Art Edelman, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology, explores connections between scientific research and stand-up comedy
What was your background before coming to UB?
I trained in neuroscience at Stanford and in biochemistry at the University of Washington. When I joined the UB faculty in 1985 in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, I focused my lab on biochemical pathways in cells. In the mid-90s, we discovered a unique pathway in neural cells that seemed to function as a ‘master regulator’ of other pathways.
I was fortunate to have outstanding graduate students whose work then led to my shifting our research focus to how this pathway might lead a prostate or ovarian cell to become cancerous.
I’m excited about our research and hope to continue it as long as possible. In science you are always learning, and I feel like I’m in the linear part of the learning curve. Since I’m 71, I project I’ll hit my peak somewhere in my mid 80s.
Did your upbringing predispose you to a scientific career?
As a kid I lived in my own world of ideas, although I was not completely impervious to what was going on around me. For example, as I grew up I did come to realize there were other children living in the house with us. Not surprisingly, my first priority was for a career that would let me pursue my own ideas. Since my Dad was a scientist, science seemed perfect.
I learned that it wasn’t easy to test your ideas against a reality (Mother Nature), who is always honest. It’s a risky business. But something the actor Al Pacino said, stuck in my mind: ‘It’s a risk not to take a risk.’
Why did you take up comedy?
Science is all about analysis. I just felt I needed something completely creative.
When did you start? Where do you perform?
2010, at Buffalo clubs like Helium or Nietzsche’s, and also clubs in New York City and Rochester.
Do you see similarities between comedy and science?
In both, your ideas are tested by reality. Laughing, like Mother Nature, is honest so when the experiment doesn’t confirm your hypothesis, or an audience doesn’t laugh at your joke, it’s painful. But when you get a great result or a big laugh, it’s hard to describe how good it feels.