It's hardly perfect, but science remains the best tool humans have to understand the vast and wondrous world around us. Yet, for any number of reasons, scientific knowledge and the scientists who expand our understanding of the world can feel locked-off and inaccessible.
But that doesn't have to be. At least not according to geneticist Ilea Heft. She's also the Colorado Springs-area producer for The Peer Revue, a program that takes scientists, mathematicians and engineers and turns them into stand-up comedians. It's a very humanizing thing, Heft says, seeing these technical-field professionals getting onstage, being funny and relatable.
"If you're not in a scientific field," she says, "who knows what your impression is of a geneticist or a mathematician? We have these notions about what these people are like, or what they think, or what they do."
But the Peer Revue, at least for a few shows, changes that. Over the course of three workshops, scientists and producers work together to turn stories about their research into stand-up routines.
"We're really working from a backbone of what's known about how to write good stand-up comedy," Heft says. "It turns out, what you do is funny in and of itself when you find the unique attitudes you have about things."
Heft explains that whatever the subject matter — and they've worked with economists, chemists, inventors, mathematicians and people from basically every other field under the sun — it's not a "by-nerds, for-nerds" affair. The humor is for everyone, whatever their background. And so far, that plan has proven true.
"We sold out our last show at Ivywild two days in advance," says Heft. That show was so popular, they've set up an encore, featuring a few performers from both the Springs and their Denver branch.
Critically, she says it's a way for general audiences to interact with these people and their fields outside of a classroom or other educational setting. She hopes the enthusiasm this show builds will make people more comfortable indulging their curiosity and learning more about the world around them.
"We're all guilty in certain areas of our life about picking up whatever flies across our social media," Heft says.
"We're kind of hoping that ... folks might then be motivated to go out and learn some more or look at things a little more critically."