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Get a natural ‘high’ with Bright Club

Josie McLellan takes to the stage

Josie McLellan takes to the stage

24 April 2013

Dr Josie McLellan takes the plunge and presents a stand up comedy routine with an academic twist at a sell-out Bright Club event

Dr Josie McLellan takes the plunge and presents a stand up comedy routine with an academic twist at a sell-out Bright Club event

Signing up to do Bright Club didn’t even seem like a particularly good idea at the time. Stand up comedy for academics is all well and good if you are a natural wit, but I’ve never been known for my side-splitting lectures. The look in my colleagues’ eyes when I told them said it all: equal parts incredulity and sheer fear.

If I had wanted to leave my comfort zone, I had well and truly succeeded. Still, there was no wriggling out of it now. After an induction into the mysteries of stand up at the Bright Club comedy boot camp, I set to writing my eight minute set. Luckily, I had a secret weapon: my research on nudism in East Germany. Surely even I couldn’t fail to get a few laughs with naked Germans?

The day of reckoning dawned. Armed only with a series of cardboard signs (my ‘East German PowerPoint’) and the sage advice of our comedy trainer (‘Don’t make the audience feel sorry for you’), I set off for Hamilton House.  As soon as I arrived the sheer professionalism of the Bright Club team, and the nervous camaraderie of my fellow performers started to work its magic. We ran through our sets, and Bright Club member Hayley unveiled the green room – now we were really starting to feel like comedians.

About 100 people were squashed into an upstairs room at Hamilton House. The Bright Club audience is lovely – quick to laugh, generous with applause, and absolutely no heckling. I’d been billed last, so it felt like a very long evening. But eventually it was my turn to hit the stage. To my complete and utter surprise, I loved every minute of it. It turns out it is a lot easier to get a slightly tipsy comedy crowd to laugh than a lecture theatre full of undergraduates.

I’d recommend Bright Club to anyone – it was fantastic fun, and left me on a high for about a month afterwards. I got to talk to a younger and much more science-focused crowd than I usually would, and I even got recognized at the school carol concert. It doesn’t get much more glamorous than that, in my line of work anyway. In the words of one of my fellow performers, Pete Insole: ‘best public engagement ever!’

Dr Josie McLellan

Senior Lecturer in Modern European History and Research Fellow in Historical Studies

Further information

Bright Club Bristol is based at Hamilton House, above the Canteen, in Stokes Croft and is an opportunity for researchers to talk amusingly about their work. Every event is compered by a professional comedian and there are usually between 4 - 8 performers.