IN theory, the straight-laced world of science shouldn’t be that compatible with the often surreal creativity of comedy.

But, like the true scientists they are, Festival of the Spoken Nerd have experimented with the two elements and have hit upon a winning formula.

Full Frontal Nerdity is the second national tour put together by the nerd-alert trio of experiment demonstrator Steve Mould, scientific songwriter Helen Arney and stand-up mathematician Matt Parker.

Born and raised in Rowland’s Gill near Gateshead, Steve’s passion for science and experiments started at an early age, with a burning desire for a career as an inventor. Inspired by his physics teacher, Mr Parkinson at St Thomas Moore School in Blaydon, and maths teacher, Mrs Snook, he went on to get a physics degree from Oxford. It was while studying that he first attempted stand-up and, for a short while, he attempted to break into the world of Michael McIntyre and Co.

“At uni I was studying with some really good experimental physicists; that’s a hard thing to do,” says Mould. “I could have gone down that road, but I soon realised there were some very good people doing it, so I didn’t have a chance.”

Like many of science’s greatest revelations, The Festival of Spoken Nerd came about thanks to some fortunate timing and serendipitous discoveries.

“We were each doing our own science-based shows at Edinburgh three years ago, and afterwards people came up to us and told us we would enjoy seeing the others,” says Mould.

“We decided to get together and do something, so started running geeky comedy nights in London, it grew from there. I started doing stand-up which was geeky, analytical and pedantic, but was not about science.

“It was at Cheltenham Science Festival that I discovered a whole community of science communicators, people who talk about science, and I realised I could combine my degree with the stand-up.”

Like Mould, physicist Arney and mathematician Parker did their time on the comedy circuit before fusing their scientific interests into their sets. They may all be geeks, but their individual nerdiness is nuanced. Mathematician Parker mocks the science of Mould and Arney’s harmonics, while each endeavours to prove their science is superior to the others.

“Some of that conflict is exaggerated, but it is based in reality,” says Parker. “Matt would love to do more complicated stuff, I want to do more experiments, while Helen is very conscious about the human element of the peoplewatching.”

Geek has become the new cool, due in no small part to the popularity of the Big Bang Theory, an American sitcom following the travails of a group of university scientists.

‘THE Big Bang Theory has made a difference to how geeks are perceived because, while it does take the Mick out of nerds, it does it in an affectionate way that is not about ridiculing them,” says Mould.

“In our show we mock Matt for being a supergeek, but it is done out of love. It is a celebration of that nerdy way of being.

“And the science in Big Bang Theory is actually pretty good, although some of the stuff they do would be far too expensive for a group in that situation to be doing.”

In true scientist form, the Spoken Nerd trio have created a spectrum of their audience, from laymen and those who have seen the occasional Big bang Theory episode right up to super-brained scientists.

The science the trio use is sound but sometimes simplified (mercifully for the anti-analytically minded like me), and at the start of the show the audience are actively encouraged the use their smartphones to check the accuracy of what they are being told.

“We want to explain the science and sometimes that means simplifying it,” says Mould.

“We do get people coming up afterwards and saying it is a lot more complicated then we have made out, but it’s a fine line between keeping it simple enough for people to understand and enjoy, and making it totally accurate.”

Mould is in the prestigious position of having a physics phenomenon named after him.

The Mould Effect is the name attributed to what happens to a string of beads when poured from a beaker, and after he first hypothesised on the science behind the intriguing motion on an internet video, the chalice-based challenge was taken up by Cambridge physicists.

The experiment is one of those conducted by Mould in Full Frontal Nerdity, so I won’t ruin the reasoning behind it. But Mould says: “Actually, I was wrong in my theory on it, but that’s what science is about, having an idea and then trying to prove or disprove it.”

Thankfully for theatre crowds, the Festival of the Spoken Nerd experiment is proving to be an entertaining experience.

  • Festival of the Spoken Nerd: Stockton Arc, March 6. Box office 01642-525199 and online