Photo courtesy of Imani Razat
Orion Razat is one clever kid, not to mention a precocious talent. He launched his literary career at the age of 5, writing and drawing imaginative stories in blank notebooks his mother bought for him at the art store. Noting his budding talent and stated interest in becoming an author, his parents taught him how to turn his stories into animations.
By the second grade, Razat had discovered a new talent: He had a knack for making his classmates laugh with jokes and puns he made up about his favorite subjects, science, technology, coding and slimy sea creatures. Sure, his jokes occasionally landed him in the “take-a-break chair” (a place, he notes, “reserved for basically anyone who was not cooperating”). But his teacher made him a deal — if he promised to write down his jokes instead of cracking them during math lessons, she would make time during the day when he could share them. A standup career in brainy comedy was born.
Three years later, Razat’s stockpile of zingers has been produced as a wonderfully illustrated book for science geeks of all ages, “101 STEM Jokes,” that features puns, fascinating facts and activities that make STEM learning fun.
In addition to the milestone of his first published work, Razat has been awarded for his creative vision as a young entrepreneur in the annual Kids Who Bank Kidpreneur Awards and was also a winner in the University of Washington’s 2020 Neuroscience for Kids Poetry Contest. We caught up with Razat to learn more about his new book and love of STEM.
When did you first realize you were funny?
I realized in kindergarten when I shared my books and animations with my class!
What inspired you to turn your STEM humor into a book?
I was making jokes during class time in second grade. At first, I didn’t really get into any real trouble for it — I would just have to take small breaks during class. I had to sit in the “take-a-break chair” for a minute or so. The longest anyone had to sit in that chair was for about five minutes. Finally, one day after school, my teacher spoke to my mom and me and she asked me to write my jokes down instead of telling them during class.
Who helped you develop the book?
Mom typed my jokes into her Notes app after school if there wasn’t any paper around. My dad noticed that most of my jokes were based on science and math, so he suggested that I add technology and engineering jokes, too. My Nana [Treva Primus Fitts], an award-winning science teacher, edited the jokes to make sure that the information was educational. Also, my mom helped with fun facts and took me to a few business meetings; one was with the Washington Lawyers for the Arts to figure out if I could own copyrights as a kid.
What do you think is the funniest joke in the book? How about your favorite fun fact? Activity?
Funniest joke: “How does a plant take a selfie?” “With photosynthesis.” My favorite fun fact: It’s a secret, it’s on page 20. My favorite activity is an engineering activity where you build something using only gummy bears and toothpicks, and then you get to eat them after.
What are your favorite STEM subjects?
I like them all, but right now science is my favorite because it’s exciting and you can make fun experiments with simple everyday objects. For example, you can create a chemical reaction with baking soda and vinegar. I find that really enjoyable.
Is humor a good way to learn things?
Yes, because sometimes learning can be boring and humor adds that extra bit of fun to your everyday math assignments.
Why should kids read your book?
Because I think they’ll enjoy it and learn something new at the same time.
What are you working on now?
I am working on designing a board game with colored blocks and some math involved.