The 2014 Development Show

2014 Devo Show
Curtis Loer and Morris Maduro at the "Development Show" July 20, 2014.
Click on image above or here to watch on YouTube.

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What is the Devo Show?

The Devo Show is an adaptation of several "Worm Shows" as given by Curtis Loer and Morris Maduro at the biennial International C. elegans Meetings since 2005. They were invited by the Society for Developmental Biology (SDB) President, Dr. Martin Chalfie, to present a similar show to the 2014 SDB Meeting in Seattle, WA. The show took place in the HUB at University of Washington, Seattle, to an audience of about 600+ who had just finished a buffet dinner (explaining the sound of metal utensils from time to time).

Borrowing from many previously successful 'bits', the show was 56 minutes long and featured interviews with people at the meetings, a music video parody (Nirvana's Smells Like Development), "Talks Not Selected", a Top 10 list, and a 10-minute sitcom parody (The Lab). At this point (July, 2014) there are no plans for another show at a future SDB meeting, at least by Curtis and Morris, who are usually busy enough preparing for the C. elegans shows, and who have full-time tenured jobs.

The Worm Show started at the last 'west coast' C. elegans meeting held at UC Santa Barbara in summer of 2004. CL and MM knew each other from the late 90s from smaller 'SoCal' worm gatherings, and at a monthly seminar series held at UCSD in fall of 2003, they met up and got to talking about why worm meetings seemed to lack any kind of entertainment. Thankfully, MM's Postdoc mentor Joel Rothman, who was organizing the aforementioned 2004 meeting, agreed that it would be a worthwhile thing to present. To an audience of about 250 (a bit more than half the meeting attendees), the pilot version of the worm show was born. It has undergone extensive metamorphosis over the years, ultimately becoming more of a community-building enterprise than a comedy show per se. As the first show to a broad audience occurred in UCLA in 2005, we refer to that as our 'first' worm show.

The lyrics to the Nirvana parody are below. Written by MM, the goals were obviously to try to include different model systems, developmental biology concepts and experimental methods, plus emulate the style of the original song. Some words were chosen to rhyme with the original. The first two lines are a parody of a parody -- altered from "Weird Al" Yankovic's parody of the same song, "Smells Like Nirvana." The song was chosen because Nirvana got its start in Seattle, where the meeting took place. MM made a worm-themed parody of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" called "Bohemian Rhabditid" and it is here (and embedded within the 2011 Worm Show).

"Smells Like Development"

What is this worm all about
Can't seem to work the lineage out
Drosophila, putting maternal messages into the egg
Hello, hello, hello, embryo (x3)
Hello, hello, hello

Model systems, they're less dangerous
Urochordates, Gallus gallus
Make quick progress, advantageous
Asterina, purpuratus
There's Amphibia and Planaria
Capitella, Helobdella
Plants! (x3)

Cloning new genes is what I do best
And for these models I feel blessed
Pick any system I wish
From mouse to mollusk, zebrafish
Hello, hello, hello, embryo (x3)
Hello, hello, hello

Homeotic, segmentation
Organizer, regulation
Long-range signal, blocked by Noggin
Wingless, Frizzled, to Pangolin
An ablation, a mutation
Morpholino, for Chordino

Gene expression
My obsession

Comments on other parts of the Devo Show can be found on the various Worm Show pages, particularly Worm Show 2011 and Worm Show 2013. Some other comments, arranged by time point, appear below.

What happened with the opening theme?

Anyone who was there might remember that the opening theme was the music from Star Wars. From experience posting prior Worm Shows, this music will get flagged by YouTube's copyright content system and restrict access to the video. So, it was replaced with Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra. The graphics used are the same as what was shown in the meeting.

The opening segments (Star Wars-style opening and first few minutes of introduction) were taken from the first Worm Show in 2005. Subsequent Worm Shows, particularly in 2009, just had MM and CL walk out on stage and start talking (a kind of 'cold open') prior to showing the theme, because they became known to the worm community by that point.

What language was Curtis speaking at 1:14?

It is Swahili: Jambo. Habari ya jioni. (Hi. Good evening.)

At 2:18, Morris' reads two sentences out of order from the "Disclaimer." What gives?

Our scripts obviously didn't match the screen exactly here.

At 4:30, what is the song 'Danio'?

If not apparent, it is a parody of the traditional song "Danny Boy." Curtis had conceived of this parody some five years before, and finally, we have a place to use it! We had no access to sheet music; MM improvised harmonies. Hopefully it is apparent that MM and CL have prior musical theater, singing and choir experience.

At 5:58, what is that 'model organism'?

Mary Wallingford says she aimed to represent a flower.

At 6:19, what is the origin of "sulfate specification"?

MM had a graduate student who had notes from MCB 131 at UC Berkeley. In the first lecture she had written multiple times "sulfate specification" because she misheard "cell fate specification."

At 6:35, what are those things on the jeans in "Differential Jean Expression"?

On the two left jeans are diagrams of differential gears, and on the third is obviously a mathematical expression of a differential.

At 7:08, Visine and other fly jokes used in the show...

...are from a one-off presentation CL and MM did at Columbia University in December of 2010 as a tribute to 100 years of Drosophila research that started with Thomas Hunt Morgan at his famous Fly Room at Columbia.

At 9:00 and following...

The videos shot at the meeting were done with a Canon HF-G10 camcorder and a wired Shure RS130 microphone, a Radio Shack marketed version of the Shure PG48. MM used to have 'karaoke jams' at his house in the mid-2000s and this was one of the first microphones he got for that purpose that used a three-conductor XLR cable. With the high ambient noise of a poster session it is almost impossible to use an on-camera microphone and get anything usable. The RS130 is surprisingly good; MM has previously used the more expensive Shure SM58 (the 'gold standard' in vocal microphones) and a Samson Q7 with similar results. The HF-G10 is an excellent AVCHD 'prosumer' grade camcorder for this kind of work. It was also used to record the show itself. Video was recorded in 24 Mbit/sec bitrate full HD (1920x1080x30p) and edited at the meeting on a Windows 7 core i7 laptop using Sony Vegas 12 Pro. Over the years that MM has been doing this sort of thing he has found that one cannot get away with using low-quality equipment.

MM and CL began shooting video at the meetings in 2011 for inclusion in the show itself. Although it adds a tremendous amount of time overhead it became immediately clear that being able to include actual meeting participants in the show was of such a huge benefit, that we cannot envision doing a meeting show without it. In particular, it allowed participation at all levels - from undergraduates through to well-established researchers and even the vendors -- and it is similarly obvious that there is a lot of humor out there in the scientific community. For the 2013 Worm Show MM & CL invited video submissions from the C. elegans community, which futher increased the participation of people in the show, and lessened MM & CL's workload.

Clips for the videos were edited together in the order they were shot. Exceptions include the person working with Planaria which was from the next night, and the segments about federal granting agency funding in the second video, which were shot at different times in the same evening.

Around 9:19, Scott Gilbert...

SG has a 'humor' section of his textbook featuring various jokes, so CL asked him earlier in the meeting if he would be up for delivering one of them on camera (at ~9:25).

Around 15:14, the Canadian quarter joke...

This is a rip-off from "The Comeback," an episode of Seinfeld. Somehow MM thought it would be funny in this context, but alas it was not. He has indeed reached 'inbox zero' a few times every year though. It is difficult!

Around 15:50 and following, regarding professional spam...

These jokes were based on a segment in the 2013 worm show and are 'real' in the sense that MM has received many invitations to odd meetings, offers for a range of pharmaceutical reagents for research, or invitations to be an editor at some weird journal no one has ever heard of.

Around 17:30, how TIME reports scientific findings...

This was based on a real story that made the rounds earlier that week. The original TIME article has actually been replaced with a better interpretation of the findings, but not before someone screen-captured it. Variants appear elsewhere.

At 18:11 and following, specialty journals...

This bit was based on one of our original bits from the first show in 2004, though only 'dead cell' survived.

19:18 and following - Top 10 list

CL and MM gave up on Top 10 lists after the 2009 meeting, but this one, which was a list not previously given at a Worm Show, seemed to come together well. The #2 item ("The person that smiled at your poster trashed your grant") was from a Worm Show segment called 'unsolicited advice'. The #1 item was a jab at the long lines for food at University of Washington.

20:35 The 40-year-old Postdoc

This gag was from a prior Worm Show, unchanged, and originally from The 40-year-old Virgin (2005). Sadly, in the time since this joke was first used, longer and longer postdocs have become reality, and CL and MM had concerns that this joke was pushing a little too close to home. At 20:46, 'Knocked Down' is from the comedy Knocked Up (2007).

21:41 Smells Like Development

MM was worried that the original song, released in 1991, was too old to be used, but people seemed to like the parody. He recorded the new vocals over several nights using a 'karaoke' file from YouTube that appears to be a vocal-stripped version of the original (rather than a re-recording), and a Bluebird microphone. Although the audio was assembled and adjusted in the video for timing and loudness, no pitch correction ("auto tune") was used. One verse was removed from the original to shorten the parody to three minutes.

25:30 isopod iphone case -- this is real! Most of our ads were of course fake.

25:36 Bose 'country music canceling' headphones - this gag was originally about the Dixie Chicks but they're been out of the spotlight for many years now. (No offense intended to Taylor Swift fans.)

25:47 Muller's Morphs applied to graduate students

This was a favorite bit from the 2009 Worm Show. A few in the audience found it a bit controversial perhaps, though our intent was always comedy. The diversity of people in almost any human group seems to track very well with Muller's Morphs, and it seems appropriate to extend it to graduate students. The bit has become somewhat dated, and perhaps less useful for the SDB audience, as only in those model systems where you can make multiple alleles and deficiencies would you be concerned about ranking their relative strengths. Hence, the Morph reference is probably best suited to Drosophila and worm geneticists.

29:30 Matching necklaces for couples

This is a real product too. In the Worm Show when this was presented MM followed up with an ad-lib about wobble base pairing but we left it out this time.

29:33 "Armchair Biologist"

This is an original composition about scientists who find the allure of doing everything on computers to be sufficient to leave the bench altogether. It was not intended as an insult. MM has never taken a real guitar lesson, if it is not already obvious, and that guitar -- a nice Blueridge acoustic guitar, borrowed from local musician Joe Morgan, arranged by MM's colleague Alex Mendenhall -- is the nicest guitar he has ever had a chance to play. MM was so scared of damaging it that he didn't even tune it for fear of breaking a string.

Around 33:00 - second video segment

For this segment we asked many PIs why they attended the SDB meeting and got the most amount of wonderful, spontaneous comments. Interspersed with 'give us your poster in three words' this segment was MM's favorite bit of the whole meeting.

Around 36:33 - wasn't there another person interviewed about agency funding?

Yes there was, but at that person's request we removed it. This was the only edit, besides the introductory music noted above.

Talks not selected, 37:00 and following

This has become our most favorite recurrent bit. We had to 'de-worm' a lot of the slides and most are from prior worm shows, although we created some new ones: The piRNA in Hydra (inspired partially by an abstract at the meeting), the poison dart frog, segmentation in a guitar neck (originally it was a joke about Gibson assembly, as the guitar is a Gibson), astonished zebrafish embryos, and 'Salvador Dolly', which we thought would get more laughs than it did.

40:15 Golden Gate TALEN kits, now $5!

With the advent of CRISPR/Cas9-mediated dsDNA breakage, TALENs are all but obsolete because they are a bit more difficult to implement. We did not mean to offend any labs that have had success with TALENs in their system. It was just a gag to show how quickly methods change nowadays. Indeed, MM bought a Golden Gate TALEN kit and never got a chance to use it before CRISPR/Cas9 became the new method of choice.

40:27 Vatican Bunsen Burner

When the new Pope was being chosen in early 2013 this gag seemed more current at the 2013 Worm Show, but it still got laughs. C. elegans biologists 'flame' worms all the time.

Around 40:40 and following...

The bits 'Great Moments in ... History', 'Paper Reviews by movie critics' and 'Memes' are all recycled, with a few slides removed and updated. MM and CL were worried that the juxtaposition of so many Powerpoint-only bits in a row would be a bit boring, but by trimming things down and keeping the delivery quick it seemed to work. At 42:04, a new portrait of Martin Chalfie was made, and the resemblance to Jim Carrey's 'Mask' character in the 1994 movie prompted MM to say "sssmokin'" at 42:11 which was a line used a few times by the character.

Pre-autoclaved tape at 44:55

This was one of our most successful fake ads from a prior show, so we presented it last.

45:13 thank-yous

It worked better in our latter worm shows to thank people prior to the last bit, to keep momentum from the last segment (whatever that was) and go straight to the credits.

45:35 The Lab (parody of "The Office")

This video was originally shown at the 2013 Worm Show. There are many comments about it on the 2013 Worm Show Page. Students from MM's lab and one course at UC Riverside were featured. There is a prior episode of 'The Lab' that appears in the 2011 Worm Show at 25:55. Although a bit inconsistent, it is still kind of amusing though not as good as the second one.


last updated 7-26-2014

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