DVD Review: Festival Of The Spoken Nerd

Festival Of The Spoken Nerd – You Can’t Polish A Nerd DVD.

Festival Of The Spoken Nerd have been performing for eight years now, some friends saw one of their earlier shows and couldn’t stop raving about so I couldn’t wait to check out their latest dvd, the third created so far. It’s introduced as “Science and songs and spherical geometry, celebrating nerdity in it’s raw and unpolished form” which sums the show up perfectly, it’s a group of nerds who absolutely love science, maths and all things geeky, but add jokes to make it all the more fun to watch.

The three comedians are Helen Arney, Steve Mould and Matt Parker, and all present various segments within the show whilst the other two occasionally comment from the sidelines and sometimes take part in exercises and tasks. It begins with Steve explaining how he wanted to film inside a microwave one day, but only two minutes later he’d broken it, though thankfully for the show he’s since managed to do so. After explaining the science of how a microwave works he then shows us live footage of various things in a microwave, like a cd (leading to Matt amusingly interjecting “For all the young people thinking what is a cd, it’s a bit like a very small laserdisc”) before he microwaves soap, which is oddly beautiful but the comments from the threesome make it very funny too.

Helen sings a song about heading off in to space next, where she throws in some spoken facts to add comedy to proceedings. It’s a really cute little number and extremely likeable, and then Matt takes to the stage for some mathematical humour. Discussing tech and how when it’s so new you have to write the software yourself, he shows us a spherical camera and how certain elements are distorted when using it. He’s most excited by the ability to copy and paste reality and create loads more versions of himself, and though it’s amusing rather than hilarious it’s still a really interesting segment.

Steve retakes the stage and it’s a section where he’s asked to help someone win an argument relating to a kid’s book claiming that the temperature outside an aeroplane is six times colder than the inside of a freezer. It’s an exercise in deconstructing the language of the statement and how false it all turns out to be, and has some really funny jokes within it. Helen’s then back with another song, with it being based around the elements of the periodical table which took her nine months to learn properly (having a baby was apparently easier), telling some great jokes relating to the table before launching in to the song which is an impressive feat indeed. Matt follows with a bit on pies, which you might not expect, but he still manages to involve maths in to the discussion of crusty meaty goodness and there’s a great “Crystal Maths” pun which made me laugh a lot. And soon a pie is being measured by an audience member and then swung around the stage, because it’s that kind of daft and fun show.

Before the interval they asked people to give stories about the times they’d nerded out to the max, and in the second half they read some of these out, my favourite being the story of a woman who was briefly chatted up until she revealed she was reading a book concerning the history of mathematics and her suitor instantly disappeared. Though cheese in the shape of dinosaurs came a close second, as I love both elements. The show continues in a similar manner to the first half with them taking turns on the stage and the others sometimes helping out, and it’s incredibly appealing viewing. Highlights include Steve exhibiting a gravitational wave, Matt’s anger at badly drawn footballs on signs and the petition he created due to this, Helen’s song about bananas and radiation (which contains the superb line “Going to the dentist is six times safer than a weekend in Cornwall”), and the return of the spherical camera which creates such a mad effect I was grinning throughout. Then finally there’s a musical extravaganza set to Total Eclipse Of The Sun which I loved to pieces, it’s a perfect ending to a show filled with unpredictable but very funny jokes. There’s also a host of extras, including an unboxing the dvd short, a 16 page booklet, a safer for schools soundtrack and three director’s commentaries, so you really are getting fantastic value for money here.

A few of science jokes may go over the average person’s head (ie mine) but the majority of the material covered is accessible and very funny throughout. It’s educational and laugh out loud stuff, by the end I’d laughed and learned a great deal which you don’t normally get from the majority of stand up comedy, and you really can’t ask for much more than that. If you’re not in to science, maths and topics like those it may not be for you, but I’m pretty convinced that every nerd who is will love it a great deal.

Alex Finch.

Related Links:
Festival of the Spoken Nerd’s Official Site.
You Can Buy The Dvd From Amazon here.

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