Our coverage of National Geographic’s “Mind Blown Mondays” continues with the first part of our exclusive interview with Ben Aaron, host of Science of Stupid. The series takes funny home videos of and breaks down the scientific principles behind why the subjects failed or succeeded in their goal, sort of like America’s Funniest Home Videos with an educational element. At the end of this interview, we’ve got three new clips from the next episode, premiering Monday, September 28th, at 9/8c!
Laughing Place: Thanks so much for talking about the Science of Stupid, which we had way too much fun watching over the last couple of days. When you were approached with this and you heard the title Science of Stupid, what was your first reaction?
Ben Aaron: Well, I heard science and I was like, hmm. And then I heard stupid. I was like, “Oh, it’s me, perfect. So I’m 50% there.” I had no idea what to expect, really. And then I watched previous shows and I saw that one of the hosts from England was a guy named Richard Hammond, who was like my hero on television. I adore him. He was on a show called Top Gear. So I was beyond excited to be a part of it. And then they told me the concept. I was like, “Oh my God, it’s perfect.” Because I always loved America’s Funniest Home Videos, but this has an informative element, a science element, something that people can… There’s a lot of takeaway. It’s not just laughing. You’re becoming a genius as you watch it, you’re becoming a brilliant, mad scientist genius as you watch it.
Laughing Place: It gets rid of some of the guilt by watching people get hurt.
Ben Aaron: Exactly.
Laughing Place: Not hurt but…
Ben Aaron: I feel bad, but I’m learning.
Laughing Place: Yeah. I must say I learned more about concrete than I ever really thought I needed to know.
Ben Aaron: The strongest shape is a triangle. These are things that you give to a kid in middle school or a kid in high school and they’re going to absorb so much more information than you just writing it on a chalkboard and saying, this is physics, this is biology, this is earth science.
Laughing Place: So what was your relationship with science before becoming host of this program?
Ben Aaron: Well, I was, I don’t know if you knew this, I was in AP bio in high school, that’s kind of my thing. That’s about it. That’s where it ends, begins and ends. And I’m married to a scientist. So I have science through osmosis from her. I honestly, it was so funny because people ask me, how did I get the gig? And I was like, I went into the room for a meeting months ago and I was very honest. I was like, “I don’t know why I’m here right now. I have no business being on Nat Geo. I have none. Nature, geography, nothing. None of it I am acquainted with.” And I thought they thought that was very refreshing and honest. And they were like, okay, that’s kind of funny. Wow. And then they said something about, let’s do a show about a guy who has no idea what the hell he’s doing. I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s perfect.” And then this show came up and they’re like, “Are you interested?” I’m like, “Hell yeah.” So it was kind of a very strange meeting of everything.
Laughing Place: If you’re married to a scientist, what was her reaction to you hosting a show that prominently featured science?
Ben Aaron: “Why the hell are you doing it and not me?” That was her big thing, I think was the, “Why am I not doing this show?” And I was like, I think they want somebody who could float between… She’s so science, she’s so cerebral and just competent in every way when it comes to science, I think that she’d be like correcting the scientists. Me, I think I straddle the border between I would fall on my face and then I would like to know the science behind it, which is the concept of the show. So I’m kind of that guy who jumps over a chair. And I’m also the kind of person that likes to wonder why I messed up jumping over the chair.
Laughing Place: I guess you could maybe win some brownie points by saying that she would be incapable of filling the stupid part of the broadcast.
Ben Aaron: Yeah. She’s not stupid. She’s not that stupid. I take care of the stupid in the relationship.
Laughing Place: Well, that’s good. The chair thing was neat because you showed the guy failing and then you actually show the symmetrical parabola that shows why he fails.
Ben Aaron: Exactly.
Laughing Place: And I don’t know that we can never watch AFV again without pausing and looking at the physics behind their failures.
Ben Aaron: And next time you slip and fall, if you’re walking on the ice down the street, slip and fall, you’re going to understand friction, you’re going to understand the base of support. You’re going to understand all these new terms. You’re going to be in agony and physical pain, but your mind will be racing with these wonderful new terms and everything. And you’ll be smarter than you’ve ever been before.
Laughing Place: And maybe you can justify, when people ask why that happened, you could just say, you’re doing a science experiment.
Ben Aaron: That’s right. That’s right. I was just hanging on. I meant to do that. Or when they do it, I’m like, Hey, you know what? You may be in agony and completely embarrassed, but we all learned something from this. And thank you for doing your service. We appreciate you falling.”
Laughing Place: Nat Geo has a very diverse slate ranging from aspirational content like The Right Stuff and thought provoking like City So Real and then you have the Science of Stupid, which brings science in a completely fun way. What do you think about the value of, yeah, it’s about having fun and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but maybe teaching people who might be drawn in by the laughs, but actually teaching somebody something. Not to get too serious, but does that mean something to you?
Ben Aaron: No, I’m a huge proponent of that. Everything I like to do on television has a very physical, colorful component to it, but I want there to be takeaway. If I would have had Science of Stupid while I was in school, I would have learned so much more than just a teacher dictating information to me. Because it does accompany a visual. When you accompany facts with a visual, a funny visual that is, that will stick in your mind forever. You mentioned the chair. You’re going to remember that for as long as you possibly can. That is something that’s going to stick with you. And I think that’s so valuable. I love that, that’s my favorite part about the show is that it’s, first of all, it’s family friendly, so everybody can watch it and more so that you will learn. Parents, adults, kids, everybody will come back with some kind of knowledge that they didn’t have before. And it’s the weirdest way to inject that knowledge into your brain. Here’s a guy falling, or here’s a guy attempting this wild stunt or tripping on his face, but there’s a very intellectual part of that that you will absorb. And I adore that. I think that’s the greatest.
Laughing Place: And one thing that was impressive was that watching the show, you don’t know that you don’t have a science background because you’re able to say the terms and you say them quickly. You don’t come across like you’re searching for the word. Was it hard to get all those concepts to come off so smoothly? Because if you weren’t so pointed with it, the sort of fun would go away, but you seem to just get it right as a professional broadcaster that you are, you just go through and present it very well. Did it take some time to get used to using those concepts?
Ben Aaron: If you saw the outtakes, there’s a lot of bleeps. There’s a lot of me trying to get the words out of my mouth and I was like, I think they’re trying to prank me. Like they’re putting so many complicated words consecutively in these paragraphs. I’m like, I feel like this is like, What Would You Do? or something like, I feel like I’m being Punk’d, that there was so much terminology. So yes, that was the most difficult part was reading it because you read it cold and you don’t understand the terms and then you see it, you see the clip and it coincides with the terms and you’re like, ah, okay, I get it. That makes perfect sense. So I, like many of the viewers, had to learn along, the first time I saw it, I had to learn what a lot of these terms mean. And I had to learn how they correlate to the clip. But yeah, no, that was the most difficult part was getting the words out of my mouth properly. And I already was told by my wife that I pronounced [mortises wrong]. So I greatly apologize to the science community. I tip my hat to you and I apologize.
And now onto the clips! First up, an examination on kite surfing and the conditions required to do it right… and a look at some people doing it wrong.
Next we learn about stepping stones and the conditions needed to get across them without slipping and falling, which is hilarious to watch.
Lastly, we see a Guinness World Record Holder breaking a record for tightrope walking between two moving hot air balloons and the scientific principles that allow that to happen.
As you can see, Science of Stupid is not only fun to watch, but offers mental stimulation to help you get over the Monday hurdle. The next episode of Science of Stupid airs Monday, September 28th, at 9/8c right after a brand-new episode of Brain Games on National Geographic.