Did you hear the one about the funny Economist ?

Did you hear the one about why the Irish Economics professor did not one, but two research studies before publishing his new theory? 

To be sure, to be sure!

Yup, I made that one up. Apologies, couldn’t resist! I’m not an Economist, nor a Comedian (to be sure!), nor am I at all sure how I know what I know (see the previous article on knowledge here).

However, I was at Kilkenomics recently. Having seen the brilliant David McWilliams speak a few years ago in the Cayman Islands, combining great knowledge with humour to land his opinions, I was irresistibly drawn to this festival for many reasons, a key one being to get a sense for how injecting humour would support learning and shifting of opinions among both the panellists and the audience.

My clear sense was that by shifting energy through laughter, everyone was much more open to new learnings and shifting preconceived biases than would have been the case a typical conference focussed on Economics.

So how did they do it? Well, when I looked at the festival schedule and signed up for about a dozen of the fifty or so panel discussions held in theatres and pubs over the weekend, I wondered where the comedy acts were in this “Economics and Comedy” festival. It was almost all panel discussions.

The answer was simple. Every panel was facilitated by a professional comedian. As I couldn’t be in multiple places at one time (a reminder of Hermione Granger in one of those Harry Potter books!), I didn’t get to see all of these comedy cat-herders in action, but I did see both Colm O’Regan and Andrew Maxwell in action several times.

Both of them have different styles, and both also played the role of “let me try to translate this for us simple folk” even though they had researched deeply and were very knowledgeable themselves. I loved both their styles, and look forward to seeing them both next year.

One classic from Colm after several of his panellists had spoken in-depth on a doom-laden topic for long minutes. After a quiet and perfect timed pause, he simply said “so…Armageddon then”. Cue collapse of both audience and panel in laughter PLUS the energy and tone of the panel discussion then elevated right away out of detailed and dense analysis to more incisive points. Win all around!

Deadly! (ie brilliant!)

In thinking of this, am also reminded of a comedian that (I’m told) all comedians look up to as a master, and that is Jon Stewart. The Daily Show was hosted by Jon for seventeen years, where he skewered pomposity and cut through bullshit. Finding comic material around politics, the economy, social injustice and more, four nights a week for seventeen years. I loved it.

The hosts at Kilkenomics are doing the same, panel after panel, subject after subject. Come in 2018, listen, learn, laugh!

So much magic from Jon Stewart out there, loved this one on Fraud.

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