Get into Academic Comedy with Bright Club
Carly McNamara is a thesis-pending PhD student in Celtic and Gaelic, focusing on early medieval Irish and Scottish History. They are an international student, originally hailing from Texas in the USA. Carly also works as a GTA in the Celtic and Gaelic department. In this post, they share their experience participating in Bright Club, an event where PhD students share their research through comedy. Read about what they’ve gained from performing…and what you can gain, too.
You may have heard about the new television show that has comedians giving lectures. Have you heard about lecturers giving comedy?
As postgraduate researchers, we hear a lot about the importance of being able to give an interesting presentation and communicate effectively with those outside our field. They can seem like daunting tasks. As researchers, we are probably not the most experienced public speakers, and we may find it difficult to know how to tailor our research to a non-specialist crowd.
This is where Bright Club can help.
What is Bright Club?
Bright Club is where Academic research and stand-up comedy collide, creating something that is both fun and educational for yourself and your audience. It also exists in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Dublin, Manchester, and even more locations. It has been going strong for over 10 years and has even hosted shows at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
I have been involved with the local Glasgow Bright Club for just over a year now. I never would have thought that I would do stand-up comedy or feel comfortable on a stage by myself in front of so many people, but it’s real, and I’m really doing it.
I first heard about Bright Club through a friend who was already involved and invited me to see a show he was in. During the course of the evening, seeing other researchers up on stage talking about their own work and experiences, I was inspired and realised I could probably do that, too. At the end of the evening, I put my name down on Bright Club’s sign-up sheet to be contacted ahead of the next show, which was a few months down the road.
The great thing about it is that you aren’t expected to do all your writing and figuring things out on your own. There’s usually 4 weekly meetings that lead up to a show where performers (past, present, and future) get together to help each other work out sets and polish up jokes so we can all be at our best. It’s a great community feel and a wonderful way to meet researchers in other departments from across the university, and even from other universities.
There’s a lot of encouragement that goes on amongst performers, and we get to meet and work with local professional comedians who compère (introduce performers) each show.
Trying Out Comedy, Live
My first time on stage did have me nervous. If you’ve ever been to The Stand, where Bright Club is hosted, you know that it can hold a good hundred people or so. I worked hard to memorize my set, which only lasts 8 minutes, including time for the crowd to laugh (how I hoped they would). I kept reminding myself that if I could stand up in front of 15 students every week at tutorial, then I could stand up in front of this crowd and give my set. It was my mantra to keep performance anxiety at bay.
Once the compère called my name, it was time. I walked up on stage and to the mic. Thankfully, the bright lights of the stage made it impossible to see anyone outside the first two rows of seats. My set went over really well, and I got a lot of big laughs. By the end of my set, I was caught up in the exhilaration of the performance, and even managed to ad lib a few quips that got good laughs.
From this experience, I have gone on to perform 4 more times with Bright Club so far, including as part of the Glasgow Comedy Festival and Glasgow Science Festival. I have also presented at Glasgow Skeptics about my research, something I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to do without my Bright Club experience. Conference presentations are also a little less daunting now.
To top it all off, I even include my participation in Bright Club on my annual progress review, because it improves my public speaking and presenting skills, and engages the public about my research.
Give Bright Club a try! You can start by attending the next show on 11 November 2019 at The Stand.