Ep27: Science Jokes – Helen Arney

April 5, 2016 in Season 2
Photograph of Helen Arney.
Image credit: Steve Ullathorne
You might think you can run away from science - but science will track you down. As it did in the case of Helen Arney - songwriter, comedian and one third of the comedy-science trio Festival of the Spoken Nerd.
Festival of the Spoken Nerd in action.
Festival of the Spoken Nerd in action. Image credit: Kitty Walker

After finishing her degree in physics, Helen left to pursue her other great passions in life, writing radio programmes about harpsichords for BBC Radio 4. But it was a chance meeting with comedian Robin Ince that brought science back into her life.

I was like … no way! It’s come back! … I’d completely left all of that science stuff behind, and it crept back in without me even realising

Inspired by her audience’s response to the witty and clever combination of logic, song, and comedy, Helen found not only her comedic ‘voice’ but also permission to allow science back in her to life. Whereas before she had felt a sense of guilt for leaving science behind (a common phenomenon I’ve encountered before in scientists who’ve moved into other areas), suddenly the puzzle pieces fitted.

In this interview we discuss Helen’s journey, the craft of comedy songwriting, and the most important question of all: do scientists ever write in with corrections? (Spoiler: yes, yes they do).

This episode features clips from the songs: Statistically I Love You, Mersenne 48 and The Sun Has Got His Huff On, which are all available for free on Helen’s Bandcamp page.

You can also find out more about Helen’s work on her website, and also about Festival of the Spoken Nerd. You can follow Helen on Twitter: @helenarney.