When the hit TV sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” ruled the ratings during its 12-season run on CBS from 2007 to 2019, audiences learned to appreciate the lighter side of science and technology.
But Brian Malow had been performing as a professional stand-up science comedian for years before the high-tech hi-jinks of Sheldon and Leonard and their geeky friends. Malow brings his unique brand of nerdy comedy to the local humorverse at the Helium Comedy Club on Thursday, March 30, at 8:30 pm.
But don’t expect a grueling deep-dive lecture into heady academic topics – stuffy Professor Malow, he is not.
“I’ve always been interested in science, but I’m not a scientist – I’m a comedian,” said Malow from his home in Raleigh, North Carolina. “What I do is talk about normal, familiar things in a comedy show with a science worldview. I may reference ideas from astronomy or biology, but humorously through a geeky science lens that anyone can appreciate.”
While Malow may base his comedy on scientific principles, he cleverly infuses it with an abstract or surreal comic twist – like observing that whenever his mother would lose weight, his father would gain weight and vice versa, then linking the punchline to a well-known fundamental law of nature, claiming it’s “like the Conservation of Mass within our family because fat can neither be created nor destroyed.”
And when the comedian quips that he “attended a magnet school for bipolar students,” even Liberal Arts majors will chuckle, subconsciously recalling some distant high school science fact.
“So you really don’t have to be a scientist to appreciate the humor,” noted Malow. “But if you like science, technology, or science fiction or have a geeky streak, all the better.”
Unlike political or pop culture humor that becomes dated, Malow says his comedy is universal and timeless. “If I have a joke about the speed of light, it will still be funny in 30 years, whereas one about Will Smith won’t.”
Beginning his career in Austin, Texas, before moving to the West Coast (Los Angeles and San Francisco) and later relocating to North Carolina in 2012, Malow’s unconventional approach to comedy has brought him much acclaim. He appeared on Craig Ferguson’s “The Late Late Show,” cable’s Discovery, Science, Weather, and A&E channels, and NPR's “Science Friday” with Ira Flatow.
A frequent guest speaker at scientific conferences, Malow has livened up meetings for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the American Chemical Society. He’s been invited to talk at prestigious Lindau Nobel Laureate meetings in Germany and for tech companies such as Apple, Dell, and Microsoft. Malow’s comedy has even been heard by astronauts orbiting in space shuttles and in a neutrino lab over a mile underground. He also presents talks and workshops to scientists to help them become better speakers.
Malow counts numerous scientists across the globe as fans, including noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Queen rock legend Brian May, who has a Ph.D. in astrophysics. Tyson, with around 15 million Twitter followers, currently follows only 27 people, and Malow is one of them.
“I wrote a joke about the Higgs boson (a subatomic particle), and Neil often mentions it in his presentations, always giving me credit, which is pretty cool,” said Malow.
In addition to his stand-up career, Malow has promoted science literacy for years, although he would probably blush if you called him the Carl Sagan of science comedy!
Nevertheless, like the famed astronomer and science communicator of the twentieth century, Malow is also dedicated to helping the public unravel the mysteries of science, health, and technology, often drawing on his characteristic nerdy humor.
He has produced science videos for Time Magazine and audio pieces for deGrasse Tyson’s popular series StarTalk. Malow has appeared at TEDx Berkeley, the Los Alamos National Lab, on the “Call Me Curious” podcast, and even interviewed Nobel laureates, astronauts, and young scientists.
He is currently seen online in the streaming documentary “Science Friction,” a 2022 independent film that exposes science misrepresentation in pop culture.
“I’m quite involved in the science communication world,” says Malow. “But I’m really just a comedian who’s very pro-science.”
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