January 13, 2012

Stand-up economist meets demand for supply of comedy

Stand-up economist Yoram Bauman brought his comedy routine to the U of C on Monday evening as part of his “Return to the Gold Standard” tour. His jokes touched upon basic microeconomic concepts, travel anecdotes, and the current political climate.

The self-proclaimed “first and only stand-up economist,” who teaches at the University of Washington, opened with a variety of economics-related puns. “I just let the jokes trickle down,” he quipped.

Bauman recounted his recent trips to China and Singapore.

“In Singapore, the government is run by a business. In China, the government is a business. In the U.S., the government is on the verge of going out of business,” he said.

His routine also featured “The Ten Principles of Economics, Translated,” Bauman’s parody of Harvard professor Greg Mankiw’s introductory economics textbook, which is used in introductory economics courses at the U of C. Bauman reduced Mankiw’s “Ten Principles of Economics” down to layman’s terms, poking fun at the complexity of modern economics. He also placed footnotes in the PowerPoint presentation accompanying the parody to further mock the textbook.

But not all of Bauman’s remarks were fun and games. An environmental economist by day, he took some time to present a real-life economics lesson, explaining how a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system would reduce global carbon emissions.

“The way to get less pollution is make polluting expensive,” he said.

Throughout his routine, Bauman reflected on the unlikelihood of his popularity.

“[The YouTube video of “The Ten Principles”] is heading toward one million views. That’s a lot of economics jokes.”

Ironically, he attributed part of his popularity to Mankiw, who is reportedly a fan of Bauman’s comedy and called Bauman’s book The Cartoon Introduction to Economics “a painless way to learn economics.”

“Which was nice, considering what I said about his book,” Bauman joked.