[Computational Complexity] Humor in Talks
Should you have jokes in talks? Too much humor can detract from your real work but a little laughter can lighten up an otherwise dry presentation. You must use jokes with care. You should avoid any offensive jokes: nothing sexist, racist, homophobic or sexual innuendos. Many jokes are funny only in context and in a major conference it will be hard to find context with people from different religions, countries, backgrounds and many of whom do not have English as their native language.
Some topics to be careful with:
- Popular Culture: Most scientists even many American scientists have no clue what occupies the minds of most Americans. Even a Michael Jackson joke would likely fall flat at our conference. A Star Wars joke might work on a majority of our crowd but too many of them feel that anything that is popular should be ignored. One exception is children's popular culture: Not that anyone likes Barney but you can't avoid him, especially if you have young kids.
- Politics: Since our field lies in such a narrow band in American politics, political jokes are fine as long as they sit in this band (i.e. making fun of Bush and his cronies). But a seemingly harmless joke outside this band will be considered "offensive". I once talked about a paper by Allender and Gore and said "but this is not the Gore that invented the internet." Didn't go over very well.
- The P versus NP problem: Some things are too important to joke about.
Posted by Lance to Computational Complexity at 6/7/2005 10:17:00 PM