The 2007 Worm Comedy Show
The Worm Comedy Shows are now on YouTube.
For the links, see the Worm Show page here.

Morris Maduro and Curtis Loer perform during the 2007 Worm Comedy Show
presented at the 16th International C. elegans Meeting, UCLA, June 30, 2007.

Episode III - Revenge of the Pithed

A talk 'not selected'

'Morat' interviews Paul Sternberg

"Baba O'Wormy" (Postdoc Wasteland)

Committee Meeting within The Matrix

a standing ovation

The 2007 Worm Show was a 45-minute presentation at the 16th International C. elegans Meeting at UCLA by Morris Maduro and Curtis Loer (University of San Diego, CA). The show featured all new material and included fake powerpoint talks, audience participation, short movies, the C. elegans Gregorian Chant and worm versions of popular songs. Also included was a five-minute ‘Borat’ parody.

Our biggest challenge was following the 2005 Worm Show. Over the past two years, Curtis and I jotted down ideas and exchanged numerous emails. Closer to the date of the meeting, we cemented various bits to arrive at a provisional show. This year several videos were made in advance. The most arduous of these was the Borat parody, which required interviewing Paul Sternberg and three of the people in his group at Caltech, followed by extensive post-production editing. Yikes!

Thanks to the International C. elegans community for their support and encouragement. (And yes, I will be keeping my day job.) - M. Maduro, 7-10-07

Where can we get the entire 2007 show? All the shows are on YouTube (check here). The DVD of the 2005 and 2007 shows is not really necessary as there is a DVD of the 2005, 2007 and 2009 shows, as well as one of the 2011 show, available [contact Morris]. Information on the 2005/2007 DVD, if you are interested, is here.

What were those 'guitars' we were using? It's hard to tell (especially now, since we destroyed them on stage), but they are photographic replicas of the Gibson Les Paul Deluxe that Pete Townshend of The Who played in the performance video of "Baba O'Riley" from the film The Kids Are Alright. The 'necks' of the guitars were cartoon nematodes showing the digestive tract.

mockup of Gibson 'worm' guitar

More trivia appears on the Worm Show DVD page.

Video Clips (Windows Media)

Movie Parodies (1m07s, 2.7MB)

More trivia and technical stuff (last updated May 11, 2011):

  • The announcer at the beginning of both shows was Owen Lewis, one of the Stage Managers at Royce Hall. We told him only our first names and he made up the rest, though for the 2007 show we reminded him what he said two years before.
  • 'The Audience is Intoxicated' was the first piece of video made for the 2007 show. As it turned out, no beer/wine were available at the barbecue beforehand, unlike in 2005. This, along with a slightly smaller crowd, make the responses in the 2005 show seem far more lively. (Of course, this could also be because the 2007 show just wasn't as funny.) [In 2009, we got the organizers to restore the wine & beer. Yes!]
  • "Willkommen, bienvenue" near the beginning of the 2007 show is from the musical Cabaret.
  • In the 'Yoda talk' and 'Chewbacca talk' all of the data slides are from Morris' PhD thesis work as claimed (most images were taken from Genetics 141: 977-988), although he has never tried RNAi of unc-119.
  • In the 2005 show, the #1 sign your lab is too big ('Chat up postdoc in hall, ask them what lab they're in, and it's yours') is based on a true story (or at least, true hearsay).
  • In the 2005 show, the 'Veeral Full' fake acknowledgment in charge of Housing was in recognition of the fact that many late registrants for the 2005 meeting (including Morris) had to find off-campus accomodations.
  • In the 2007 show, Morris did the voices for the video parodies (including vocals for the fake music ad), except for Keanu Reeves in ‘Matrix’ which was used right from the film soundtrack.
  • The spoken language in the 'Nobel video' is Romanian ("Alo, salut, sînt eu, un haiduc") which means "Hello, hi, it’s me, an outlaw." The 'ma-ya-hee' intro part doesn't mean anything at all. [entire song lyrics]
  • The 'Worm Nobel Prize commemorative stamp' carries an image of an LED 'Mooninite' in reference to the 2007 Boston Mooninite Scare.
  • The music that accompanies the 'Unsolicited Advice' segment was taken from a Flash Game, 'Four-Second Fury' [game link] (Caution: The music is loud !), but it is originally from the song "The Edge" by Eiffel 65 (album Europop, 1999).
  • The words of the Pink Floyd parody mention Craig Mello and transformation to produce rollers. Mello et al. (1991) is a frequent citation for making transgenic worms using the su1006D allele of rol-6 introduced via gonadal injection of plasmid pRF4.
  • The melody of the 'Worm Gregorian Chant' is from “O Filii et Filiae” (O Sons and Daughters...) composed in the 15th century by Jean Tisserand (d. 1491) [A harmonized version of this traditional Paschal hymn can be found here. It remains popular, particularly in France.] Curtis has performed this chant with Schola Pacifica, a San Diego men’s chant and early polyphony group. [While Morris has also sung in choirs (non-professional ones), he is admittedly not much more than a 'karaoke nut'.]
  • After the 'Worm Gregorian Chant', we smack our scripts against our heads in reference to a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). [Curtis initially forgot to do this, hence his half-hearted, late attempt...]
  • The 'Take Me Out To The Worm Lab' karaoke accompaniment was pitch-shifted down several tones from the original. All other karaoke accompaniments were in the original keys. The idea for doing some kind of an audience karaoke was originally inspired by U2's 1997 PopMart Tour, but it was decided that the more familiar baseball theme converged well with the notion of a '7th Inning Stretch'.
  • In the 'Morat' parody video, responses by the interviewees were generally unrehearsed and edited later, a style sometimes known as retroscripting.
  • In 'Morat', just after Paul said that proper controls would be needed if one was setting fire to rats, both he and Morris burst into laughter. To keep the video from cutting away too abruptly, the last several frames (before laughter is evident) were added back in reverse order.
  • The wine bottle on Ryan Baugh's lab bench (visible in the Morat video) is from Charles Shaw winery.
  • The 'Morat' segment was edited in stereo, with people sitting at left on the left channel, etc. However, during YouTube processing, only the left channel was retained and the file became mono. It is a minor issue as the other person can still be heard, but it does annoy MM.
  • The 'guitars' we were 'playing' are photographic replicas of Pete Townshend's #5 Gibson Les Paul, with cartoon worm necks, on 1/4" foam board. See the Worm Show 2007 page for more.
  • At the end of the 'Classic Rock Medley' the synchrony of the last of Pete Townshend's' guitar 'windmills' with those of Morris was fortuitous. The group "The Who" was famous for destroying their equipment on stage at the end of their shows.
  • A real Toshiba laptop (a relatively outmoded one) was destroyed at the end of the 2007 show. Some parts were loosened in advance, and baby powder was added for effect.
  • The epilogue to the 2007 Worm Show, shown at the show itself and also present on the DVD after the credits, is stolen nearly unchanged from the 1986 John Hughes film Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Movie goers that stayed through the entire credits at the end of the movie were treated to this final bit in which Ferris (Matthew Broderick), in a bathrobe, looks directly at the audience and says "You're still here?..."
  • The 'Worm Show' got its start when Morris went to UCSD in fall of 2003 to speak at the local Worm Group gathering. Curtis attended, and they got to talking afterwards about bringing entertainment back to the worm meetings. A dozen ideas were shared right away, and eventually the first show was given to a small audience of a few hundred at the 2004 West Coast Meeting at UC Santa Barbara. Much of this material was incorporated into the 2005 show, which is why there is little point in circulating a video for it. This is one case where we thought that the two sequels (2005's "Episode II: A Lost Hope" and 2007's "Episode III: Revenge of the Pithed") were much better than the original.
  • Many alternate titles were originally conceived, including "Worm Home Companion" (paying homage to Garrison Keillor's similarly-named program on NPR). Other NPR-inspired bits remained, such as the 'fake credits' which are from the end of 'Car Talk' (and from which we took 'Statistician - Marge Innovera') and the fake ending credit 'Sarah Bellum', often cited by Garrison Keillor in his program. In the 2005 show, the latter was followed by an ad lib impersonation of Keillor by Morris (That's the news from Lake Wobegon...').
  • If you thought some of the jokes pushed the limits on good taste, or just weren't funny, you should have seen some of the material we left out.
  • Our original estimate for the timing of the 2005 and 2007 shows was 33 minutes each. They actually ran to about 40 and 48 minutes each. Oops.
  • The live shows were run by Microsoft Powerpoint 2000 or 2003 on a Sony Vaio WinXP laptop (Pentium III, 1.3GHz). The movies were mostly 640x480 mpeg-1 files, 30fps rendered from uncompressed AVI files using TMPGEnc at a bit rate of 2048 kbps. To facilitate editing and navigation, each segment was a separate powerpoint file and these were started via hyperlinks from a 'main' file.
  • The 'Star Wars' text effect was made using Hash software's amazing program Animation:Master 8.0. This involved creating the text part in MS Powerpoint 2000 or Adobe Illustrator CS2 and Adobe Photoshop 7.0, and mapping the image onto a model in A:M. The camera point-of-view was positioned to create the appearance of the text crawling from bottom to top and receding in the distance. The video, stars and theme were assembled in a video editor (Ulead's Media Studio Pro 6.0). There are at least a dozen different ways of achieving the same text effect, but Morris could not find one that gave high resolution (i.e. where the moving text does not look 'blocky').
  • The sound in the first 5 minutes of the 2005 show and the first 14 minutes of the 2007 show is solely from a camcorder in the audience. During both shows the stage recording was started late, so the audio perceptibly changes at the point where the stage audio track was added to the sound mix. [In 2009, Morris didn't make this mistake - third time's the charm!]
  • The audience sound in the 2007 show drops to mono in a few places, representing a shift to audio from the second camcorder. This was to eliminate some undesired audience comments captured by the other camera.
  • The 2007 show was recorded with two camcorders plus a video stream from a camera in Royce Hall. Wendy Hung ran the camera for the 2005 show and one of the cameras for 2007. Gina Broitman-Maduro ran the second camera in 2007.
  • Older DVDs from the 2005 show were made one at a time by copying from a camcorder to a standalone machine, which took about 45 min per DVD. The newer discs were made in about 6 minutes each by using a computer 8xDVD burner - a ratio of 7.5 to 1.
  • Odd colors in the 2007 video result from ‘Super Nightshot’ mode which was used for most audience shots (and unintentionally for the occasional stage shot).
  • A black rectangle visible on the video from the right-hand camera in the 2007 show was used to block out an accidentally-recorded time stamp.
  • In playing discs made by the LiteOn LVW-5005 recorder, some DVD players will return to the main menu after playing a Title, while most will simply continue to the next Title. Hence, after Worm Show 2007 finishes, the 2005 show will probably start right away, followed by the excerpted parody videos without audience track.
  • The Worm Show DVD is compatible with Windows Vista.
  • The DVDs can be copied easily. Use a single-layer blank.
  • As of August, 2007 Morris has sent out about the same amount of 2005 show DVDs, 2005/2007 show DVDs, and unc-119 mutants with rescuing DNA - about 60 each. [By the time of the 2009 show, over 100 discs were sent out.]

The 2007 Worm Comedy Show was mentioned in the September, 2007 issue
of GENEtics, the bulletin of the Genetics Society of America.
arrowMeeting Article arrowEntire issue(pdf)

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