Academics' work is a laughing matter

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Have you heard the one about the astrophysicist, the crayfish musical and the timber engineer? It's not the start of a bad joke - the three will make up half a team of academics who turn their chosen subjects into comedy this summer.

The group is helping to launch Bright Club, a new initiative to take academic subjects to a fresh audience.

It will see lecturers and researches from Edinburgh, Napier, Heriot-Watt and Glasgow universities take to the stage with routines designed to raise a laugh as well as educate the audience.

Ahead of the first gig on July 26 at the City Cafe, they have been receiving comedy coaching from stand-up Susan Morrison. They will then go on to perform during the Fringe at the BBC@Potterrow venue.

The project has been set up by Sarah West-Alin, who works for the Edinburgh Beltane Beacon for Public Engagement, a scheme to take academic work beyond the confines of universities.

She said: "It's about the challenge of engaging adult audiences with research who maybe wouldn't go to the Science Festival, for example.

"It's been going in London for two years and we thought it was time Edinburgh had one."

She sent out e-mails to academics across the city looking for volunteers and soon had six eager recruits ready for their comedy training.

Ms West-Alin said: "It's the first time most of the performers have done anything like this. It's going to be passable comedy, not to compare to Richard Herring or Eddie Izzard, but it's pretty funny.

"Zara Gladman, a zoologist and crayfish expert, has promised to bring her keyboard and do a musical. Dan Ridley-Ellis is a timber engineer, which is about finding the stiffness of wood. It's a good show and it doesn't go where you'd expect it to with that many puns."

Also on the bill is Steve Earl, a researcher into optical vibration measurements, who spends much of his working life in a dark laboratory working with lasers.

He said: "I'd done lots of public engagement before but I'd never had to be funny about it, so the process was mostly sitting in your flat with your eyes closed trying to think about funny things for as long as possible."