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A Night Among the Skeptics

by Ryan Johnson, Apr 21 2009
Brian Dunning discusses his Skeptoid Podcast

Brian Dunning discusses his Skeptoid Podcast

For those of you that missed it, the Skeptoid 150th podcast party was great! I was lucky enough to attend as an honored guest, and I wanted to share some of the event highlights with you.

First off a bit of background. If you don’t know what I’m talking about or you don’t know what Skeptoid is, then shame on you! Stop reading this trivial blog and go straight to and subscribe and support this great project by fellow Skeptologist, Brian Dunning.

Brian celebrated the recording of his 150th podcast episode this weekend in grand style by throwing a gala affair at the posh University Club on the UC Irvine campus. Our group of somewhere around 80 (I’m guessing) of his friends, family, and fans were able to rub elbows with fellow skeptics, TV celebrities and of course Brian Dunning himself.

I started listening to Skeptoid back in the days when I was doing the American Dragster TV series on ESPN. I had many hours to kill weekly on the road. I have always enjoyed the succinct, clear and entertaining take that Brian had on each podcast episode. It’s a to-the-point skeptical program that breaks down some of the best current topics and distills things down to the facts.

The podcasts are really fun, and I found that even the episodes that I thought I would have little interest in, I ended up really enjoying thanks to Brian’s hard work at making the subject matter facinating and entertaining.

At face value, what he does is simple. Brian takes a subject, researches it and then makes a podcast. I can assure you the actual process involved is anything but simple. Hours of research, and writing go into each episode and it shows! His ability to condense the topics into entertaining bite-size pieces was what motivated me to reach out to Brian first when I was thinking about creating a skeptical thinking TV Series. Now a year later I’m honored to call Brian a great friend and business associate as we continue pressing forward on the Skeptologists and other related media projects.

The party on Saturday was great. Shawna (Coordinating Producer for The Skeptologists and my great friend) accompanied me to the UC Irvine campus where the event was held.

Myself (Ryan Johnson) and Shawna Young

Myself (Ryan Johnson) and Shawna Young

We walked in and were immediately greeted by a sharply dressed Brian, and his stunning wife Lisa, who kept the evening moving forward and handled all the background stuff so that Brian could mingle with his many fans. We proceeded to enjoy a cocktail while we chatted with several friends and others that were attending. Friend, and amazing composer, Lee Sanders and his girlfriend were there. They were a huge part of the production of “Project Dunstable” which would be the highlight later that evening.

The piano in the corner was played deftly by musician Peter Zachos, while we enjoyed each other’s company. We chatted with old and new friends, like Gus and Sarah from Georgia, Lee, Derek and others. Yau-Man the big time TV star was there and seemed to always be busy talking with everyone. The Dunning children, Andrew and Erika were running around making sure everything was just perfect, they are amazing.

After drinks, we assembled in the dining room and ate our dinner while Brian introduced his family and a few of the distinguished guests.

Then, our own Mark Edward stepped up to the podium to perform his amazing feats of mentalism for what was probably the toughest crowd a mentalism entertainer can have: A room full of skeptics! Whew! I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole. But Mark, the consummate showman, worked the audience and put on a great performance!

Brian talked about how he produces the podcast, his favorite episode (The Search for the Missing Cosmonauts) and other fun tidbits about the show.

Brian then asked me to come to the stage and give everyone a bit of an update about The Skeptologists which I did. I talked briefly about what the show was, why I thought it was important and that it was time for a show like this to make it. I let the group in attendance in on a little bit more information about the current status, that I’m not going to write on this blog — (plausible deniability, sorry –don’t throw that tomato) but it basically involved a particular entity that may or may not be considering the show and the fact that I thought that it’s a great fit, but we’re waiting to hear back. That’s all I’m gonna say for fear of wrecking a possible deal. Talk amongst yourselves, but those who actually know… not on the blog (please?!).

Mark demonstrating his mad mentalism skills.

Mark demonstrating his mad mentalism skills.

There were some trivia questions, and prizes in return for answers for some pretty tough Skeptoid trivia questions. Brian and others provided copies of their books for the prizes and Erika ran around the room passing them out.

Brian, who was a bit hoarse from an earlier cold presented a live Skeptoid episode about the placebo effect. The depth of information and some interesting anecdotes about the use of this tool in medicine and research was very interesting.

Yau Man took the stage and gave everyone an insiders perspective on participating in 2 Seasons of CBS’s Survivor. He spoke about what it was like, and I think that most people were interested to learn how the dirt, hunger and misery was all very real. We learned about the way the editors choose the subject matter and how even though it might be a compelling bit of video, events that unfolded that were not moving the active main story forward were never seen.

Yau-Man and the reality of reality shows.

Yau-Man and the reality of reality shows.

After that, Brian presented “Project Dunstable” which was a fun and whimsical romp through the topics and emotions that fill a skeptic as they move through their lives. Rather than spoil that surprise, I’ll let you go to and download Episode #150 for yourself which should be up online by the time you’re reading this blog. It’s a blast, and you shouldn’t miss it.

A great time was had by all, to be able to have the chance to see what Brian does best, live and unedited in the company of other skeptics, friends and family was a real treat.
Only Brian can get a crowd cheering by simply saying “I’m Brian Dunning from” And that alone is worth the price of admission.

Here’s to another 150 podcast episodes Brian! Great job!

8 Responses to “A Night Among the Skeptics”

  1. Amber says:

    It was a wonderful event, and my husband and I had an amazing time. Thanks to the Dunning family for all the hard work that must have gone into pulling this together!

  2. ddr says:

    My wife and I had tickets and were planning to drive over from Phoenix. But she was just not far enough along on an important school project and we had to call it off. I’m very sorry to have missed it.

  3. gwen says:

    I’ve been a fan of Brian’s for about…. 150 episodes! Sorry to have missed the party, work would not allow it! I don’t always agree, but I am always entertained! I would like to take the time to mention his wonderful video on the internet which is free to download called ‘Here be Dragons’!

  4. Ryan Johnson says:

    One thing that I forgot to mention is that is was very cool to Twitter about the event and then go back and read others take on the same event later that night. Everyone had their phones in their hands posting info to #SkeptoidParty as the night progressed. Gotta love technology!

    BTW: Follow me on Twitter: RyanNRP

  5. Frank says:

    I am so sad that South Africa is so far away. I would have loved to have been there! I hope more pictures of the event are available somewhere?

  6. Jim Shaver says:

    Skeptoid episode 150 is fantastic, one that must be heard multiple times! I knew Brian was talented, but I didn’t know he was that talented.

  7. I just have to second the absolute greatness of skeptoid episode 150 someone should make a skeptical musical… seriously! Great work on that episode Brian it had me chuckling like a maniac on the underground.

  8. david webb says:

    I felt moved to add my thanks for Brians work (yes I did send money Brian) and would have been there at the 150 show but I am stuck here in Australia. The depth and variety of Brians podcasts have endured through many the dozens I have listened to. The lack of too much music and promos is also a blessing. But the meat of the shows is the sceptical and realistic approach to commonly held beliefs. Brians answers to questions and critical accusations are a laugh. And we will forgive him for the clever but wacky song and dance act recently