Kilkenomics: Finding Humor In Economic Crisis

Irish economist and commentator David McWilliams talks with Melissa Block about Kilkenomics, the world's first economics/comedy festival taking place this weekend in Kilkenny, Ireland. He says comics can ask questions that cut through the jargon economists use — and allow average people to understand what went wrong with the world economy.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

In Kilkenny, Ireland this weekend, the practitioners of two very different disciplines are sitting down together. Their goal, first and foremost, is to make sense of the world economy. If that fails, make fun of it.

Mr. DAVID McWILLIAMS (Economist): What we've done is we've taken together Ireland's finest standup comedians and some of the world's finest economists. And we've come together for the first of its kind, which is an economics festival where the comedians ask the questions of the economists.

BLOCK: That's David McWilliams, he's an economist, not a comedian. And he's the man behind the first-ever Kilkenomics Economics and Comedy Festival.

Those questions he mentioned will be asked in Q-and-A sessions all over Kilkenny - in bars, restaurants, and theatres. McWilliams hopes to cut through the language and pretense that make economics often seem impenetrable.

Mr. McWILLIAMS: If the average guy comes in and he sees a standup comedian asking the question of the serious economists, well, then ultimately people in the audience will say, yeah, I'm going to ask that question. I now have permission to do so.

BLOCK: And the point, he says, is actually pretty serious.

Mr. McWILLIAMS: If you think that knowledge is power, well, then giving people the knowledge, packaging the knowledge in such a way that the knowledge becomes accessible, that empowers the people. And a powerful people, an educated people is the type of people that don't make the same mistakes twice.

BLOCK: In addition to sparking probing questions from the public, the festival should also get attendees laughing. Even economist McWilliams finds humor in the near-collapse of the world economy.

Mr. McWILLIAMS: The funniest thing is the fact that the banks, who destroyed it, are largely untouched.

BLOCK: The Kilkenomics Economics and Comedy Festival began yesterday in Kilkenny, Ireland and continues through the weekend.

One final note: festival organizers have created their own currency. They're calling it the Marble. It's worth 10 cents more than the Euro and will be accepted temporarily throughout Kilkenny. In fact, David McWilliams points out, for one weekend the Marble will be the strongest currency in Europe.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: You are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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