Kilkenomics: A Festival Where the ‘Dismal Science’ Meets Comedy

I was unaware about this. Apparently there is a festival called Kilkenomics where econs and comedian come together.

K@W has an article on this:

British historian Thomas Carlyle in 1849 described economics as the “dismal science.” Most economists have helped maintain that reputation over the past century by being a generally humorless bunch. For the past three years, though, an unusual event in Ireland has been trying in its own way to prove Carlyle wrong. Kilkenomics is an economics festival — and if that term sounds like the mother of all oxymorons, consider this: Kilkenomics puts economists, businessmen and finance executives on a stage together with stand-up comedians, where they engage one another in intense and highly irreverent debates.

Every November for the last three years, Irish citizens of all ages — and from a broad income and professional spectrum — have gathered from around the country in the small but beautiful riverside town of Kilkenny, located at the center of the Emerald Isle. There they pay not-insignificant amounts of money to enter small theaters where economists interact with stand-up comedians and the audience.

It gets big names like Jeff Sachs etc. Why?

Why do these folks come, pay, listen, ask questions and applaud — and then return for more the following year? Why do they do this in a country mired in a prolonged and disastrous recession, where the aftermath of a real-estate boom and bust cycle makes the American experience seem almost mild by comparison? And why, for that matter, do some of the world’s most famous economists (Jeffrey Sachs), most accomplished fund managers (Peter Schiff) and most scathing commentators (Max Keiser) agree to participate in small-scale events held in a small town previously unknown to most of them — for no fee and only minimal expenses paid? What makes Ireland’s top comics forsake the TV shows and the big theatres in Dublin to take on these global stars and purport to be mavens on economics and finance? And just who thought up this extraordinary idea and put it on the stage?

For answers to these questions, Knowledge@Wharton turned to Kilkenomics co-creators Richard Cook and David McWilliams. “In early 2009, as the financial crisis got worse, I was saying to myself: ‘I’m a bright guy, but I don’t understand what’s going on. Yet I want and need to understand,'” says Cook. “I went to see David McWilliams’s one-man show about the economic crisis, which was then playing at the Abbey Theatre (Ireland’s national theater) in Dublin. It seemed to me to be part stand-up, part theatre and part lecture. That’s where I got the idea.”

It costs 5 Euros per program and one can buy a full prog ticket for Euro 100 as well.

Helps in some jargon busting as well:

Despite its very Irish flavor — the warm welcome of the town and its people, the friendly and knowledgeable audiences, the sharp tongues and talents of the stand-up comedians — there is general agreement that Kilkenomics could and should “go global.”

“Take one of our regular and most popular shows”, says McWilliams of the aptly named “Jargon-busting.” “An economic term or concept is presented to two teams, each of which comprises a comedian and an economist, with a comedian chairing the show. The economist explains what the term means to him and then the comedian gives his understanding of it. Faced with the concept of ‘real and nominal interest rates,’ Karl Spain — one of Ireland’s top comics and a Kilkenomics fixture — shot back with, ‘The girls were checking me out in the bar before the show, and it’s fair to say that their interest in me was nominal.’ The audience gets to laugh and learn at the same time. This would work anywhere.”

Cook sees a clear opportunity, based on his view of the festival as a service to the public. “We think there is a market for this kind of festival, because its central premise is universal — the need to reclaim the language and terminology mangled by economists and governments and bring them back to the ordinary people.” O’Regan is much more focused on how it could work — and what “background music” helps generate the right atmosphere. “It can definitely transfer — you just need a place with a selection of nice, intimate venues, such as old pubs and theatres. Also, the festival needs to be timed to coincide with some sort of global financial cataclysm. We’ve been very lucky at Kilkenomics that late October/early November appears to be a sort of ‘Full Moon’ for economies, so there’s always something going a bit mad at the time.”

Funny stuff as the theme of the festival is..


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