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Friday January 13, 2012

Sydney Festival: Wisecracks at the Bright Club

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Late on Wednesday in Sydney's Hyde Park, four University of Sydney researchers did something many might find surprising - they said their research was a joke.

Well, not quite. The quartet took to the stage in The Famous Spiegeltent as part of Sydney Festival's Bright Club, billed as an evening where comedy and brains collide.

Over three consecutive Wednesdays, academics specialising in areas as diverse as the science of soil, the breeding habits of insects, consumer marketing and medieval demons are reflecting on the funny side of their research while nourishing the minds of late-night Festival goers.

First up on stage was PhD candidate Dominic Santagelo, who used song and ukulele accompaniment to explain the art of 'sounding academic'. Next up was fellow Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences doctoral researcher Mark Sutton, who explained the origins of American literature - warning the audience not to expect to find too much January holiday reading among the collections of puritan sermons and the like that were popular in the early 17th century.

"The audience was very supportive … a lot of the biggest laughs came from the most scholarly jokes, which was nice", said Mark. "I was expecting eight minutes of stony silence so anything above that was a blessing".

The bill was completed by Charles Areni, a professor of marketing in the University of Sydney Business School, and another PhD candidate, psychologist James Heathers, who explained how emotions manifest themselves physically.

The evening was hosted by TV and radio presenter - and University of Sydney law graduate - James O'Loghlin, who met the participants late in 2011 to offer them some tips on taking the step from the lecture theatre to the stand-up stage.

"It's great to have the breadth of knowledge at the University transferred in a novel way to other people - for people to find out about interesting things and have a laugh at the same time."

"Some of the people here are total naturals," O'Loghlin said.

The next Bright Club, on Wednesday 18 January, will feature an archaeologist, an insect biologist, a sexologist and a historian all talking about sex, while the last in the series, on Wednesday 25 January, has the theme Earth, Sea, Sky.

Source: The University Of Sydney

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