“The show that proves unusual scientific facts in the most hilarious ways.” That’s the billing for the delightful new television show Duck Quacks Don’t Echo, co-hosted by Tom Papa, Michael Ian Black, and Seth Herzog.
Duck Quacks premiered January 13 on National Geographic Channel, where two half-hour episodes air back to back on Mondays beginning at 10 PM. The show celebrates science via episodic competitions between the co-hosts to see who can present the most amazing scientific “facts.” But the facts—or, rather, hypotheses—are not just presented and explained. They’re also tested. Herein lies the big fun.
- Is it possible to build a functional hovercraft using readily available household objects? Papa and Herzog rev up two such homemade machines for an in-studio demonstration and race.
- Can airborne bacteria from a flushed toilet reach your toothbrush six feet away? Hazmat-suited experimenters “go CSI” on a bathroom, employing infrared light and dry ice to see how far aerosolized toilet water travels. (Not all the facts are pleasant!)
- Is it possible for a person to eat six saltine crackers in one minute without water? Black and Herzog try their respective, um, how shall I put it, “strategies.”
- When someone lies, does his nose warm up? If so, why? A professional poker player and other experts are marshalled to figure out the answers.
- Can four ceramic coffee mugs support a two-and-a-half-ton pickup truck? How about with nine people jumping up and down in the back? Audience members participate to find out.
- Is it possible to dance on top of a vat of pudding without sinking into it? Herzog dons some 80’s dance garb (“You look like Flashdance ate Footloose”) and goes for it.
- Can male enhancement drugs (such as Viagra™) keep cut flowers erect for a week beyond their normal stamina? (“If your flower remains erect for more than 192 hours, please see a botanist immediately.”)
The foregoing queries and several more are tested in the first four episodes of Duck Quacks. (Some of the experiments in these first few episodes are arguably less than scientifically sound, but the primary purpose here is entertainment.)
Future episodes reportedly will test such queries as whether the color red really makes bulls angry, whether swearing can increase one’s tolerance for pain, whether attractive women can retard men's thinking, whether a bathing suit cap can be stretched so far that an adult can fit inside, whether when singing the same song choir members' heartbeats will synchronize, whether it’s possible to scale walls using vacuum cleaners, and much more.
At the end of each episode, the studio audience votes on which host presented the “most impressive, outrageous or interesting” facts, and “the winner takes home the coveted ‘Golden Quack’ trophy.”
In addition to the tested hypotheses are interesting trivia questions such as “The human body contains enough carbon to fill how many pencils? (a) 90, (b) 900, (c) 9,000”; and “By the age of 60, the average person has lost half of their what? (a) Bone Mass, (b) Taste Buds, (c) Hair.”
The most crucial ingredient in the show, however, is the charisma, levity, and wit of the co-hosts: Tom Papa, Michael Ian Black, and Seth Herzog. These guys are pure fun.
Although I’m not familiar with the prior work of Black or Herzog, both men are clearly in their element here. Each shines. I am familiar with Papa, having discovered him a few months ago when my wife happened across his recent stand-up act, “Freaked Out” (which I’ll review later this week). Papa is a maverick comedian and a master entertainer, and his involvement in Duck Quacks not only made the first few episodes especially enjoyable; it also bodes well for the series going forward. My family and I eagerly await the next episode.
In these times of cultural relativism, religious mysticism, and political insanity, it’s good to see some reverence for reason, science, the mind. It’s even better to see it wrapped in benevolent hilarity. Tune in. Check it out. Let me know what you think.
(As to whether duck quacks echo, reportedly they do.)