October 19, 2013 1:27 pm

Deconstruct the Science of Comedy with Dan Aykroyd this Sunday on StarTalk Radio

Photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Donna Dixon and Dan Aykroyd taken by Laura Berland

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Donna Dixon and Dan Aykroyd. Photo Credit: Laura Berland

Dan Aykroyd has been in some of the funniest movies of all time. The Blues Brothers, Trading Places, and Ghostbusters are all the kind of movie that if you’re channel surfing and you bang into them, you just have to stop. (You’re not alone. As we find out in this episode of StarTalk Radio, so do Neil and Chuck.) But even when Dan shows up in a bit part, like the neurologist in 50 First Dates, he’s still a scene-stealer.

Also, for those of you too young to know, once upon a time there was this show called Saturday Night Live, and the first lineup was a bunch of unknown comics known as “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players” – John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris and of course, Dan Aykroyd – who changed what we did on Saturday nights at 11:30 PM.

So when Dan starts talking with Neil deGrasse Tyson about the science of humor, he knows whereof he speaks. He explained how improvisation and sketch comedy are more pure forms of comedy than sitcoms and movies, and that there are in fact no rules or science to sketch comedy. Dan is one of the illustrious alumni of Second City, the infamous improv club in Chicago that spews talent like an active volcano, and about which Dan reminisces in this episode. He also talks a bit about the creation of Trading Places, and even hints at the possibility of a sequel.

Comic co-host Chuck Nice shared his own views that stand-up is even more pure than improv. If you like Chuck, you’ll love this episode. He talks about how in comedy, timing is everything, but a great joke is timeless. He also does a killer impression of Bill Cosby. Even guest astrophysicist Charles Liu jumps on the comedy bandwagon, sharing a University of Michigan study about the impact of flatulence on humor.

There’s plenty more to the show: Neil and Dan discuss crystal skulls, crystal caves, and the molten core of iron at the center of the Earth. They get into an interesting discussion about the various streams of life in America that coalesced to form the Blues, America’s unique contribution to music and another subject about which “Elwood Blues” can speak with some authority.

By the way, a note about the picture above. One of my favorite Dan Aykroyd flicks was Doctor Detroit, the wacky 1983 movie where Dan first worked together with his future wife, Donna Dixon. Future, as in they got married a few months after the movie wrapped, and have been married ever since. When Neil recorded his interview with Dan Aykroyd, Donna was there, and Laura Berland snapped this shot. I loved it, and thought you might like it too.

Listen to Part 1 of A Conversation with Dan Aykroyd this Sunday, Oct. 20th at 7:00pm ET on our website, iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up.

–Jeffrey Simons


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