Bishop’s Stortford comedian Steve Bugeja is on a mission to bring a bit of laughter to lockdown while educating his audience about a subject many find intimidating.
The stand-up, who won the BBC New Comedy Award in 2013, has created a web series called Economics To Go.
Videos, each around two-and-a-half minutes long, provide viewers with amusing explainers on an assortment of issues such as why asylum seekers are economically valuable, why we should feed hungry children and why the lockdown makes sense.
“I did economics at university and it’s been a chronically underused part of my intelligence, much to my parents’ annoyance,” said the former Bishop’s Stortford High School student. “I’ve got a huge amount of student debt and I never used any of this.”
Steve – who has previously supported Stortford charities Grove Cottage and Retune – has taken critically-acclaimed solo shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. His TV appearances include The Russell Howard Hour, Love Island: Aftersun and Zoe Ball on Saturday. Off camera, he has penned jokes for shows including Mock the Week and Russell Howard’s Good News.
His newest venture, however, has given him an outlet in which he can marry his talent for comedy with his know-how on economics.
“I genuinely like economics. It sounds a bit geeky and rubbish, but I get very frustrated that the general public have a limited understanding of economics because I think it’s presented in such a terrible way. In the news, it’s always like jargon-y – it’s just numbers and stuff, and it doesn’t really mean anything.
“Actually, it’s not that complicated, it’s really basic – it’s just like life. It’s just humans behaving, that’s what economics is – and our decision-making.
“I get frustrated that no-one communicates that really clearly. So I thought I’ll try and use humour to create bite-size videos on certain topics and try to make it relatable and understandable without being patronising.
“I thought if I could engage people and make economics seem less scary, I guess, then I could make it seem like a subject that is actually quite interesting.”
With the UK economy on course for a double-dip recession this winter, Steve’s videos might help some viewers educate themselves on the nation’s financial state of affairs in a way that does not dwell on the doom and gloom.
“Almost every decision that’s getting made with the pandemic has got economic consequences and I feel that there’s a sort of gap in our nation’s… not knowledge… just like narrative. It doesn’t get spoken about. It’s sort of ignored. Maybe because journalists feel a bit scared by it as well.
“And I feel quite passionately that it’s not that difficult to understand. So I thought I’d make a series.”
In order to create his videos, Steve learned how to edit and how to work with a green screen – all on his laptop – and the results seem to be paying off.
“It’s been great. The feedback’s been amazing. I get so many nice comments.
“The best thing actually is when people who have no interest in economics at all go, ‘Oh, great, I understand that now. I don’t feel that that’s an alien topic.’ Y’know, like GDP or something like that. So that’s a great feeling.”
This is not the first time Steve has explored fusing his two areas of expertise. He has hosted BBC Radio 4 series Economics with Subtitles alongside broadcaster Ayeisha Thomas-Smith, an everyday guide to economics and why listeners should care about the topic.
“It’s actually how this came about, really, because I loved doing that so much. It was a really fun show and it was a similar kind of aim: to make economics seem more accessible and more interesting.
“But that was half an hour, so bit more of a commitment, and I always felt that there are ways to communicate really simple ideas in really quite quick bite-size chunks.
“I think the video series wouldn’t have come about if it hadn’t been for the Radio 4 show because I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to think that economics could be funny. Because it’s mainly quite dry.
“But politics is quite dry as well and that’s regularly made funny, and I think it’s a similar challenge.”
As well as helping his audience understand economics, Steve hopes his speciality will help to set him apart from his comedy peers.
“In comedy, especially now, it’s really important to have different strings to your bow,” he said.
“I don’t know if there are other comedians who have a passion for economics, maybe there’s loads. But I feel like there’s a gap in the market – the comedy market – to bring economics to life.”
To watch Steve’s series, visit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClK8Zod8UsKti7QD9sS_cQg or follow him on Twitter via @SteveBugeja.