre of the wonderful Natural History Museum (worth it just to be in there after hours), our band of amusing intellects did a damn fine job of being both interesting and very funny.

Compere Alex Farrow, who runs Jericho Comedy, is clearly good at his job and good with a crowd. Which is lucky, because the night’s sold out performance attracted around 300 people who all felt that hearing about micro-organisms was a sensible way to spend their Friday night. Comfortable on his feet, witty in his banter and swiftly moving things along, Farrow (also a philosopher) is safe pair of comedy hands. As such I was delighted when he introduced the third of five acts: himself! With genuinely interesting material about horseshoe crab blood, the problem of collective action and truly awful (great) puns, everyone surely left the evening both amused and well informed.

First on Matt Hobbs, who was simply spectacular. Equipped with an adorable Bristol accent, Hobbs (also a biochemist) wowed us all with a brilliantly prepared and excellently delivered prokaryotic-based sketch. The thought and effort put into the slides (of course there were slides), was both evident and absolutely worth it. Gags, delivered with perfect timing and underlined with spot-on pictures, had us all in stitches. Great stuff - for me he was the star of the show.

Junior doctor and funny man Ed Patrick was on next. With a slightly different, perhaps less energetic style, Patrick also has plenty of excellent gags, also supported by well designed slides, though the laughs required a bit more build up. Despite stopping occasionally to check his notes, I particularly enjoyed the comparison of the stages of hand-washing to the stages of grief. How he has the time to do anything other than being a junior doctor I just don’t know.

Louise Bastock was up next. Confident, articulate and utterly shameless, Louise spent her set discussing her experiences with poo. Turns out, she’s had a lot. Everyone surely has some knowledge of, and grudging interest in, poo (right?), but Louise takes it to the next level. With a clear, amusing and disarmingly forthright style, Louise (also a travel writer), captivated the audience with wonderful phrase-gems like ‘Torrents of diarrhoea’ and ‘poop ponchos’. Not for the fainthearted, but I remind you that the whole audience willingly chose to spend their Friday night listening to talks about e-coli.

Grand finale of the evening was Mr Dan Squire. Man, does this guy put the effort in. Full on the energy, full on the character, Squire had really done his homework for this one. I could tell you how funny he was, I could tell you about how clever he was, but I don’t really have to. All I have to note is that Squire (AKA DJ Toxic Shock) composed and delivered a full on Grime track, spat out at 120 bpm, entirely on the subject of microbes. You try rhyming anything with flagella. I’ve never seen anything like it. The man has both talent and plenty of grey matter.

This was the second time I’ve been to Stand-Up Philosophy and, once again, it was superb. Genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, genuinely interesting, genuinely original. It’s also an absolute bargain at £8 for five sets (£5.50 for NUS). This sort of thing is exactly why Oxford is such a great place - long may it continue.

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