Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist and science communicator. That’s right; I said “science communicator.” If I had that title, I would over-enunciate the word “communicator” — and make sure it rhymed with door. Cool thing to have on your CV.
The first time I saw deGrasse Tyson (maybe it’s just Tyson — can’t say for sure) was in the Hayden Planetarium. He narrated a tour of the cosmos; a role he’s obviously comfortable with, given his communicator status. He’s a great talker with an authoritative but approachable baritone. He never comes off as pompous or elite. He’s unmistakably bright, but excited by the fact that science always has something new to teach him. He’s hosted PBS programs, been on The Daily Show, The Colbert Show, even Jeopardy! The guy gets around. I guess I wasn’t surprised to discover he was also a podcaster.
Star Talk Live with Neil deGrasse Tyson falls more in line with some of the comedy podcasts I subscribe too than it does it does the cerebral. Each episode, you’re greeted by a sarcastically ham-handed announcer and some Beastie Boys bumper music. It’s an unintimidating, light-hearted look at pop-culture as it relates to the tenants of geology, cosmology, and astrophysics. I decided to take my maiden voyage with a guest less known for his scientific pontification: Dan Aykroyd.
If this episode is representative of the show’s model, Star Talk is not your typical talk radio program. There was, as noted above, a central guest. But he was interviewed in Degrasse Tyson’s office one-on-one at some point, and the host was joined by comic and co-host Chuck Nice and astrophysicist Charles Liu later in a studio to break down the interview. An unusual format, but I was game.
Let’s start with the production. The studio stuff with Nice and Liu sounded great. It was the remote interview with Aykroyd that could’ve used some touching up. It sounded like some kind of compression filter to keep out ambient noise was being used. It chopped up the dialogue a bit. It was a little distracting, but didn’t really hurt the interview.
What really surprised me was Aykroyd’s brain. Dude has a big one. Right out of the gate, he started talking about, in scientific terms of course, the difference between sketch comedy and situational comedy. Very enlightening.
They then transitioned into vodka, crystal skulls, the earth’s geological truisms, and how culture as we know it can be traced back to the music of the Mississippi Delta in the early 20th Century.
I’m reserving my right to review this podcast until I’ve taken in a few more episodes, but Neil Degrasse Tyson may be on to something here. I was certainly entertained. Check it out: Star Talk Live with Neil Degrasse Tyson