Comedy Modern Problems in Science Bloomsbury Theatre, London

'I found my mind wandering from time to time - much as it used to during double physics at school'

James Rampton
Friday 22 March 1996 00:02 GMT

Artists have long enjoyed taking the rise out of scientists; think of Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor. But rarely can they have gone to such lengths as the three absurdist improvisers demonstrating Modern Problems in Science. Armed with only tweedy jackets, a pipe, a blackboard and some scientific jargon, they take schoolboyish pleasure in sending up teacher.

Dick Costolo, Phil Granchi and Rich Fulcher are from Chicago, always touted as the home of improv. They say they dreamt up the show "to finally have some fun with the mountains of useless information we all learnt in school". On Wednesday night they certainly had fun. They revealed that last week in Australia they bore out the contention that "beer is God" - "this wasn't difficult to prove". They then spent the next 45 minutes of the show using chalk, talk and rocket science to verify the proposition from the audience that "Michael Jackson invented Teflon".

They ranged pell-mell over such diverse topics as the mysteries of time travel, Ancient Egypt and Arid Extra Dry. It is to be hoped that Jacko's lawyers weren't watching when they ended with a not entirely scientific analysis of the singer's legal affairs.

In the second half, they invited more propositions from the audience, who got right into the spirit of things. Fulcher was asked to explain Charles and Diana's split in ornithological terms: "Di is a plover," he began, "and Charles is a..." "Great tit," shouted out a waggish heckler.

It is undoubtedly clever stuff. When Fulcher was asked to reply to the question, "Did Tina Turner invent stamps?", he replied without batting an eyelid, "What have stamps got to do with it?" Costolo, a ringer for another eminent scientist, Dr Greene from ER, made a convincing stab at the role of an eccentric professor of chaos theory: "If the world would just stop expanding," he shrieked, "we could all find our car keys." And how many other stand-ups could casually drop in a gag about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle - Fulcher claimed he had seen some graffiti in the loo that read, "Heisenberg might have been here." This is not the sort of line you'd expect to hear on a comedy circuit apparently obsessed with whimsical jokes about Chopper bikes and Thunderbirds.

By its nature, every night is different; but on Wednesday, with so much diffuse and occasionally incomprehensible information coming at me, I found my mind wandering from time to time - much as it used to during double physics at school. There was more to admire than to laugh at.

Staggering out under the influence of random-information overload, I spotted Rory Bremner in the bar and couldn't help yearning for some of his tightly scripted discipline.

n Ends tomorrow. Booking: 0171-388 8822

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