Matt Parker is a man of many talents – as well as being one-third of the comedy-science trio Festival of the Spoken Nerd and having a best-selling book, he’s also got a very informative and educational YouTube channel. But as if being the saviour of panicking GCSE students were not enough for Parker, this year he’s decided to go it alone with his own solo (if you don’t count the automated lasers) show Humble Pi, based loosely around his book of the same name.
If there’s one thing he’s learned from this show, Parker tells us while he tries to restart his laptop, it’s that you shouldn’t trust technology. And while that might be fair enough in this age of information (Alexa! Have you assimilated us into your hive mind yet?), it should be noted for fairness’ sake that Parker is relying on a lot of technology working together in just the right ways, a lot of the time. He’s got a fully (mostly) working Pac-Man game, a camera, a laser display, AND a pre-recorded version of himself which he affectionately refers to as Auto-Matt. Combined with the use of an overhead projector, one can’t help but feel like they’re in some sort of maths lecture fever dream with a very cool Australian professor who is desperately ad-libbing while his laptop reboots (that part is more grounded in reality).
The show is tightly structured around various maths mistakes in history and their hilarious consequences. Although Parker emphasises that the show is an intersection of maths and comedy, it definitely leans more on the former. Non-nerds will enjoy it either way, but there’s simply too much content to cover for our host to actually talk us through all of the maths; this is a shame, because it leaves swathes of an otherwise-amused audience feeling a little lost in the middle of a joke. The trade-off, though, is that we get to learn about more ridiculous mishaps, and that’s definitely a price worth paying. You’ll come away from it feeling enlightened, and also weirdly passionate about maths – if we all cared about anything as much as Parker cares about road signs, the world would definitely be a better place.
Humble Pi is a charming mix of 80s nostalgia, full-on geekery, and really excellent puns. A word to the wise, though – don’t sit in the front row unless you can hold your own in Pac Man. Your family’s honour depends on it.