Random 8

Matt Parker

Matt Parker

One random comedian, eight random questions; it's the ultimate test of funny person and fate. This week we add Matt Parker to the equation, a man who has somehow done the previously impossible: made maths funny.

Next month Parker will be a significant figure at the UK's foremost buffet of feelgood brainfood, Nine Lessons and Carols for Curious People, which happens on Easter Saturday and Sunday, after an Omicron postponement at Christmas. A resurrection? If you like. In fact, they've now sprung a new name on us: Nine Lessons for Spring. Nice.

So, does Parker have a baffling, blackboard-chalked plan for his Sunday night set, yet?

"I can say with 95% certainty it'll be something from my show Humble Pi," he says. "I performed Humble Pi at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe and was halfway through touring when the pandemic slammed in. Two years later and I've both completely forgotten the show as well as booked to film it at the Bloomsbury Theatre on 21 April.

"So Nine Lessons will be a welcome opportunity to blow the dust of some of it in front of a super-nerdy audience. And if it goes wrong: that is completely on-theme."

Also appearing at London's King's Place are - just a random sampling - comedians Bec Hill, Jo Neary, Deborah Frances-White, Charlie George and Ben Moor, musicians Jim Bob, Harriet Braine, Soft Lad and Ruarri Joseph, and lots of fun-to-watch thinkers: Dr Suzi Gage, Miranda Lowe, Hugh Warwick, Dr Helen Czerski, Natalie Haynes, Prof Chris Lintott and many, many more, introduced by the Carol king, Robin Ince. All profits go to some excellent charities.

The popular Parker is also a recurring factor on Nine Lessons line-ups. Does he have a favourite moment, over the years?

"My favourite Nine Lessons memories are always when all the performers are hiding in the wings to watch the show. It's such a strange collection of people. One time when Robin Ince was on-stage, full-flow, doing his Brian Blessed impression, [astronaut] Chris Hadfield leant over to me and whispered 'What is he doing?'"

Cosmic. Matt Parker, your Random 8 await.

Matt Parker

What's the best thing you ever bought a ticket for?

A train ticket on the Isle of Wight. Not only was it a welcome bit of mechanised transportation during a glorious walking holiday. Not only did the Island Line still use British Rail Class 483 rolling stock (ex-tube trains which were originally built in 1938 and only retired in 2021). But it was literally a ticket to Ryde.

Your most interesting injury?

My funniest was a secondary injury that happened last summer. The primary injury was a standard falling-off-the-road-bike so common among the recently middle-aged. I took a roundabout too fast and the tyres slipped out from under me.

I was largely fine and the car behind me was full of junior doctors who stopped to help (the one driving was sober). It required a trip to the ER to get my knee glued back together (and spend five hours in the waiting room staring at a smashed, useless phone) but I was eventually sent home and told to make sure I didn't bend it for a few days.

So that night I'm trying to quietly ascend the stairs without waking my wife or bending my leg only to slip and break a toe on the other foot. At that point I'd had enough of injuries so I just went to bed. Lucie told me in the morning, in no uncertain terms, that despite the great comedy timing, there would be no sympathy if I now sustained a tertiary injury.

Do you have a signature dance move?

No. My dancing is as arhythmic as it is algorithmic.

Matt Parker

Ever had a really disastrous holiday?

In 2011 I was running some math events in Belfast before flying to join my wife for a romantic holiday. We'd booked a hotel roughly in the middle of Hadrian's Wall to use as a base for several days of rambling. She arrived there first and the next day I was due to join her... until the volcanic eruption of Grímsvötn grounded all air travel.

A combination of ferries and hire cars eventually got me there on the last day, roughly three hours before we were due to check out. At the very least: Lucie was able to show me to the hotel reception staff. For several days she had been a lone woman on a romantic getaway claiming that she did have a husband on his way, no really.

What's the weirdest thing you ever ate?

My favourite bakery in Australia (specifically: Miami Bakehouse, Western Australia) makes a kangaroo, emu and camel pie. Which is not all that weird (once you get over the venn diagram of meat) until you realise that it contains both of the animals on the Australian coat of arms.

I think Australia is the only country where you can legally purchase a pie containing all animals on the national crest. This would be very difficult in the UK: one animal is very much not native and the other is fictitious.

What's your favourite fact?

I thought these questions were supposed to be random? A question about facts feels oddly serendipitous. But to counter that I'll go with a random maths fact: if you randomly shuffle a deck of cards and then think of any two card values (say 'Ace' and 'King') there is a roughly 50:50 chance you'll find those two cards directly next to each other somewhere in the deck (actually 48.6% to be exact).

Ever met a particularly great or awful famous person?

I think the most famous person I've properly met is Queen guitarist Brian May (because he's astronomy friends with my wife; she's very much the cooler half of this relationship). He is super lovely. I've seen him buy pizza for everyone in a bar. And for someone that ridiculously famous, it's nice to still be able to have a down-to-earth friendly chat about what happens when you invert the phase of a sine wave. True story.

Festival Of The Spoken Nerd. Image shows from L to R: Helen Arney, Matt Parker, Steve Mould. Copyright: Rosemary Rance

Who are you most envious of?

I am jealous of no-one but envious of many, definitely including my Festival of the Spoken Nerd colleagues. I'm envious of Helen Arney's amazing musical ability and deftness with musical comedy that I don't even understand well enough to be accurately envious.

And I would say I'm envious of Steve Mould [who appears at Nine Lessons on Saturday] for his ease on stage and impeccable nerd comedy which continues to drive me to be better myself, but it's actually just that he got one million YouTube subscribers before me.


Nine Lessons for Spring is at London's King's Place on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th April. For details visit cosmicshambles.com/ninelessons


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