Comedian Helen Arney talks geeks and nerds
The physics graduate/musical comedian is back with her new dream gig
A quick glance at Helen Arney’s June gig list says everything you need to know about the kind of audience she attracts. Among them are Lab Notes and Call My Genetically Engineered Bluff at the Cheltenham Science Festival, while in Scotland she has two dates at the Glasgow Science Festival. It must feel like an age since this physics graduate/musical comedian has had to share a comedy bill with, shall we say, less enlightened acts as herself?
‘Isn’t it every comedian’s dream to do the kind of gig they want?’ says Arney. ‘When you’re doing your first gigs you meet people that you think, “we’re probably never going to work together again”. But when you’re starting out, whether someone is doing misogynistic crap or it’s Simon Munnery doing surreal paper cut-outs, they’re all so much better than you. But eventually you start getting confident about your own stuff.’
And with several Fringe shows under her ukulele’s belt, confidence is not something Arney is running low on these days, especially given the critical and audience acclaim that regularly comes her way. But who makes up the majority of her audience now: geeks or nerds? And can she tell the difference between the two groups anyway? ‘There are as many definitions of geeks and nerds as there are geeks and nerds,’ Arney reckons. ‘For me, it’s shorthand for wanting to poke the world with a stick and finding how it works. Which really is what a stand-up comedian does: the obsessive attention to detail and the ability to scratch under the surface to find something original to say. People come up after shows to discuss the difference between geeks and nerds and I just set two of them up against each other and go and get changed.’
The Admiral, Glasgow, Mon 10 Jun; Blackfriars, Glasgow, Tue 11 Jun