10 things I love about Boston
By Robin Abrahams
I mean, I kind of have to, don't I?
Because it's not just that my husband invented, produces, and MC's the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony--it's how we met. Seven years ago I was working at Harvard and the Gazette had run a little squib that the Igs were looking for volunteers. So I called Mr. Improbable, and we met at the Algiers Coffee Shop to discuss the show, and I was wearing that red dress, and he didn't know how to work a teapot with loose tea instead of bags, and we talked for three hours, and here we are.
But that's not the only reason I love the show. The Igs are given--10 of them every year--to achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The winners are invited to come to the ceremony and accept, and most of them do. From all over the world, often bringing co-authors, colleagues, spouses, children, and translators in tow.
They start pouring in the Wednesday before the show, or the Thursday of it (the Igs held are on the first Thursday in October--yes, as in this Thursday, and tickets are still on sale), showing up at the theater with no idea what to expect. Inventors hoping to strike it rich. Academics a little dazed that anyone actually read that paper they published fifteen years ago, let alone gave it a prize. Doctors and engineers all too eager to explain their unusual techniques. After the show they are exhilarated and slaphappy, and we shove a lot of snacks and wine into them and send them home. Saturday we round up all the winners again and bring them to MIT, where they get a little bit more time to explain themselves at the Ig Informal Lectures. And then we have a wonderful party Saturday night.
And it matters. It is a silly, silly thing, these prizes, this ceremony with mock debates and mini-operas and a "Win a Date with a Nobel Laureate Contest," but it does matter. 2001 proved that to me. The ceremony that year was a little less than a month after September 11--enough time that it seemed okay to laugh again, but we were laughing in a shadow and we knew it.
The world felt very bad then. And it mattered--oh, it mattered so much--to be in that room with those people, those good people doing laughter-and-thought-provoking things. As though despite all the darkness, the fear and ignorance and hatred, there was a bright sparkling web all over the world made up of people--in India, Lithuania, Canada, Australia, and more--who wanted to laugh, and to think, and to make others do the same.