The 2011 Worm Comedy Show

Morris & Curtis

Welcome to the 2011 Worm Show page!
2005 Worm Show Page / 2007 Worm Show Page / 2009 Worm Show Page

The YouTube video has 3000 hits as of July 4, 2013!

Curtis and Morris presented their fourth comedy show at the International C. elegans Meeting at UCLA, on June 25, 2011. YouTube links to all the shows are found here. - M. Maduro & C. Loer

[3/6/2012] YouTube's copyright content filter finally identified the Bohemian Rhabditid segment and has blocked the video from being accessed from some countries outside the U.S. If you still haven't had a chance to see it and would like to, you can contact Morris and get a DVD.

[7/29/2011] We were mentioned in an article on the website The Node, written by a first-time Worm Meeting attendee, Eva Amsen. Read her article about the meeting here.

[11/10/2011] Bohemian Rhabditid was mentioned on German Laborjournal Blog website. See it here.

[12/8/2011] Bohemian Rhabditid was mentioned on the German ScienceBlogs website. See it here.

Comments on various parts of the show are below.

The Lab (Parody of The Office)
(notes on the rest of the show are below)

  • Many people identified this as one of their favorite segments, even though it was the longest at 8 minutes. Having exhausted much of what can be done in Powerpoint format in prior shows, a parody such as this was thought to be a great way to bring the daily workings of a molecular biology lab to the worm meeting.
  • The live video recording took place over some four weeks. For almost all scenes two similar Canon HD video cameras were used and the audio was recorded with an Azden SGM-1X shotgun microphone. The onboard camera microphones record too much ambient noise in a lab. Even then, during lab scenes, water filtration units had to be shut off and no centrifuges were spinning. Ambient light was used for all scenes.
  • The key to this segment was the editing. It took hours to cut things down to keep things moving.
  • The wall placard at the end of the theme briefly shows two people, one standing and one seated at a desk. A white silhouette of a microscope was added. Too subtle? (As in 'The Office' the text 'The' appears just after the camera pans left.)
    Lab Placard
  • The poster on the wall by the door to MM's office is from an issue of Science in 1995. The large central worm image is MM's.
    Poster, Leila
  • [26:00] 2010-2011 really was one of the busiest years ever for MM.
  • [26:11] "Mind the gap" is something you hear announced on the London Underground (Tube). It has nothing to do with cloning plasmids, so why say it? MM got the coffee mug on the way back from the Evolution meeting in Hinxton in 2010.
  • [26:14] MM's lab is in this building.
  • [26:16] The 'C' is on the Box Spring Mountains visible from much of Riverside, CA. The first one was at UC Berkeley, but the UC Riverside one is apparently larger. Read more here.
  • [26:53] People in MM's lab went carolling around the building on December 17, 2010 (download the songsheet here). Only part of "Jingle Bells" is shown across multiple lab visits because it gives the video the best continuity. This was included to establish a context for the lab as being one of many, and evoke a light-hearted sense of camaraderie.
  • [27:23-27:44] This is the only segment of all the videos recorded in which a built-in microphone was the only one used (in this case, on a Canon 60D). Especially from 27:40-27:43, it is clear how important it is to manage sound by using an off-camera microphone.
  • [28:19] The lab meeting speech is based on Alec Baldwin's scene from Glengarry GlenRoss as stated. A lot more of this monologue was ultimately cut out. See Baldwin's scene here.
  • [29:45] MM's real distractions are committee work and teaching as stated at the beginning. But the ones given here are funnier.
  • [29:58] During the 'distractions' part Morris sings 'Do-na' from Dona Nobis Pacem by Ralph Vaughan Williams. He joined the UCR Chamber Singers for that work, and the first of two performances can be seen here.
  • [30:10] The paper title MM reads is from Ahrens et al., Biotechniques 50(4): 229-234. The whole title is "Rapid quantification of inflammation in tissue samples using perfluorocarbon emulson and fluorine-19 nuclear magnetic resonance."
  • [31:50] In the sequence of lab mistakes, MM says merde, scheisse, chikusho, kuso and sudoku. The first four are ways of saying 's**t' in French, German and Japanese (for chikusho and kuso). The last word Sudoku is a number place puzzle, duh!
  • [32:44] PIs routinely get form-letter, generic style emails from people looking for Postdocs. They are usually characterized by vague references to following the PI's work, and MM actually has received some where his name was in a font different from the rest of the email. No such postdoc, however, has ever asked for credit card information. This was just a fiction based on the fact that people often get 'phishing' emails.
  • [32:47] The email shown is actually not a chain letter, but more of a form letter.
  • [33:24] "That's what she said" is a favorite saying of the Michael Scott character in The Office. The setup here is obviously contrived for the sole purpose of delivering that line.
  • [33:48] MM has locked himself out of his office twice in two years.

Other notes

  • While the video is available on YouTube as 1280x720, it looks quite reasonable in 480p. The HD resolution seems to occasionally suffer from audio/video synchronization issues, so it is recommended to watch in 480p.
  • A DVD is available for those who wish it. Contact Morris ( Note that this is just a DVD conversion of the file used to make the YouTube video, and as such the subtitles fall partially outside the overscan area. This means that the words will be partially obscured when viewed on a 16:9 LCD or Plasma widescreen TV set to overscan (the default). Such TVs can easily be set to not overscan. There should be no issues with a dataprojector, laptop or desktop. At this time, there are no plans for a Blu-Ray disc.
  • The Worm Show 2011 DVD:
    Worm Show 2011 DVD

  • Before the start of the 2009 show there were some technical issues with the computer and video switcher that caused the show to start late and introduced other problems. To avoid that in 2011, an Intel Core i7-860 PC with 8GB of RAM and with a 1GB video card was used. This computer was also used to edit and render the last two videos (at the posters and 'This Worm Is Your Worm'). The videos were recorded and rendered in AVC, which uses a lot of processing power.
  • All video that appeared in the show itself was recorded in high definition, 1440x1080i, and re-rendered to 1280x960 or 1280x720 depending on whether or not surtitles were used. For the video made of the show, footage from four cameras was used: Two HD cameras (Canon HF M41, HV30) from either side of the stage, one HD camera (Canon HF R20) pointed at the audience, and the standard-definition house camera built into Royce. The theater has rules about where tripods can be placed, which meant we could only get shots of the stage from extreme side views. The audio was recorded directly from the microphones and computer through a Yamaha MG10/2 mixer on stage, just as with the previous shows. To produce the video of the show, the sound, video from the four cameras, still images and the previously recorded video segments had to all be combined together. Some 60+ Powerpoint slides were converted from a 4:3 aspect ratio to widescreen 16:9. This is how it all looks when the elements are combined in Sony Vegas.
  • During the live show, surtitles (text above the movie) were used, rather than subtitles (text below), because it was observed in 2007 that those on the floor level of Royce could have trouble reading subtitles if taller people were sitting in front of them.
  • How long does it take to prepare for a Worm Show such as this one? Don't ask.
  • [00:00] The video of the exterior of Royce Hall was made several days before.
    Royce Hall, UCLA
  • [00:00] The opening five minutes were conceived as a kind of standup routine. So much of the meeting is spent watching Powerpoint slides, and so much of the show is video, and we wanted to return to our roots. The start of the 2005 show is similar. We had pages of starting material for this segment and edited it down to the best parts, and created segues.
  • [00:40] The 'celebrity death watch' CL refers to was the death of Michael Jackson. Meeting attendees heard helicopters in the afternoon of June 25, 2009. MM and CL tried to make a cryptic reference to this in the 2009 show when they paid a short tribute to Theresa Stiernagle because we heard she was leaving the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center (CGC). But no one seemed to get it, and Theresa was still working for the CGC even at the time of the 2011 show.
  • [01:00] Who doesn't like the soft-serve ice cream served at the UCLA dorm commons?
  • [02:14] MM taught the second half of a 10-week intro Biology course with 562 students in winter quarter of 2011. Two of them, working in MM's lab over the summer, were in attendance at the show that night. During the first half of the course, MM noted that some 10% of students in lecture had laptops, and about half of those had Facebook open.
  • [03:10] MM does occasionally use a British accent in lecture, but only to make the same kinds of jokes about it or to do impressions.
  • [3:51] CL routinely interjects the Monty Python line (from the witch scene in the classic ‘Holy Grail’) “…she turned me into a newt!” in his Development class while presenting the newt transplantation experiments of Hans Spemann, although, sadly, it seems that each year fewer students get the joke. CL is more prone to using a German accent in his Development class given all the classical embryology done by Germans. See the 'newt' scene from 'Holy Grail' here at 1:10 in.
  • [05:43] The opening theme, which uses 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' by Strauss, pays homage to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey by showing the 'WORM SHOW 2011' on a rising monolith in space, as well as from the end of the movie depicting earth and a fetus -- that is, a late-stage C. elegans embryo in time lapse. The embryo sequence was taken from Bob Goldstein's webpage (thanks!). See the relevant part of the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey here, starting at about 1:15 in.
  • [07:02] The Clippy gag was conceived of at the meeting. Note that Clippy suggests two things that didn't appear in the 2011 show (Top 10 list, Famous Moments in Worm History).
  • [07:28] Snorg Tees and some other 'sponsors' or 'products' actually exist. (None of these organizations actually gave us money or anything.)
  • [09:15] When MM and CL report that they have been seeing another community, there is a shot of the audience. A clip of the screen was originally intended to show at this point, but it was somehow deleted or forgotten during editing, leaving behind an inexplicably long audience shot. This was fixed for the DVD.
  • [09:30] Many mark the beginning of modern genetics with the discovery and publication of the sex-linked white eye mutant in Drosophila when Thomas Hunt Morgan was at Columbia. Regarding the Fly Show at Columbia, Chalfie remarked that the Fly Show presented as the final ‘lecture’ in the Centennial series was ironically appropriate because T.H. Morgan was well known for having NO sense of humor. Links on the Fly Room at Columbia here and here.
  • [10:18] Sydney Brenner and other famous people spoke in the same series at Columbia as CL and MM did. Cool.
  • [10:31] CL wrote a fantastic parody of a parody, the Element Song by Tom Lehrer, which is a parody of Gilbert and Sullivan's "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General," which CL also parodied in the 2005 show. This probably wouldn't work for C. elegans because flies have better gene names!
  • [10:42] CL and MM presented a tribute to Broadway (being in New York) consisting of the songs On FlyBase, There's No People Like Fly People and Drosophila - parodies of On Broadway, There's No Business Like Show Business, and New York, New York. At first it was thought that these could be recycled for the 2011 worm show, but we moved on to other things.
  • [12:07] The Sydney Brenner image in a Southern Blot. Many of those who did Southern blots will remember the glow-in-the-dark stickers used as positive controls that the film was developed properly (in case the blot itself was completely blank). Years ago MM had an idea to, as a prank, to take an image of Sydney Brenner, invert it, print it on an overhead transparency, then expose an X-ray film to this so that the lighter parts would preferentially expose the film. Then the film is put back where the unused films go. While this would have been easy to do, the wrath of a co-worker finding out that their two-week exposure was sabotaged by a prank was deemed too likely to result in physical harm. But the idea is just hilarious. Every year or so, an apparition that has meaning to some appears in odd locations and makes news, and this joke obviously feeds off of that.
  • [12:19] http-404. Until four-letter names were allowed, this gag was not plausible. As one might expect, it occurred to MM while surfing the web.
  • [12:27] Portal 2 and its prequel are awesome games. Co-op mode is great fun, and actually is a kind of research collaboration. The video clip is a promotional clip, and not an actual gameplay video.
  • [12:51] Anyone who has taught in lower division classes has experienced the perception by many students that questions they got wrong on an exam must somehow be unfair.
    View Exams
  • [13:01] If you don't get the joke about 'Homeotic Asphyxiation' please ask someone who does.
  • [13:24] The color legend for 'Countries That Should Cry For Me' is backwards! The two colored boxes got switched when the text was typed in over top of the original graphic. In the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway musical Evita (about Eva Peron), there is a song entitled  ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina' -- so the red and gray boxes should be switched. Google 'pop songs expressed with graphs' for similar jokes.
  • [13:47] Lots of biotech companies, AND – in fairness – science journals, textbook covers, etc. get DNA wrong. One of the most common is left-handed DNA.
  • [14:09] The Cysteine Chapel was conceived on the flight to New York for the 'Fly Show.' CL said something about being there and MM heard cysteine instead of Sistine. The image of the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo shows Adam almost, but not quite, touching God. The fresco appears on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We inserted a disulfide bridge.
    Cysteine Chapel
  • [14:24] SPK-1 really does inhibit cell death, see paper by Galvin et al., PNAS 108(5):1998-2003, PMID: 21245325. And why pass up another opportunity for a Star Trek reference? [Got to keep the nerd quotient high, right?]
  • [15:03] We like to refer to recent social trends like Twitter, even though it may date us later. We referred to MySpace before, and look what happened to that. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp bought MySpace in 2005 for $580 million, but unloaded it June 29, 2011 for $35 million.
  • [15:26] There is an energy drink called 'XTC' and their cans were easy to modify to read 'ATP'.
    ATP Energy Drink
  • [15:38] The sequences in the ‘Book of Moerman’ include the C. elegans splice acceptor and donor consensus sequences, and of course, lots of A and T, since the C.e. genome is AT-rich.
  • [15:55] Bohemian Rhabditid was a project that MM wanted to do as early as 2007. The accompaniment is from the original recording available on a Queen karaoke CD. The beginning part required recording separate four- and three-part harmonies and synchronizing them up in Sony Vegas. All lead vocals and the a capella voices in the first part were done by MM, including the high B flat above high C (on 'for me, for me, for me'), although that was pitched up from somewhere around a high G above high C. Freddie Mercury didn't sing the high B flat for Bohemian Rhapsody, that was Roger Taylor. (MM could sing that note five years ago...!) The version here is obviously abbreviated from the original song, which runs almost 6 minutes, to just over 3.5 minutes, by cutting repeat verses and especially, shortening the middle segment.
  • [15:55] MM suggests that there is a meaningful story conveyed in Bohemian Rhabditid: A Postdoc experiences setbacks but ultimately decides to restart his career because he really loves science.
    Bohemian Rhabditid
  • [15:55] Get another perspective on Bohemian Rhabditid from an audience member here or here. See it without the audience sound behind it here.
  • [18:41] The 'Fly Over C. elegans' Scanning EM video was obtained from here. It made an excellent video to show while taking the song down from the rock segment to the denouement.
  • [25:33] "Einhard Schierenberg's Worm Pasta Sauce" [25:33] is based on a rumor of a true story.
  • [34:36] The 'Types of PIs' bit is clearly the weakest of the whole show. We were trying to follow up from 2009's "Types of Graduate Students" and didn't get it quite right. Maybe we hit a little too close to home. And maybe all PIs exhibit some features of the various types from time to time.
  • [38:09] 'Worm Television Network' would make more sense, but the abbreviation WNT (as in the Wnt pathway) is more fun.
  • [38:09] Notice the 'W' in the WNT logo looks like a worm expressing myo-2::GFP in the pharynx?
  • [38:15] 'Planking' is lying horizontally, face down somewhere interesting. It has been around awhile, but in early 2011 it became somewhat of a minor Internet meme.
  • [38:28] Notice that the Photoshopped worm on the Taj Mahal is reflected in the water feature in the foreground. Nice touch, huh? You can get some sweet 360-degree views of the Taj Mahal here.
    Taj Majal Worm Planking
  • [38:38] Is Sharkey telling the truth? MM waited for months for someone to BLAST the Talking Shark DNA sequence and tell him where it comes from. Finally, on 9/24/2011, 1st-year PhD student Tara Q. Tappen, from Carnegie Mellon University, confirmed that the sequence does indeed belong to dpy-11 which is on Chromosome V. (Thanks, Tara!) Check out another YouTube video featuring the same shark puppet here.
  • [39:06] Dora's friends include Boots the Monkey, seen at the beginning of the segment, and The Map.
  • [43:55] Internet 'scream' videos were a popular meme maybe a decade ago.
  • [44:16] For the video, the Watson and Crick bobbleheads were both animated. In the show, only the Crick bobblehead moved. A Watson bobblehead makes a brief appearance at the end of the theme to "The Lab" around 26:43, in place of a 'Dundie' award. You can get a good deal on the W-C Bobbleheads here (big savings if you buy both), although this place also sells a really bad DNA molecule on a T-shirt. Nice DNA items for sale – few or no apparent wrong DNAs here.
  • [44:53] MM and many others in the worm field used a BioRad S2 or similar apparatus to run acrylamide sequencing gels. In science terms these devices are antiques.
    Bio-Rad S2
  • [45:06] Given how much DNA sequence can be obtained today in a relatively short time, wouldn't a graduate student think that running an acrylamide gel for six hours just to get a few hundred bp was a 'crock of s**t'?
  • [46:55] To get the starting material for the paper reviews (by film critics), MM searched for reviews on movies like Battlefield: Earth and Freddy Got Fingered.
  • [47:27] Hidden messages in the first characters of lines of text (an acrostic) is an oft-used gag. There is a headstone that does this, and former Governor Schwarzenegger did this in a note to the state government. We know of no time a film critic did this, though.
  • [48:02] The short review was originally intended to be a reference to the two-word review that Spinal Tap received for their album "Shark Sandwich" in the movie This Is Spinal Tap. See 36 seconds into the clip here. MM got to meet Rob Reiner in November of 2010.
  • [48:07] Former Congressman Anthony Weiner was at the center of a scandal in spring of 2011, then in a similar one in July of 2013.
  • [50:34] The satirical presentation of Mendel's Law of Segregation is an obvious reference to commercials about seatbelt laws.
  • [51:02] The autoclave tape image required Photoshop to paint stripes on the two rolls. No real tape was wasted during the production of this image.
  • [51:33] We always knew people in the worm community were funny. The 'give other people's poster' segment proves it. In future Worm Shows we just have to include more of this.
  • [51:33] During this gag, MM tried to avoid getting any usable images of people's posters, just in case there was some sensitive data on there, so the shots focus mostly on the presenters.
    Link Poster
  • [52:20] This poster presenter was at a poster about Q cell migration and building a story around some fictitious Q family that presumably migrated.
  • [53:11] Did you get a free WormBase scarf? In the past they had tote bags [50:31] and fly swatters.
  • [54:12] More than a few poster areas were blank.
  • [54:20] Malene Hansen's "poster talk" was in DANISH, with fake English subtitles. Maybe someone could tell us what she is really saying and we could post that here. Unfortunately, we cut before Malene says ‘rød grød med fløde’ which is considered to be really hard to say if you’re not a native Danish speaker.
  • [52:54] Oren is presenting the various Art Show exhibits as a coherent story.
  • [54:53] For this shot, CL moved the Positions Available sign from the left side of the bulletin board to the right, where nothing was posted.
    No Positions
  • [55:36] "This Worm Is Your Worm" was recorded between 4pm and 6pm on the first day of the meeting, before the first plenary session started. CL and MM set up in the reception area of Covel Commons, and then later in a conference room when we were told we couldn't take video in public places without a permit. Attendees were approached and asked to sing. Just about everyone said yes, especially when they were part of a group. It was a lot of fun to record contributions from other worm folks! Some really got into it. Art Edison was even singing harmonies.
  • [55:36] For all who were asked, but didn’t participate: Be warned – we considered having in the credits a list of those that refused to participate, perhaps under ‘party poopers’ or something similar. Of course that’s always a possibility for the future.
    This Worm Is Your Worm
  • [58:20] If it is not obvious, that's MM's mouth inserted into Brenner's face.
  • [1:00:00] Thanks to Andy Papp (Tritech Research) for giving us a 'Mid-Life Achievement Award for Art in Comedy'! (The award was actually presented before the show.)
  • A credit for the song "Prayer" by Sterling was accidentally left off of the end. This was the music behind the 'random thoughts'.
  • This show was about 2/3 video and 1/3 'live', which seems to be a good balance overall. CL and MM have little precedent to go by here, except the previous shows.
  • CL and MM did their first Worm Show without singing live! That had always been a form of stress before previous shows. Obviously the 'Bohemian Rhabditid' and 'This Worm Is Your Worm' bits served as music parodies.
  • Also not repeated from prior shows: Intro Star Wars opening with text crawl, a Top 10 list, 'Famous Moments in Worm History', and credits in the style of NPR's Car Talk. Next on the chopping block: Photoshopped movie posters. Hours of work, minimal payoff.
  • A conservative estimate of the show's run time, before we did it, was 48 minutes. It ran for 60 minutes, our longest show yet. You know, if you didn’t laugh so much, it wouldn’t take so long.
  • Are you wondering how MM uploaded a YouTube video that is longer than 15 minutes? Appreciate the mystery.
  • The YouTube video received some 150 views within two and a half days after it was posted July 1, 2011, 300 within four days, 500 within a week, 1000 within a month, and 1500 within four months. The most popular locations were the U.S., Hong Kong, Canada, India, France, Denmark, Japan, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom [YouTube Insight, 7/9/2011].
  • Will there be another show in 2013? [Well, there was one.] The 2011 show was the culmination of many years of preparation and ideas, and we just do not think we could top it, however. So for 2013 we are inviting Worm Labs to send in their contributions -- funny written material, images, videos. Or, maybe they have an idea for something they would like to do on the stage. We welcome suggestions and contributions, please email Morris.

More information:
Worm Show Page

2005 Worm Show / 2007 Worm Show / 2009 Worm Show

last updated 7-23-2013

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