Science Project: What's in My Wallet?
by Gili Malinsky
“I think science fairs are kind of inherently funny,” says Steven DeSiena about his upcoming Littlefield show, The Educated Guess, in which 60 comedians will come together to present science projects they’ve created (a la third grade) to an audience of people walking around the theater. “You know, you have the kids whose parents helped them… And although it’s not like they’re proving anything that wasn’t known before, they’re presenting it in a way that’s spectacular when you’re nine-years-old. And then there were a lot of kids that just didn’t try that hard.”
“It’s competitive and sometimes humiliating,” he says. And now he’s making his adult friends do it, curious about which end of the spectrum they’ll fall on, and curious to see what happens when you tell 60 comedians of different backgrounds and styles, “now you all have to do the same thing.”
For the audience, the result is hilarity. Littlefield will turn into a middle school cafeteria for one night, the show’s press release saying to “think of it as a funny, boozy, nostalgic art show that skewers some of the most stressful moments in our childhoods.”
DeSiena is a comedy writer and producer here in New York, working regularly on a Pee Wee Herman-style show at the Annoyance Theatre called Cartoon Monsoon, and having run his own open mic, No Jokes Allowed, in which, you guessed it, no jokes were allowed.
“TRADITIONAL STAND-UP IS BANNED,” said one event description. “Don’t come to work on your tight five!” As a result there were sketch pieces, characters, short stories, poems, all funny but none particularly formulaic.
“I’m always interested in the idea of tasking someone to come up with something that they have to get rid of because they could never use it again,” he says of the motivation behind a lot of these shows. With the science fair, “it’s almost like taking that idea and strangling it and saying you have to do something even harder for less return.”
But return there will be, likely the hilarious ways these comedians will find to express themselves through this childlike lens. Among those presenting that night are humor site The Reductress's Anna Drezen and The New Yorker cartoonist Charlie Hankin. DeSiena’s co-host is cult comedy hero Jo Firestone, known for her completely out there (and completely hitting it) approach to comedy. Firestone hosts multiple shows around the city herself - The Incredible Gameshow Showcase at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (UCB), for instance, featuring “the funniest, most important, and most expensive game show ideas of all time” (says UCB’s website), and Punderdome 3000, a pun competition hosted with her dad. You might’ve also caught her on Broad City last season.
“Every time I learn a scientific fact,” she says about her general love of the subject, “I feel like I know a little bit more about how big the world is… Learning about science gives you a sense of peace, almost.”
Will this be a show for learning and peace?
“No,” she says. “I don’t think so.”
Catch The Educated Guess this Wednesday at Littlefield at 7pm.