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The Stand-Up Psychologist

11 January 2008

Dean Burnett

Dean Burnett first discovered a gift for making people laugh when acting in student comedy shows as he studied for a neuroscience degree at the School of Biosciences. Now researching a PhD on memory at the School of Psychology, Dean is also putting his understanding of the mind to use in stand-up comedy.

Dean, from Pontycymer near Bridgend, describes himself as Britain’s only neuroscientist/stand-up comedian. He has already built up a reputation on the comedy circuit, performing in London, where he supported Jo Brand, at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival and in several venues in Cardiff. Now he is to feature on a new BBC documentary about up-and-coming Welsh comedians, Funny Business, to be screened later this month.

Dean’s scientific background features heavily in his routines, including jokes about evolution, genetic modification and statistical analysis, all mixed in with a surreal view of life. He said: "My style is very observational and personal, based on my own experiences and perspective. As a neuroscientist, I do look for trends and patterns in behaviour, and that is reflected in my comedy."

Dean is now in the final year of his PhD research and wants to continue with both an academic career and with comedy. His latest comic project is to devise a ten minute routine for every letter in the alphabet. Dean asked 26 well-known comedians to suggest a topic for each letter and is now hoping to take the show to Edinburgh.

He said: "I had some really tough ones. Stewart Lee came up with sellotape and Stephen Grant suggested etymology – the study of the origin of words. The most difficult had to be Ya Asentewa, an Ashanti queen, who was suggested by Gina Yashere. That needed a bit of research!"

Funny Business, created by independent Welsh production company Dai4Films, follows a search to unearth new comic talent in Wales, with a £30,000 contract on offer to the most promising stand-up. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at the struggles of aspiring comedians to make a name for themselves. To find out how Dean got on, you can follow the series on BBC 2 Wales at 10pm on January 21.