The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

The educational importance of comedy in biological anthropology, one humerus pun at a time


Chief Creative Officer, BOAS Network

March 28, 2015 , Archview Ballroom Add to calendar

Anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) share distinct universals that span multiple cultures. These universals include play, jokes, aggression, and cooperation. The universal that is the basis of this talk is ‘jokes’, which depending on their effectiveness, can lead to any of the former universals. Biological anthropology is rife with comedy. Not only are jokes spawned by biological anthropologists for the amusement of their colleagues, these jokes are effective teaching mechanisms that allow students to fully connect with the material. Paleoanthropologist Zach Throckmorton, who specializes in hominin foot evolution, is certainly in step with utilizing jokes in his lectures. On the heels of his book entitled “Anthro 404: Funny not Found,” Throckmorton’s upcoming paper title “The gripping tale of Gantzer’s muscle” is armed with multiple puns. Talk titles are an example of how anthropologists can stretch their funny bone while remaining ‘legitimate’ in their scientific community. Molecular anthropologist Todd Disotell eliminates the need to be overly serious with his exceptional use of punning in “Waste is a terrible thing to mind: The extraction of DNA from feces”. Lactation specialist Katie Hinde has taken to the internet as a whey to connect to a wider audience. She milks the humor from her research with her blog, "Mammals Suck". Employing these tactics allows biological anthropologists to successfully engage with students, which is crucial to their role as educators. Therefore this talk aims to awaken the 'punnist' within, offer suggestions for extracting humor from your research, all the while sharing patella-slapping examples.