Comedian tickles fiscal funnybone

Some students struggle to stay awake during economics class, but one comedian has brought joy to the dismal

The first and only standup economist, Yoram Bauman, performed his “Comedy, Economics and Climate Change” act Monday in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater.

“I got one thing going for me as a standup economist: low expectations,” he said. “It’s a niche market.”

Bauman said he realized his audience of around 80, who were mostly students and a handful of economics teachers, might not all have doctorates in the subject.

“I believe in the Laffer curve,” he said to laughs from only two people. “That’s a punch line to test how much economics you know. I give you guys a six.”

After receiving a Ph.D. in economics from University of Washington, Bauman said he told his father he decided to become a comedian instead. His father was not thrilled.

“He said there’s no demand,” Bauman said. “I told him not to worry; I’m a supply side economist. I just stand up and let the jokes trickle down.”

Bauman gave an economist’s punch line to the old business joke that says when life gives you lemons, build a lemonade stand and make a profit.

“When life gives you lemons, find 50 similar villages in Kenya and randomly divide them into two groups,” he said. “Give lemons to one group, wait 6 months, then write a paper.”

Recognizing the over-analytic nature of economists, a large part of the act was self-deprecating to Bauman’s own profession, including a routine parodying Jeff Foxworthy’s classic routine. 

“You might be an economist if you’re against the death penalty because it’s too expensive,” he said. “You might be an economist if you plan to have your children born in December instead of January to maximize the discounted present value of the child tax credit.” 

At one point, Bauman advertised his red T-shirt, which had “Capitalism” printed in the Coca-Cola font. 

“The tag reads ‘Made in China,’” he said. “It’s made of 80 percent cotton, and 20 percent irony.”

Bauman changed the subject to politics and lampooned the entire political spectrum, calling liberals spineless, conservatives heartless and moderates apathetic. 

“(The center’s) job is to pay absolutely no attention whatsoever, and then every four years, determine the fate of the free world,” he said. “That sounds like a lot of responsibility, but trust me, don’t give it a second thought.”

Bauman also claimed those in the middle “believe in magic” when it comes to the budget deficit, agreeing with the left, which wants to spend, and agreeing with the right, which wants to cut taxes. 

“A doctor says you’re putting on weight. The left brain says exercise more, the right brain says stop eating donuts and the center says find a new doctor,” he said. “Then the Tea Party breaks in, shouting and confusing everyone.”

Bauman also linked the people on the far right with those on the far left, calling them both libertarians.

“Right wing libertarians want everyone to be free to use guns and left wing libertarians wants everyone to be free to use drugs,” he said. “Neither believe in social security, but who’s going to live to 65 when everyone is a methhead with a machine gun?”

The act changed tone for a few minutes when Bauman started advocating the global use of economics and the power of capitalism to protect the environment.

“This is where people stop laughing,” he said. “Because people don’t like paying more for gas.”

Climate change will have serious economic impact, he said, as increasing carbon concentration causes global temperature to rise.

“Higher taxes on things we want less of, like pollution,” he said. “Higher revenue for things we want more of, like jobs.”

Bauman’s solution is to drive up the price of fossil fuels through taxation, and then use that revenue to reduce personal income tax and business tax.

“I said this once to a very conservative crowd,” he said. “One guy came up to me after the show and called it the funniest part of my routine.”

However, Bauman enjoyed the USF crowd. He said the act certainly went better than a show in Colorado Springs for a crowd of bankers in the worst month of the recession. 

“I lost them in my opening line,” he said. “My opening line was, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’”