USF hosts world’s only stand-up economist
Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 13:04
Some students may loathe economics — that subject in school that’s either too confusing to grasp or just flat-out boring.
They might even go as far as to say, “Economics is a joke.” For Yoram Bauman, that’s precisely what it’s turned into, but not in the way one might think.
Bauman, the world’s first and only stand-up economist, will appear tonight at 6 in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Ballroom in a Student Government (SG)-sponsored event.
The comedian was asked to perform at USF after Toni Jung, a sophomore majoring in economics and psychology and president of the Economics Scholars Society (ESS), and Zack Samochin, a junior majoring in economics and mathematics and ESS treasurer, stumbled upon a YouTube video of Bauman that gained more than 1 million hits and featured Bauman.
Jung said that thanks to a $2,000 event grant from SG, as well as $500 grants from the Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economics at USF and the Koch Foundation, people will be able to come to the MSC for some laughs and possibly leave with a better understanding of economics.
“Students will definitely be exposed to more econ,” Jung said. “They’ll be exposed to the more fun and cool side of econ.”
It may seem impossible for some to imagine turning economics into a joke, yet Bauman has already proven himself capable, taking his routine nationwide and across the globe. He is in the midst of his international “Return to the Gold Standard” tour, where he will visit countries including the United Kingdom and Germany.
“I figured, since I’ll be in Europe, that’s a good name for the tour,” Bauman said in an interview with The Oracle.
The 38-year-old University of Washington professor-turned comedian has made a name for himself between YouTube stardom and worldwide recognition.
“You can play with stereotypes, so any time you have strong stereotypes, you can do comedy.” Bauman said. “There’s the stereotype that the economics process is boring and how economists are money-grubbing.”
He then couldn’t help but utter one of his jokes as an example.
“You might be an economist if you refuse to sell your children because you think they’ll be worth more later,” he said.
Normally the events put on by the economics department feature a professor, an undergraduate or someone from the Tampa Bay area. Jung and Samochin said they felt that a change was in order and asked themselves a simple question.
“What if we brought someone in who’s an economist and funny?” Jung said.
After raising the question at a meeting and bouncing the idea around, Bauman was contacted, spurring him to come up with the idea of a Florida tour.
“We thought that it could be interesting, so we gave it a shot,” Samochin said. “We watched (his act) and it was really good. We’re excited to bring him in.”
Bauman said the idea of a career as a stand-up economist started after he wrote a parody of an economics textbook and started going to open mic nights. Yet most people don’t think comedy and economics can mix, he said.
“People laugh or they think I’m joking,” he said. “Or they’re just surprised that someone can do stand-up comedy about economics.”
With tours across the nation and the globe and five years of comedy under his belt, Bauman said he simply hopes the audience gets some good laughs and learns about economics along the way. However, he said there are still important goals he wants to accomplish.
“I have three goals in life,” Bauman said. “One of them is to spread the joy of economic comedy to the world, the second is to reform economic education and the last one is for the work I do as a serious economist — environmental economics, carbon pricing, revenue-neutral carbon taxes — and it is to reform the taxes and to have lower taxes on things we like, such as income and jobs.”
After a brief introduction, Bauman will perform his unique comedy for roughly an hour. A reception will follow with free food and a book signing for Bauman’s two books: “The Cartoon Introduction to Economics,” volumes one and two.