5-questions: Comedian Robert Mac

1. Can you tell us more about yourself and how you became a comedian?

I’ve always been interested in thinking about things in different ways, and at a young age I was exposed to stand-up comedy—through syndicated radio shows and Steve Martin albums—and I remember the moment I wondered if what I was hearing was something someone could do, a job. And it is!

One aspect of being a comedian is analyzing things: breaking them down and rearranging them in new way. And that new way can be surprising, which leads to laughs. Getting laughs (in 5th grade, for instance) feels great. It’s empowering, but more than that, it makes people feel good. It was around this time that I started to try to write jokes. I was a good student—that analytical mind—and would always try to think of the perspective that no one else did. And when it got laughs, I kept doing it.

I got on stage for the first time in 1993 and it went pretty well. The comedy bug bit me and I haven’t looked back.

2. How did you first learn about ARAC and what sparked your interest in becoming a fellow with us?

After many years of stand-up, I realized that I had more to offer than just jokes. I started to produce shows to give deserving comics more stage time—women, for instance, are still not equally represented on stage—and then I started to focus my material on issues that are important to me, like saving Earth (which is my favorite planet within driving distance). I pushed myself to make 50 short save-the-planet videos for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and those got some traction. At some point, Lance Price asked me if I could create similar pieces on a different topic.

3. Why did you and ARAC decide to use humor to educate people on antibiotic resistance?

Along with performing comedy, I teach classes in stand-up, and I’ve learned that comedy is a great way to approach serious issues. Laughter can reduce stress and break the ice (and a bunch more stuff), and we decided that making antibiotic resistance fun or funny or even approachable could help the cause and get the word out about it. Once you can laugh at (or even around) a certain topic, you can strip it of its seriousness or taboo and people are more open to learn about it. I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of it, but getting people to hear about it while they’re laughing will increase the odds that they’ll walk away with some knowledge about it.

4. How do you go about coming up with ideas for the videos you create for ARAC? Have you used humor to promote other good causes?

If so, what causes and where can our readers check them out? I create the videos with the sense of humor and scientific expertise of Lance and Laura Rogers. We discuss what topics or approaches we want to cover and bounce ideas around. Comedy is nothing more than seeing something from another point of view, with something interesting added to it to make it more accessible. Lance and Laura are kind of a sounding board; they provide the facts and I tweak it a little and that’s how our collaboration is able to come up with fun concepts. Bouncing ideas around with them has been a highlight of my week.

As I mentioned, I made a bunch of videos for Earth Day. I also made a series of “Stress Less” videos for stress awareness month. I’m slowly getting the hang of conveying something factual in a fun and short way—about a minute. I have a bunch of different playlists on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/robertmaction

5. After learning about the antibiotic resistance crisis we face, what freaks you out? What gives you hope?

Yeesh, is it scary! The more I learn about the antibiotic resistance crisis, the more I panic. I’m freaked out because humans only think of themselves and of the present, and that’s how we got into the issues we have today: antibiotic resistance and global warming, to name a few. But humans also will do anything to save their skin, so I know we’ll figure this out. Maybe too late, but eventually. The fact that more and more people are talking about this and aware of it gives me hope.