150 THINGS (NOT) TO DO OR SAY AT OR FOR YOUR THESIS DEFENSE
Written by Peter Dutton, Jim Lalopoulos, and Alison Berube
- "Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise for the singing
of our National Anthem..."
- Charge 25 cents a cup for coffee.
- "Charge the mound" when a professor beans you
with a high fast question.
- Describe parts of your thesis using interpretive dance.
- "Musical accompaniment provided by..."
- Stage your own death/suicide.
- Lead the specators in a Wave.
- Have a sing-a-long.
- "You call THAT a question? How the hell did they
make you a professor?"
- "Ladies and Gentlemen, as I dim the lights, please
hold hands and concentrate so that we may channel the
spirit of Lord Kelvin..."
- Have bodyguards outside the room to
"discourage" certain professors from sitting
- Puppet show.
- Group prayer.
- Animal sacrifice to the god of the Underworld.
- Sell T-shirts to recoup the cost of copying, binding,
- "I'm sorry, I can't hear you - there's a banana in
- Imitate Groucho Marx.
- Hold a Tupperware party.
- Have a bikini-clad model be in charge of changing the
- "Everybody rhumba!!"
- "And it would have worked if it weren't for those
- Charge a cover and check for ID.
- "In protest of our government's systematic and
brutal opression of minorities..."
- "Anybody else as drunk as I am?"
- Smoke machines, dramatic lighting, pyrotechnics...
- Use a Super Soaker to point at people.
- Surreptitioulsy fill the room with laughing gas.
- Door prizes and a raffle.
- "Please phrase your question in the form of an
- "And now, a word from our sponsor..."
- Present your entire talk in iambic pentameter.
- Whine piteously, beg, cry...
- Switch halfway through your talk to Pig Latin. Or Finnish
- The Emperor's New Slides ("only fools can't see the
- Table dance (you or an exotic dancer).
- Fashion show.
- "Yo, a smooth shout out to my homies..."
- "I'd like to thank the Academy..."
- Minstrel show (blackface, etc.).
- Previews, cartoons, and the Jimmy Fund.
- Pass the collection basket.
- Two-drink minimum.
- Black tie only.
- "Which reminds me of a story - A Black guy, a
Chinese guy, and a Jew walked into a bar..."
- Incite a revolt.
- Hire the Goodyear Blimp to circle the building.
- Release a flock of doves.
- Defense by proxy.
- "And now a reading from the Book of Mormon..."
- Leave Jehovah's Witness pamphlets scattered about.
- "There will be a short quiz after my
- "Professor Walcerz, will you marry me?"
- Bring your pet boa.
- Tell ghost stories.
- Do a "show and tell".
- Food fight.
- Challenge a professor to a duel. Slapping him with a
glove is optional.
- Halftime show.
- "Duck, duck, duck, duck... GOOSE!"
- "OK - which one of you farted?"
- Sell those big foam "We're number #1" (sic)
- Pass out souvenir matchbooks.
- 3-ring defense.
- "Tag - you're it!"
- Circulate a vicious rumor that the Dead will be opening,
making sure that it gets on the radio stations, and
escape during all the commotion.
- Post signs: "Due to a computer error at the
Registrar's Office, the original room is not available,
and the defense has been relocated to (Made-up
non-existent room number)"
- Hang a pinata over the table and have a strolling
- Make each professor remove an item of clothing for each
question he asks.
- Rent a billboard on the highway proclaiming "Thanks
for passing me Professors X,Y, and Z" - BEFORE your
- Have a make-your-own-sundae table during the defense.
- Make committee members wear silly hats.
- Simulate your experiment with a virtual reality system
for the spectators.
- Do a soft-shoe routine.
- Throw a masquerade defense, complete with bobbing for
apples and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.
- Use a Greek Chorus to highlight important points.
- "The responsorial psalm can be found on page 124 of
- Tap dance.
- "I'm sorry Professor Smith, I didn't say 'SIMON SAYS
any questions?'. You're out."
- Flex and show off those massive pecs.
- Dress in top hat and tails.
- Hold a pre-defense pep rally, complete with cheerleaders,
pep band, and a bonfire.
- Detonate a small nuclear device in the room. Or threaten
- Shadow puppets.
- Show slides of your last vacation.
- Put your overheads on a film strip. Designate a professor
to be in charge of turning the strip when the tape
- Same as #88, but instead of a tape recorder, go around
the room making a different person read the pre-written
text for each picture.
- "OK, everybody - heads down on the desk until you
show me you can behave."
- Call your advisor "sweetie".
- Have everyone pose for a group photo.
- Instant replay.
- Laugh maniacally.
- Talk with your mouth full.
- Start speaking in tongues.
- Spontaneously combust.
- Answer every question with a question.
- Moon everyone in the room after you are done.
- "Laugh, will you? Well, they laughed at Galileo,
they laughed at Einstein..."
- Hand out 3-D glasses.
- "I'm rubber, you're glue..."
- Go into labor (especially for men).
- Give your entire speech in a "Marvin Martian"
- "I don't know - I didn't write this."
- Before your defense, build trapdoors underneath all the
- Swing in through the window, yelling a la Tarzan.
- Lock the department head and his secretary out of the
defense room. And the coffee lounge, the department
office, the copy room, and the mail room. Heck, lock them
out of the building. And refuse to sell them stamps
(NOTE: This is an inside gripe, based on conditions that
existed in the ME department at WPI while we were there.
- Roll credits at the end. Include a "key grip",
and a "best boy".
- Hang a disco ball in the center of the room. John
Travolta pose optional.
- Invite the homeless.
- "I could answer that, but then I'd have to kill
- Get a friend to ask the first question. Draw a
blank-loaded gun and "shoot" him. Have him make
a great scene of dying (fake blood helps). Turn to the
stunned audience and ask "any other wise-ass
- Same as #116, except use real bullets.
- "Well, I saw it on the Internet, so I figured it
might be a good idea..."
- Wear clown makeup, a clown wig, clown shoes, and a clown
nose. And nothing else.
- Use the words "marginalized",
"empowerment", and "patriarchy".
- Play Thesis Mad Libs.
- Try to use normal printed paper on the overhead
- Do your entire defense operatically.
- Invite your parents. Especially if they are fond of
fawning over you. ("We always knew he was such an
- Flash "APPLAUSE" and "LAUGHTER"
- Mosh pit.
- Have cheerleaders. ("Gimme an 'A'!!")
- Bring Howard Cosell out of retirement to do color
commentary. (NOTE: Because of recent events, this has to
be changed to "Bring Howard Cosell back from the
dead to do color commentary.")
- "I say Hallelujah, brothers and sisters!"
- Claim political asylum.
- Traffic reports every 10 minutes on the 1's.
- Introduce the "Eyewitness Thesis Team". Near
the end of your talk, cut to Jim with sports and Alison
with the weather.
- Live radio and TV coverage.
- Hang a sign that says "Thank you for not asking
- Bring a microphone. Point it at the questioner, talk-show
- Use a TelePrompTer
- "Take my wife - please!"
- Refuse to answer questions unless they phrase the
question as a limerick.
- Have everyone bring wine glasses. When they clink the
glasses with a spoon, you have to kiss your thesis. Or
- Offer a toast.
- Start giving your presentation 15 minutes early.
- Play drinking thesis games. Drink for each overhead.
Drink for each question. Chug for each awkward pause.
This goes for the audience as well.
- Swoop in with a cape and tights, Superman style.
- "By the power of Greyskull..."
- Use any past or present Saturday Night Live catchphrase.
- Stand on the table.
- Sell commercial time for your talk and ad space on your
- Hold a raffle.
- "You think this defense was bad? Let me read this
list to show you what I COULD have done..."
(FINAL NOTE: Depending on the subject of your thesis, some
of these things, such as tap dance, virtual reality, or reading
from the Book of Mormon might be entirely appropriate, of
(FINAL FINAL NOTE: Circulate this list
freely if you'd like, but please remember to credit Peter, Jim,
and Alison as the major authors.)