Mark Frauenfelder over at BoingBoing recently shared this advice from wonderful comedian Bill Hicks, and noted that it likely applied to far more than comedy:
12 Principles of Comedy
- If you can be yourself on stage nobody else can be you and you have the law of supply and demand covered.
- The act is something you fall back on if you can’t think of anything else to say.
- Only do what you think is funny, never just what you think they will like, even though it’s not that funny to you.
- Never ask them is this funny – you tell them this is funny.
- You are not married to any of this shit – if something happens, taking you off on a tangent, NEVER go back and finish a bit, just move on.
- NEVER ask the audience “How You Doing?” People who do that can’t think of an opening line. They came to see you to tell them how they’re doing, asking that stupid question up front just digs a hole. This is The Most Common Mistake made by performers. I want to leave as soon as they say that.
- Write what entertains you. If you can’t be funny be interesting. You haven’t lost the crowd. Have something to say and then do it in a funny way.
- I close my eyes and walk out there and that’s where I start, Honest.
- Listen to what you are saying, ask yourself, “Why am I saying it and is it Necessary?” (This will filter all your material and cut the unnecessary words, economy of words)
- Play to the top of the intelligence of the room. There aren’t any bad crowds, just wrong choices.
- Remember this is the hardest thing there is to do. If you can do this you can do anything.
- I love my cracker roots. Get to know your family, be friends with them.
So here goes:
12 Principles of
 There is surely something to be said for being yourself, but beyond that, find a way to be in high demand. Maybe you’re a master of optogenetics or some other technique, perhaps you’re the lab guru when it comes to statistics, the literature or maybe you bring much needed positivity and perspective to the lab. Regardless of how you do it, find a way to be valuable to those around you.
 You need to be innovative. You need to find creative solutions to problems, or even better, find new and interesting problems. Avoid the predictable research.
 Be ruthless in your focus. Only research problems you find interesting, and minimize tasks that take you away from that research.
 Don’t wait for others to stumble across the significance of your research, present your research in a way that the significance is self-evident.
 You don’t have to look very far to find horror stories of projects gone awry with dramatic and terrible consequence. Don’t lock yourself to a sinking ship.
 Say use, not utilize. Avoid unnecessary jargon. Correlation != causation. Triple check for typos. Avoid the simple and common errors of others.
 Don’t spend years of your life doing something that makes you miserable. Maybe you love teaching more than research, or perhaps industry is a better fit than academia. Being a scientist means different things to different people, and there is little to be gained from success if you don’t find your work fulfilling.
 Always return to the fundamentals. What is my hypothesis? How am I testing it? Why does this problem matter?
 Less is more. Design elegant experiments which speak for themselves. Write simply and clearly. Speak directly and without embellishment.
 Always know your audience.
 Remember this is one of the hardest things there are to do. If you can do this you can do anything. Be proud of your accomplishments and contributions.
 Connect with those around you. Your family, your friends, other members of your lab, others in your field. Never forget where you have come from, or where you dream to go. Find the people who will help you get there.