My name is Zach Weinersmith, and I draw the comic strip Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC).
Those of you who read it know that it’s an incredibly nerdy comic. I pride myself on not actively trying to be dorky, but rather, letting the dorkitude flow forth of its own accord.
Although comics are my bread and butter, doing nerdy comics has led me on a lot of strange trips. The one I want to talk to you about now is something we started in 2013 called The Festival of Bad Ad hoc Hypotheses. BAHFest for short.
It all started with this comic:
After that comic ran, I half-seriously posted to Facebook asking whether anyone would come if we put on such an event. We got a huuuge response! I got in touch with Christina Xu of breadpig (my publisher), and she was gung-ho on it. So, we decided to design a real show.
Here’s the idea: Have you ever had a theory of evolution that was totally wrong, but yet explained a surprising amount of data? I had just such an idea last year when I came up with what I call Weinersmith’s Infantapulting Hypothesis. The theory is that, if you assume early humans catapulted babies into distant villages to spread their genes, a lot of baby morphology (smooth skin, mid-body center of mass, airfoil-like body shape) and baby behavior (closing mouth when feeling wind, not being very smart) make perfect sense.
We decided to see if other geeks could come up with similar theories by putting out an open call for terrible, but well-argued, ideas about evolution. To our delight, we got a huge amount of submissions. We were able to cull these submissions down to exactly six proposals that stood out.
I figured we could sell about 50 or 100 tickets for this dorktastic idea. Then, Christina got us a venue for 1,000. This was mildly terrifying, but we started promoting as hard as we could. To my utter astonishment, we managed to sell out on the night of the show.
Here’s my extended talk, explaining Infantapulting:
Here is the winner, Tomer Ullman, giving his brilliant theory of crying:
We were so pleased with the audience response that we decided to hold two events this year -- one in San Francisco, and one back at MIT. Instead of having my stupid face up there at the beginning of the show, we decided to institute an opening “keynote speech.” Since the most famous people I know are cartoonists, the keynote speech on the West Coast was by Matt Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, and the keynote speech on the East Coast was by Rob DenBleyker, co-creator of Cyanide and Happiness.
The craziest part is that it all started with a comic, where I proposed the baby-catapulting idea.