The Psychology of Comedy with Matt Meese

Matthew Meese is a sketch comedian and actor who is best known for his role as actor, head writer, and co-creator of Studio C, a popular comedy show on both BYUtv and YouTube. Matt Meese joins the Matt Townsend Show to talk about the Psychology of Comedy. Matt and Jeff Simpson perform a radio play at the end of the segment.

Watch a sketch created by Matt Meese that’s received over 19 million views on Youtube:

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Join The Matt Townsend Show, Weekdays 9am-12pm ET on BYU RADIO (Sirius XM Channel 143) or

Why Clowns Creep Us Out

From the observing the clown scaring epidemic to watching normal circus-loving clowns, it’s probable that you’re a little weary of these face-painted fools. Dr. Frank McAndrew confirms your fears may be very legitimate:

“My research was the first empirical study of creepiness, and I had a hunch that feeling creeped out might have something to do with ambiguity – about not really being sure how to react to a person or situation.

We recruited 1,341 volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 77 to fill out an online survey. In the first section of the survey, our participants rated the likelihood that a hypothetical “creepy person” would exhibit 44 different behaviors, such as unusual patterns of eye contact or physical characteristics like visible tattoos. In the second section of the survey, participants rated the creepiness of 21 different occupations, and in the third section they simply listed two hobbies that they thought were creepy. In the final section, participants noted how much they agreed with 15 statements about the nature of creepy people.

The results indicated that people we perceive as creepy are much more likely to be males than females (as are most clowns), that unpredictability is an important component of creepiness and that unusual patterns of eye contact and other nonverbal behaviors set off our creepiness detectors big time.” -Dr. Frank McAndrew 

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Matt talks with Dr. Frank McAndrew, a Professor of Psychology at Knox College. He is an evolutionary social psychologist whose research is guided by the simple desire to make sense of everyday life, and he is currently studying gossip, aggression, and creepiness. He appeared on our show earlier this year to discuss gossip as a social a skill. For the past couple of months’ sightings of people dress up as clowns has caused concern and panic. But aren’t clowns supposed to be fun? In some venues they make jokes and blow up balloon animals but in others they terrify people. Why is it that we are so terrified of clowns? Dr. McAndrews explains.

Join The Matt Townsend Show, Weekdays 9am-12pm ET on BYU RADIO (Sirius XM Channel 143) or

Kaepernick and the Constitution

There’s been a lot of controversy over Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the National Anthem. Professor Gershman of Pace Law School in New York tells us why there might not be a need for so much controversy:

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. The action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment of our Constitution to reserve from all official control.” -Bennett L. Gershman 

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Matt talks with Bennett L. Gershman, a tenured Professor of Law at Pace Law School in New York. Gershman courses mainly focus on Constitutional Law, Prosecutorial Ethic, Judicial Ethics, Criminal law and Criminal Procedure. Colin Kaepernick, a NFL football player, has made a lot of noise in his protest against racial inequality. Kaepernick’s protest, which involves taking a knee during the National Anthem at NFL football games, has sparked a national outcry. This has not been the first time this debate has created a wave effect in our society. Professor Bennet L. Gershman explains the legal issues around this protest.

Join The Matt Townsend Show, Weekdays 9am-12pm ET on BYU RADIO (Sirius XM Channel 143) or

Is Anti-Bacterial Soap Bad for You?

Always gathering your favorite anti-bacterial hand soaps with the best-smelling scents? According to Dr. Sarah Ades, maybe it’s time to reconsider using those in your home:

“What’s the downside to having antibacterials in soap? It is potentially huge, both for those using it and for society as a whole. One concern is whether the antibacterials can directly harm humans. Triclosan had become so prevalent in household products that in 2003 a nationwide survey of healthy individuals found it in the urine of 75 percent of the 2,517 people tested. Triclosan has also been found in human plasma and breast milk. Most studies have not shown any direct toxicity from triclosan, but some animal studies indicate that triclosan can disrupt hormone systems. We do not know yet whether triclosan affects hormones in humans. Another serious concern is the effect of triclosan on antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Bacteria evolve resistance to nearly every threat they face, and triclosan is no exception.”  -Dr. Sarah Ades 

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Matt talks with Dr. Sarah Ades, an Associate Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Penn State University. Prior to arriving at Penn State, Dr. Ades received her B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University and Ph.D. in biology from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Recently, research regarding antiseptics found that the chemicals have little benefit but a lot of risk for individuals. An F-D-A ruling in September banned the use of 19 antiseptics from household soaps, but what does that mean for you and me? Dr. Sarah Ades explains.


Join The Matt Townsend Show, Weekdays 9am-12pm ET on BYU RADIO (Sirius XM Channel 143) or

Future Automated Cars

When you were a kid, what did you picture the future to look like? Would we be driving around flying cars and constantly visiting space? Well, that might not be far off front the truth. Dr. Andrew Maynard talks about fully automated cars coming to us soon:

“In 2014, over 32,000 people were killed in car crashes in the U.S. In 2012, more than two million Americans visited the emergency room as a result of car crashes. And an estimated 94 percent of the crashes that cause these injuries and fatalities are attributable to human choice or error. These are sobering statistics. And because human behavior is at the heart of them, they raise an interesting question: Once we can take people out of the equation, could driving your own car become as socially frowned on as other risky habits, like smoking? It’s less an intriguing hypothetical than a near-future public health question thanks to the rapid development and emergence of self-driving cars. And a new federal policy for automated vehicles from the U.S. Department of Transportation has just given self-driving cars another nudge forward.” -Dr. Andrew Maynard 

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Matt talks with Dr. Andrew Maynard, the Director of the Arizona State University Risk Innovation Lab. His current work spans emerging and converging technologies such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology, the internet of things and 3D printing, to innovative approaches to current and emerging risks more generally. More and more Americans are being killed in car crashes every year. New studies also show that 94 percent of the crashes that cause injuries and fatalities are attributable to human choice or error. That leads to a fascinating question that deserves attention. Could driving your own car become as socially frowned on as other risky habits, like smoking? Dr. Andrew Maynard discusss the future of automated driving.

Join The Matt Townsend Show, Weekdays 9am-12pm ET on BYU RADIO (Sirius XM Channel 143) or

Vocal Fry

From the Kardashians to valley girls alike, there’s a strange phenomenon that happens to some womens’ voices nowadays… and there’s an actual phrase to describe it.  Vocal fry is defined as a “register (also known as creak, croak, popcorning, glottal fry, glottal rattle, glottal scrape, or strohbass) that is the lowest vocal register and is produced through a loose glottal closure which will permit air to bubble through slowly with a popping or rattling sound of a very low frequency.” (Wikipedia)

Here’s a video below that shows exactly what this is:

Dr. Mark Liberman, an American linguist, tells us more about this “trend” of talking, and how it is taking over the millennial world.

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Matt talks with Dr. Mark Liberman, an expert in linguistics. He has a dual appointment at the University of Pennsylvania, as Trustee Professor of Phonetics in the Department of Linguistics, and as a professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. He is Faculty Master at Ware College House, Director of Linguistic Data Consortium and Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Linguistics. His recent publications include: “Development of Pitch Contrast in Korean Prosody: A Corpus Study” and “Vocal Fry: ‘Creeping in’ or ‘still here’?” Dr. Liberman talks about the phenomenon of “Vocal Fry” and why it is used.


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