Wednesday, January 12, 2011

There is"Funny" and "Econ Funny"!

Saturday night I attended the Comedy in Economics presentation at the American Economics Assn meeting in Denver. It lead me to the conclusion that funny for an economist is not the same as funny in general. The "presentation" (this term is used because the dismal scientists had spent the week presenting papers on serious eco matters all week) featured four speakers, and only Yoram Bauman, The Stand-up Economist really understood the demands of performing comedy before a large audience.

First up was David Lefkovits, whose blog Limericks Economiques features exactly what you would think. His limericks are very intelligent and witty, although many would go right over the heads of most people. But not his audience this night. Like the other presenters, he used Powerpoint to try to bring life to his presentation, a big mistake. My experience is that Powerpoint does just the opposite. It sucks the life out of everything. That is why you won't see me using it in my classes. I will be adding this blog to my list on the left, because I am a big fan of the limerick, and Lefkovits does a fine job of writing them.

Next up were the 2 PhD candidates who write the Ecocomics blog (see link on right), with a spirited presentation on how Villainy could be done more efficiently. For instance, it turns out that villains spend an inordinate amount of their resources on activities like trying to kill Batman and taking over the world, and have a very poor success rate. However, they do much better with "niche villainy" such as Riddling, and should stick to that. They also discussed the optimal number of henchmen a villain should hire. Pretty clever stuff.

The third presenter was the toughest to watch, and nearly brought sympathetic flop sweat to my armpits. Jody Beggs is a lovely young lady, very intelligent and witty. And her blog, Economists Do It With Models is very clever and smart, and I will likely be stealing some of her material for my own teaching. And kudos to her for discussing the Economics of the Simpsons, the best show in the history of TV. I only wish she had taken time out from her research and writing to take and acting or public speaking class, as her presentation lagged and deterred from her clever material. If you are reading this Jody, find an improv class there in Cambridge to take. You have the guts, but you need the skills.

Last up was the headline performer of the evening, Yoram Bauman, the Standup Economist (see link at right). Unlike the others, he has considerable experience performing. I have been using his brilliant sendup of Mankiw's "10 Principals of Economics" to entertain my classes for several years, and they love it. I'm not sure if he is focusing his life more on standup or Eco, but he has a very fine way of putting them together. Go to his web site and enjoy his videos, and get on his email list so you can see him if he comes to your town.

Thinking back, I may have been the most experienced comedian in the room that night. And the least qualified to speak in front of the world's leading Dismal Scientists.

Oh, one other note. I dragged Kip along with me, and we were having dinner in a restaurant near in Denver beforehand. I saw an older, balding man across from us eating dinner alone (on sat night) and reading while he ate. I said to Kip that I was sure he was an Economist because he was dining alone. Sure enough, when he got up from the table, he was wearing his convention name tag.

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