Eline van der Velden: “Romantic science comedies are the dream”

Eline van der Velden: “Romantic science comedies are the dream”

Star of BBC Three’s Crazy Science explains why trying to fuse science and comedy is like trying to find a Grand Unified Theory.

Many people will probably recognise you from BBC Three shows like Miss Holland and Putting It Out There, but you’re actually a secret scientist, aren’t you?

Well, I’d love to say I’m a secret scientist, as that is every little girl’s dream! I have an MSci in Physics from Imperial College London and did some research in plasma physics, but decided not to pursue a PhD in the end.

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I’ve since deviated into comedy acting but I like to think the analytical approach to life will always stay with me. My life is one great experiment to me.

Is your physics background why you wanted to create your new web series about science?

I was working as a comedy actor in Los Angeles a few years ago and tutored many students in maths and science to make ends meet. That’s when I really fell in love with teaching.

I believe you can teach people anything, it’s all about how you do it and Crazy Science is just that. We take some actual scientific research, surround it with a story and a bit of fun and people absorb it much easier!

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What kind of topics do you cover in the series?

My favourite is the 3 stages of love in the “You can die of a broken heart” episode. Lust, Attraction and Attachment. I have a different man to demonstrate each stage of course, which caused outrage on social media.

Other episodes are “Swearing can boost your performance”, “Crying is a painkiller” and “Video games can be good for you”.

What’s the craziest science thing you learnt while filming the show?

Uhhh, that my serve was actually 10km/h faster when I said the F-word while serving. I couldn’t quite believe it so I just kept going and it just kept working for me. Swearing, in my case, really did improve my strength.

Does your comedy have a specific theme or message?

I always like to say something or relay information with the content I make, otherwise I feel I might be wasting people’s time. Even with Miss Holland, which is a comedy character who arrives in the UK to find her ‘Prince Charming’, there are underlying social constructs that I’m exploring.

For example in the Beauty episode she gets transformed by Chloe Crowhurst and a beautician into “what a woman should look like” and it amazed me what is expected from women. Waxing everywhere, fake tan, eyelashes, nails, make up, hair, I mean I would never be able to keep up.

Also, I think there is more to life than spending all my money on beautification. Fortunately, the most popular video I ever made, “Gender Bias”, relayed a very clear message.

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You’ve done some pretty weird things in the past for your sketches, and is there anything you’d like to do, but don’t have the guts?

I don’t think I’d be able to go as far as Sacha Baron Cohen and get arrested. I’m a bit squeaky clean when it comes to breaking laws, I get very scared. I’m happy to do anything that doesn’t harm anyone but anything violent or illegal and I run a mile.

I did kiss a load of strangers on the street in BBC Three’s series Putting It Out There, that was pretty far for me!

Deep in your heart of hearts, are you a comedian or a scientist?

I’d say neither. My experience is that both are very male-dominated fields and I don’t fit into either of them.

I’m not a classic comedian because I do more improv/comedy acting and not stand-up and have had to create my own little genre as I don’t fit in anywhere. Romantic science comedies are the dream.

Listen to the Science Focus Podcast interviews with comedians:

What makes good science comedy? Physics doesn’t always lend itself to side-splitting humour.

No it does not! But that doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying. Analogies are the best way to go. All physics learnings are learnings for life I think. It’s just nature and nature plays its jokes on us from time to time. There is so little we really understand, that’s the point we must hammer home when teaching science.

Any advice for someone looking to fuse the worlds of science and comedy?

It’s similar to trying to find a Grand Unified Theory. We can keep trying, we might get closer, but we’ll never fully understand what makes something funny. Just like we’ll never understand our world’s physics.

  • Crazy Science is available on BBC Three now, and you can follow Eline van der Velden on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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