The dangers of ‘Miss Information’: science and comedy in South Park

part of Science and South Park, Reddit and Facebook, Leonardo da Vinci and the Vitruvian Man, and modern fairy tales about emerging technologies: science communication and popular culture

Interest in the possible role for comedy as a medium for communicating and engaging the public in science is growing. However, current research has so far been restricted to exploring whether the content of scientific knowledge is accurate and precise within comedy, and whether the public might be said to understand science better for having watched it. In this commentary, I suggest that this approach neglects the diversity with which scientific ideas and images are used in comedy, particularly when comedy is written without the explicit goal of communicating science. I present my current research on the American animated comedy South Park, which suggests a different story: science serves to expose the hypocrisy and self-interest that governs the town. I suggest that examples such as South Park might benefit the analysis of comedy and science, by seeking to explain the very presence of science in comedy and in doing so, explore the values attributed to science within popular culture.