Bunch Of Fives: Nerds Just Wanna Have Fun | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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A new monthly comedy night known as Nerds Just Wanna Have Fun takes place at The Stand in Newcastle on the first Monday of every month, with the next ones set to take place on 1st April and 6th May. The show finds the funnies through facts in science,  history, and technology and the knowledgeable comedy panel gets involved in debates on topics such as ‘which is the best? medieval or modern maps?’, as well as games where the comedian-participants have to guess sea creatures and countries based on misleading drawings. 

The night is the brainchild of Newcastle-based comedian Neil Harris and features other Newcastle-based comics such as Kelly Edgar, Matt Wheelwright and Luke Connell, who shares his wisdom about his favourite medieval sea creatures, with a bunch of fives…

The hippopotamus. Ok, not a sea creature, but medieval thought uses the term ‘fish’ to gather all creatures dwelling, or just hanging out, in the water (so crocodiles, for example, are also ‘fish’). The word ‘hippopotamus’ means ‘river horse’ and this was taken quite literally, with depictions giving them horses’ heads and bodies, and they were even said to neigh. Nature was thought of as a craftswoman using the same components in different combinations to make different animal bodies, so you get animals that are a bit like when someone’s lost the instructions for their Lego set and is just mucking about.

The octopus. Artists seem to have been very confused about what an octopus is, with a wide variety of depictions that make it fish-like, insect-like, bird-like or even humanoid. Again, Nature had done very inventive work on making this monstrous creature. The octopus’s many feet, arms or tentacles were thought to symbolise the many faces of liars. Deceptive and dangerous, the octopus would sneak up on boats and use its tentacles to hug a sailor and drag them down underwater for its lunch.

The oyster was at the other end of the spectrum. Passive, motionless and plant-like, its only action is to open its shell just a tiny bit to let in a drop of dew, which then hardens and forms a pearl. The best pearls come from the morning dew, with an intense whiteness that represents purity and chastity.

The sea-monk. Ok, we know about monkfish, but the sea-monk was more literally the underwater version of a monk, with a tonsure, the monastic way of shaving the head to show humility. In medieval zoology, lots of land creatures were thought to have a sea equivalent, so you get an amazing range of things like sea-horses, familiar to us, but also sea-rams, sea-peacocks and even sea-centipedes.

The scarus is a smart fish. When it gets caught in fishing nets, it avoids thrashing around, which would entangle it more, and instead delicately reverses out of the net. A scarus will always come to the aid of another scarus that it sees trapped. These were fish that showed solidarity to fight the power.

Copyright The British Library

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