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The Stand-Up Psychologist

11 January 2008

Dean Burnett first discovered a gift for making people laugh when acting in student comedy shows as he studied for a neuroscience degree at Cardiff University. Now researching a PhD on memory at the University’s School of Psychology, Dean is also putting his understanding of the mind to use in stand-up comedy.

Dean, from Pontycymer near Bridgend, describes himself as Britain’s only neuroscientist/stand-up comedian. He has already built up a reputation on the comedy circuit, performing in London, where he supported Jo Brand, at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival and in several venues in Cardiff. Now he is to feature on a new BBC documentary about up-and-coming Welsh comedians, Funny Business, to be screened later this month.

Dean’s scientific background features heavily in his routines, including jokes about evolution, genetic modification and statistical analysis, all mixed in with a surreal view of life. He said: "My style is very observational and personal, based on my own experiences and perspective. As a neuroscientist, I do look for trends and patterns in behaviour, and that is reflected in my comedy."

Dean is now in the final year of his PhD research and wants to continue with both an academic career and with comedy. His latest comic project is to devise a ten minute routine for every letter in the alphabet. Dean asked 26 well-known comedians to suggest a topic for each letter and is now hoping to take the show to Edinburgh.

He said: "I had some really tough ones. Stewart Lee came up with sellotape and Stephen Grant suggested etymology - the study of the origin of words. The most difficult had to be Ya Asentewa, an Ashanti queen, who was suggested by Gina Yashere. That needed a bit of research!"

Funny Business, created by independent Welsh production company Dai4Films, follows a search to unearth new comic talent in Wales, with a £30,000 contract on offer to the most promising stand-up. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at the struggles of aspiring comedians to make a name for themselves. To find out how Dean got on, you can follow the series on BBC 2 Wales at 10pm on January 21.


Notes to Editors:

Cardiff University
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, the University today combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities.
Visit the University website at:

Cardiff School of Psychology
The School of Psychology is one of Britain top-rated schools of psychology, it being the first to achieve the double accolade of the highest grade of merit for both research and teaching. In an independent assessment of teaching, conducted by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales it was rated ‘Excellent’, and in the latest Research Assessment Exercise it was awarded the highest level of distinction, Grade 5A, indicating research of a uniform international standard. The School is one of the largest Schools of psychology in the United Kingdom. It currently has some 40 full-time teaching staff, including 12 professors, alongside 40 full-time research staff, and nearly 60 research students.

Further Information:

For more information, please contact:

Dean Burnett,
School of Psychology
Cardiff University
07971 764757

Stephen Rouse
Public Relations Office
Cardiff University
029208 75596