Five questions for science comedian Ben Miller coming to Helium comedy club



Jewish stand-up comedian Ben Miller works in a somewhat unusual genre of comedy. He uses science as the jumping-off point. This makes sense, since the New York-based comedian entered the entertainment industry after earning a science degree from Columbia University in New York.

Miller’s “Stand-Up Science” played to a sold-out run at the 2022 Edinburg Fringe Festival. He brings his act to the Garage at Helium, located at the St. Louis Galleria, on April 13. Ticket information is available here. In advance of the show, Miller shared some thoughts on the art and science of comedy with the Jewish Light.

How did you pivot from science to stand-up comedy?

Years of hard work, late nights, writing the worst jokes you’ve ever heard, neglecting my friends and family, conquering my enemies, and finally spreading peace across the land.


Is there a fairly short list of comedians who hold materials science and engineering degrees?

We’re actually the smallest major in the engineering department. In my year there were only two of us. I was at the bottom of my class. The guy who’s at the top of the class is currently a battery cell engineer at Tesla, and I’ve become a delinquent comedian.


Who are some comedians you admire?

Oh wow, there are so many out there it’s hard to choose. Laurie Kilmartin, Maria Bamford, Mitch Hedberg, Jessica Kirson, Sean Patton, Roy Wood Jr. and . . . whoever writes those jokes on the back of Laffy Taffies.


You are a fan of rocks, and specifically the mineral fluorite. Is that a good cocktail party conversation starter?

It is a good conversation starter, but most of the people who want to talk about rocks are some sort of new age healer or a witch. They’re trying to talk about the stone’s mystical properties when I’d rather talk about its material properties.


Jerry Seinfeld famously tests and refines comedy bits. Do you approach comedy like science—by optimizing your delivery to get the biggest laughs?

Absolutely, there are definitely parallels with science in comedy. There’s lots of experimenting and testing out jokes, late nights of pulling your hair out when things don’t work, researching, refining jokes and questioning if I should just give it up and go to grad school instead.