“I was in college, and I was supposed to be a doctor. I was pre-med, but I didn’t take the MCAT, to go to school right after. So, I had this gap year, and I was always really interested in writing. I was a journalism minor, chemistry major in college and I interned, and I wrote science stories for our school newspaper.

But because I had this gap year before I would presumably enter medical school, I told my parents, I said, just let me go to science journalism grad school … This is my last chance to do this before I go to medical school and my life is over. Like I think those were kind of maybe very close to my exact words.”

Medicine’s loss was journalism’s (and comedy’s) gain. While in grad school, Kasha Patel found a path to a career in science writing at NASA and now science journalism at The Washington Post, where she covers climate and weather science in an interesting and entertaining way. She’s also a stand-up comedian who has opened for some prominent acts.

Here are 3 things I learned from our conversation. You can listen to the full interview here.

1) Getting attention to climate stories isn’t easy

“So, we would do these climate change talks, but they always got the least amount of views and likes. We needed to figure out a new way to do it because people just got kind of bummed out, even if it wasn’t done in a bum me out way.

… So, when we were talking about products we would like to see with the climate (unit) launch, I thought, well, climate science can be pretty depressing, and I’m not trying to make those topics fun or funny, but I think it could use some counter programming At heart I love science.

“I have my science degree, my science journalism degree, and I love learning how things work and I just wanted to share that excitement with people and get people excited about geology and volcanoes. And if that leads them to, you know, a climate change article, that’s great. If it helps ’em engage more with these topics, that’s great. And it also goes with my personal mission, with my standup comedy, where I specialize in science jokes. It’s my personal mission that I think you can reach wider audiences with different backgrounds with humor or something a little more engaging.”

2) It pays to be clever

We thought about the climate change mating and dating one because … we were trying to think of a topic that young people would like, because Washington Post research says that, uh, our demographic is pretty old, and they want to reach out to younger people to be readers and subscribers.

The young people say that it feels like their professor is talking to them and they don’t like, uh, reading about climate change because it’s daunting and depressing.

So, we were thinking, okay, what are ways that we can show that that is not the case here?

We thought about doing a video where I would be on the street talking to people about their dating and mating habits. More dating, not mating, and how weather has affected that, how their choices in a partner have changed recently. And then we also looked into research that actually surrounds that. And there is some research in animals … The way that some sexual animals are attracting their mates, like a dragonfly likes to have dark pigments in its wing, and that helps attract a female. Some of those flashy traits are becoming too energy expensive. So, in climate change, they’re absorbing too much heat and it’s inhibiting their job, which is to reproduce.

So, they’re actually changing up these longstanding genetic evolution, like sexual traits, that they use to attract mates. I thought it was a really cool combination: Where Evolutionary biology meets climate change

3) Her two worlds do intersect in how she writes.

“There are a lot of similarities between how I write a joke and how I approach an article. And I would say those similarities are only increasing as I get the opportunity to write funnier lines in my articles.

I write the serious part first because that’s the most important part of a joke. If you don’t understand or communicate the premise very well, there’s no way they’re gonna be able to understand it. So, I just try and make my premise as concise and clear as it possibly can be. I like to think of it, as how I write a headline for an article. It’s just the bare necessities. So, they can pay attention and absorb that information.

And then I think of punchlines for it by, there are a couple of different tactics. What would be a surprising way for this joke to end? What is clever word play? Um, what’s a funny comparison I can use to explain the concept I’m talking about a little further. And those are also things I try and do in my journalism articles”