PHYSICS graduate and ukulele-wielding stand-up Helen Arney is on a mission. She wants to create a potent Venn diagram in which the sets of music, comedy and science overlap.
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This mission statement is encapsulated in her Glasgow Science Festival show, The Voice of an Angle, in which Arney proves she is both funny and clever.
Statisticians in the house would have been hard-pressed to keep up with the vast number of puns, references and scientific theories which she includes in her hour, but it’s safe to say that your typical stag-party weekend comedy night will rarely be this treated to gags about Higgs boson, Schrödinger’s cat and a debate over the plurality of the word “maths”.
Betraying any lingering stereotype of the shy, über-bookish geek, Arney is very at home with a busy crowd and her loose chatting and affable self-deprecation recalls similar speccy-nerds, Richard Wiseman and Jon Ronson. Except she delivers more songs. But these ditties don’t always hit the same sweet spot as her PowerPoint shenanigans, veering a little too often and predictably into the territory of love and sex. Though her tune about the sun has been adopted by the Open University as a learning tool.
In a business that once revelled in dumbing down for its audience, it’s heartening to see yet another stand-up join the ranks of those who prefer to display intelligence rather than low-rent prejudice on their sleeve. And she also shows you can write a killer Stephen Hawking joke without a streak of cruelty.