Science-ology

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Climate change, stem cell research, intelligent design, Laboratoire Garnier – it seems that wherever you look these days science is being manipulated by big business and political spin doctors. What once was a noble quest for truth is now muddied by the interests of the powerful.

That’s what has inspired Ben McKenzie to come up with this monologue, designed to help reclaim the scientific method as a tool for challenging perceived ideas rather than reinforcing special-interest agendas.

He gets riled at the dodgy ideas masquerading as legitimate theories subject to independent scrutiny – from a TV ad suggesting red meat was what made humans evolve from apes to the technobabble of CSI or Star Trek.

The only problem is that so tight is he clinging to his high horse, he forgot to add much in the way of comedy to his formula, leaving 60 minutes of a man in a lab coat having a whine. Passionate, maybe, but free of jokes.

McKenzie, who describes himself as a ‘science communicator’ (which possibly means chemistry teacher), wants to see himself as a rock and roll rebel, but he’s clearly a geek. The gap between the two is wide enough for plenty of comedy, but he doesn’t want to exploit it, preferring the alternate reality in his imagination. He’d rather score a point than a laugh.

There is surely plenty of scope for comedy about science, simply because so much guff is talked about it. But McKenzie gets bogged down in showing us subsections in corporate documents from the Australian government’s science organisation or nit-picking the scripts of popular TV shows. So what if the result of a DNA fingerprint test takes months rather than the instant results the TV forensic people get? It would make for a very dull episode of CSI if that was shown in real …

By spending so much time in details most disinterested people don’t care about, McKenzie loses track of the big picture. He’d be forgiven if he found humour in the minutiae, but he treats it simply as evidence to build his case, rather than the potential source for a joke.

The night Chortle was in, McKenzie was more than slightly thrown by the presence of a Scientologist in the audience, who challenged his every assumption about her wacky made-up religion. He didn’t handle the interruptions too well and it created an odd atmosphere. But the faults with the show lie deeper that one badly-received routine.

Conclusion: There needs to be more emphasis on jokes if McKenzie’s to hold his own in a comedy festival.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Melbourne, April 2007

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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