Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Hollywood calling...

I did my talk at London Skeptics in the Pub last night. It went very well, according to reports. I'm not sure, but then I am my own worst critic. And the criticism I do of myself? That's crap as well. Awful. I'm the worst self-critic you'll ever come across.

Logically, this would mean I think I'm absolutely brilliant, but I don't. I'm not even capable of basic logic. What an arse!

But anyway, people seemed to like my blatherings enough to stay until the end, so that's a plus.

One thing that struck me though, about this and all my talks I've done so far, is a disparity between the publicity blurb and the talks themselves. Basically, my blurb reads thusly...

Join Dean as he discusses what he has learned and what his experience can offer after many years practicing a novel and rather extreme form of scientific engagement.

Dean Burnett is a recently qualified Doctor of Neuroscience. He is also a stand-up comedian. For the best part of a decade now, he has been using his comedic skills to promote his field of expertise to the general public, which has resulted in run ins and unfortunate incidents with the media, irate activists, Doctor Who fans, drunken hecklers and even Paramount Studios, Hollywood.

I know, classy right? Thing is though, this blurb was written hastily for my Oxford talk before I'd even put it together, so it was just a list of interesting things that have happened to me that I felt I could/should talk about. Most of them made it into the finished article, but not everything did. This often happens when you put together a story/narrative, or a set list for a gig; you have many ideas, but forcing them all in to avoid wasting them means the structure and flow of the whole thing can be severely compromised, which arguably wastes more of the material than just those parts that would have been lost in the editing process.

Who was it who said 'Brevity is the soul of wit'? Some twat, no doubt.

Anyway, one of the things that didn't make the final cut was the whole 'Paramount Studios, Hollywood' story. It's not really as relevant to the topic of the talk(s) as the rest, and it doesn't really have a way that it can be conveniently segued into the overall structure as an amusing aside.

However, it does sound like potentially the most interesting aspect of the randomly cobbled together list of things in the publicity blurb. It's the big closer, it mentions 'Hollywood', and we know what sort of emotions that name invokes. You hear it, and your instantly think "There's a magical place, we're on our way there, with toys in their millions all under one roof, it's called HOLLYWOOD!"

I think that's right.

Anyway, just in case there is anyone who analyses the contents of my talk and cross-references what I say with the blurb and discovers the inconsistencies (and when you talk to mostly scientists and skeptics, this is probably quite likely), here is what happened between me and Paramount Studios

(Also, it's a bit of a Christmassy story, so seems right for this time of year)

It's another tale in the ever-increasing collection of stories about when 'Dean was contacted randomly and out of the blue by someone from a high-up media group because he's a scientific comedian and asked to do something bizarre/weird/embarrassing'. Yup, it's one of them. Check out The Pod Delusion for more of these if you're interested. Or see a previous blogpost of mine. Or come and see me do a talk in the real world, if you can withstand the sheer force of mumbling and gibberish which is my speaking style.

Anyway, some years ago I was minding my own business, when I received a call. I may have been wearing just my pants at the time, or eating a massive bag of nachos and giving myself a sickly yellowish powdery tint to the face/hands. Or maybe I was cleaning the oven and was in a filthy old t-shirt, sweating and wearing rubber gloves. Maybe none of this happened, but it pleases me to think that, when I receive a call from Hollywood, I'd be in as unglamorous/undignified a situation as possible. But that's just me, I love disparity between fantasy and reality.

The call was from a Producer, seemingly a very nice man and I've had no reason to think any different of him since, asked if I was Dean Burnett. I was, so I said so. He called me, after all, so he must have got my details from somewhere. But were these people trustworthy?

Then he said he wanted to contact me because he looked up 'psychologist' and 'comedian' on Google, and I'm what he found. This happens surprisingly often. Arguably, 'Neuroscientist' and 'comedian' would be more likely to lead to me in a Google search, but who the hell is going to look that up? Why would they.

Anyway, he asked me if I would be willing to work with Paramount studios. I said I would (I may have been in my pants at the time, and I wasn't really prepared for being contacted by a major USA film production company, so was a little taken aback). He said that would be great. I agreed, oblivious of any details.

After a few minutes, he explained the project. Basically, what they wanted was a professional psychologist who was also funny to help write and create a short film.

This was fine.

This film would be about the psychology about sibling rivalries and interactions.

This was a little outside my area of expertise. Actually it was quite far out, but I was sure I could do enough research to convey something reasonably accurate. So his was fine.

This film would not be a main feature, but a short film to be used as a DVD extra.

This was to be expected. Nobody contacts a random bloke out of the blue and offers him the lead role in a summer blockbuster. This was fine.

The film would be used as an extra on the DVD release of the movie 'Fred Clause'

This was... odd.

He asked if I knew the film. I said I knew 'of' it. I tactfully avoided using the phrase 'blatant Christmas-season cash in featuring increasingly grating lead actor', I'm nice like that. He asked me if I was a fan of Vince Vaughn. Not wanting to lose the possibility of work because of my principles like the whore I am, I said I had been for some time (again, tactfully avoiding pointing out that 'some time' meant 'since you mentioned his name 4 seconds ago').

He told me that it was still all up in the air at the moment, and this was one of several possibilities that they were working on. I said that was fine, and to contact me when they knew more. Myself and the nice man swapped several more emails after that.

As anyone who reads this who also owns Fred Clause on DVD will know (and I assume there's very little overlap between those two groups), I'm not in it. Much to my total lack of surprise, they eventually decided that an in-depth yet amusing look at the genuine psychological factors underpinning male-sibling relationships wasn't really 'in-keeping with the target demographic' of the Fred Clause DVD. I had to concede that that was the case.

I've not seen the DVD myself, so not sure what they ended up using instead of me and my valuable expertise. Something 'in-keeping with the target demographic', no doubt. So I'm guessing it a 10 minute film which is just a series of primary colours. Possibly with fart noises dubbed over it.

I'm not bitter, why do you ask?

E-mail: humourology (at) live.co.uk

Twitter: @garwboy


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