I got a shout-out from SNL! Sort of…

Last week, the American Chemical Society‘s Reactions podcast released a video called ‘Zombie Apocalypse Survival Chemistry‘, which featured yours truly talking about two of my favorite topics – chemistry and zombies. Because everybody loves chemistry and zombies, or because The Walking Dead was wrapping up its season, this video got a bit of media attention last week. Even the folks at Saturday Night Live (SNL) mentioned this zombie chemistry, about 6:48 minutes into of the most recent Weekend Update.  Here’s the SNL joke…

A chemistry grad student in Nebraska is creating a new perfume he calls Eau de Death, which mimics the smell of decaying flesh so people can avoid being eaten by zombies.  Meanwhile, his professor is creating a new grade he calls ‘F minus’.

I would like to speak directly to SNL for a moment… SNL, I like this joke; it was well-delivered and got some laughs.  However…

  • You made me into a male graduate student.  I am a female postdoctoral research fellow and a member of the teaching faculty at my institution.  Truth be told, I’m a bit of a magical unicorn, so it’s odd you did not notice that. “Magical unicorn” you say?  I am a black female chemistry PhD. But as I said on twitter, SNL doesn’t have the best track record with black women, so… OH SNAP!
  • You made my boss – a tenured professor and principle investigator – a man. She is not a man.  Yes, Virginia, there are lady scientists! Oh, and she loved the video, so no “F minus” for me! Like a lot of scientists, my boss is passionate about outreach. Talking about the science of sci-fi is one way to get people interested in science.
  • I did not invent a perfume, which will also be a shock to the Daily Mail.  In the ACS Reactions video, I just talked about a “death cologne” – a bit of a thought experiment, if you will. Like a lot of other organisms, we could use chemical camouflage (‘Eau de Death’) to survive a predator. Sure, the predator in question is a zombie, but whatevs.  Science is a way to look at the world, a way to solve problems – even fake, silly problems like a zombie apocalypse.

In the future, SNL, if I’m ever sorta the punchline of a joke, could you do a teeny bit of fact checking? Unless the joke involves hookers and blow. For those jokes, please use my male grad student cover.


Featured image is a screen capture of SNL’s Weekend Update from 3/29/14


DrRubidium is an analytical chemist that spends her days finding needles in needlestacks. Also a science communicator, she focuses on the the science behind everyday stuff and pop culture.

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  1. Congrats! I can’t listen to the podcast here so you may have mentioned it, but they do just that in the “Rot and Ruin” series. They call it cadaverine. And I get that a lot too when I talk about zombies–they’re supposed to be a “boy thing” after all…

  2. It’s so awesome this was you! Too bad SNL got it wrong. But I LOVED the concept, I actually thought their snark was off-base because it’s obviously meant to be fun. Anyway, way to go!

  3. I’m surprised you’d think they would care. They read a “weird news” tidbit and wrote a joke about it. Your deconstruction and correction shows you don’t understand humor at a fundamental level. It’s not like they’re out fact-checking this stuff. They neither know, nor care, about the real story.

    1. It’s funny how “you don’t understand humor at a fundamental level” always equals “shut up and eat the shit sandwich, [insult bigoted slur here].”

    2. Your comment has some misplaced jerkishness. Dr Rubidium wrote a lighthearted post saying they got pretty much everything wrong. She’s not making a big deal out of it or even taking it seriously. And her post is way funnier than your touchy comment. Doesn’t seem that she’s the one with a humor problem…

    3. “They read a “weird news” tidbit and wrote a joke about it.”

      Yes, and while writing this tidbit they assumed that because it involved a scientist it involved a man, rather than doing the four seconds of work to check. That’s. The. Point.

    4. What have fact checking and levels of concern over story accuracy to do with the fundamentals of humor?

      Wow, you’re super intellectual with your insults…until you know…you write them down.

  4. Damn. My first thought was that, OK, drrubidium isn’t clearly male or female so maybe they just fell into the old “male as default” trap – but then I clicked and watched the (short) video where you’re mentioned with an actual, clearly female name and picture. And then you’re actually on the video and talking.

    Anyway, I’m allergic to perfume so what should I do to survive the zombie apocalypse? (If I just wear my sweaty, stinky gym clothes all the time and never wash them, do you reckon that smell will be similar enough?)

    1. You may not have an adverse reaction to Eau de Death as we’d wouldn’t be using common perfume ingredients – mainly because they’d likely get sniffed-out by a zombie. Just to be safe, however, I’d start working on your cardio and katana skills… :D

  5. I just plan on following my dog brethren and rolling around in dead carcasses to mask the smell. Truth be told I already do this when I go to the beach or in the woods. I don’t know why, but when I see a dead fish I just want to roll around in it.

  6. Yes, SNL has a terrible track record with black women. And, really, WEEKEND UPDATE has been in disarray — sloppy writing, poor comedic timing — since Seth Meyers, who was both head writer for it and senior anchor, left a couple of months ago to host his own late-night talkshow. Maybe this will serve as a wake-up call.

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