Academics show their funny side at comedy club

11:16 29 October 2010

Comedian Robin Ince

Comedian Robin Ince


ACADEMICS are traditionally seen as a serious bunch – better known for their stuffy offices and corduroy-heavy wardrobes than their ability to make others laugh.

But boffins at a top north London university are shaking off the stereotype – by performing at a monthly comedy night in Islington.

Researchers at University College London (UCL), in Bloomsbury, have been moonlighting as stand-ups since May last year, and sharing the stage at Finsbury pub the Wilmington Arms, in Rosebery Avenue, with big-name professionals such as Richard Herring and Robin Ince.

Miriam Miller, director of comedy promoters One Green Firework, said: “We’ve proved that academics can be very funny. We honestly haven’t had anybody who has made a mess of it.

“It just goes to show they aren’t just sitting in their offices being staid and boring.”

The monthly event, Bright Club, is the brainchild of UCL’s head of public engagement Steve Cross, whose job involves finding new ways for the university’s academics to reach out to the public.

He said: “We still don’t know why it works. On paper the idea of paying £5 to see a bunch of people who have never performed before telling jokes about research shouldn’t work at all – but it does. We’ve put 65 people through it and no one died.

“Audience members like the fact that they can come and laugh – and then tell their mum they went.”

The researchers are given a few tips at a Bright Club training session before being thrown into the ring for five minutes each, while a professional comperes.

Last week they graduated to the big stage with a sold-out gig at the 500-seater Bloomsbury Theatre - a huge step up from a pub that has a capacity of about 80. Seven academics faced the daunting challenge of having to amuse an audience of hundreds at the one-off event.

Promoter Ms Miller, speaking beforehand, said: “We’ll ply them with beer beforehand and be very reassuring.”

Three top comics – Simon Munnery, Robin Ince and Steve Hall of sketch-troupe We Are Klang – provided back-up, to make sure the laughs kept on coming.

Joe Flatman, UCL archaeologist and Bright Club veteran, who performed again last week, said: “As an archaeologist I have driven jeeps through the Egyptian desert, dived down to shipwrecks, and persuaded armed officials to let me across borders – but none of those experiences were as intimidating as my first time at Bright Club.”

Latest News Stories

Cllr Joe Calouri

More foster carers are urgently needed to help with unaccompanied asylum seeker children, Islington Council has said.

CCTV footage of the raid at Windsor Bishop jewellers in Norwich carried out by Islington smash and grab raiders Alfredo Rojasvagras, Bradley McMillan,  Mark Moloney and Dillon Zambon with two other associates. Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATION

Islington’s smash and grab shame was thrown back into the spotlight this week, after three men – and one boy – from the borough were jailed for a combined 20 years for a jewellery shop robbery.

A photo from a previous canal clean-up

Boaters and local people will on Sunday take to the water and towpaths to clean up a section of Regent’s Canal that runs from Islington Tunnel to Mile End Park.

Anyone with information about this man is asked to contact police on 101 quoting image 191154 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Police have released a video of a chilling knifepoint robbery in Clerkenwell Close in hopes of identifying a man they want to speak to.

Yesterday, 17:42
Ruumi founders Jack Archer (L) and Pete James (R)

Anyone with experience of flat-hunting in London will know just how difficult it is to find a decently-priced cupboard to rent – let alone flatmates with whom you have anything in common.

Yesterday, 09:36
Battersea’s longest serving volunteer Laurence Ackland-Smith, Battersea Chairman Heather Love, the Kennedy family, Battersea Chief Executive Claire Horton and a Freightliners volunteer

Battersea Dogs Home founder Mary Tealby has been honoured with an Islington People’s Plaque near the spot where she set up the original animal shelter.

Mon, 17:59
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers his first keynote speech on day three of the Labour Party annual conference. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Jeremy Corbyn is due to speak at a protest against postal cuts in Manchester today, as his rival party meets in the city for its conference.

Mon, 14:16
Doug Richard pictured in 2013

A former Dragons’ Den star from Islington appeared in court over child sex charges today.

Most read news


You could be splashing the cash at Topshop!

Just imagine what you could do with £1,000 to spend at Topshop.

You won't need to fork out for groceries for a while!

Asda, one of the country’s leading supermarkets, prides itself in being one of the cheapest places to shop, so you can be sure that your money will go a long way here!

Digital Edition

Read the Islington Gazette e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder