Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Map Men: teaching geography through comedy

Map Men: Mark Cooper-Jones and Jay Foreman Map Men: Mark Cooper-Jones and Jay Foreman
09 Aug
Mark Cooper-Jones and Jay Foreman tap into a rich vein of geographical quirks to teach through comedy

‘Maps are probably the best gateway into geography,’ argues comedian Mark Cooper-Jones. ‘They have become trendy, and cool. People are even putting them up on their walls.’

For any geography teacher looking for ways to make the world’s many maps, and the various strange geographical oddities they portray, funny and yet still educational, they should definitely watch Map Men. Short, snappy videos produced and presented by comedian map-fans Cooper-Jones and Jay Foreman, Map Men explores interesting stories about maps from the UK and overseas, merging snippets of educational information with quick-fire jokes and sketches.

‘Comedy is the thing that makes them clickable,’ observes Cooper-Jones. ‘There are other people out there who’ve made informative videos about some of the things that we’ve talked about, but those people have tended not to come from a comedy background. The crucial thing here is the mix of the comedy and the educational side of it. People sit down, hopefully to watch a funny video, but that happens to also be informative. That’s generally the easiest way to disseminate information to people, or so I find anyway.’

The YouTube series covers a wide range of subjects, such as the UK’s north-south divide, the India-Bangladesh enclave situation, and the famous Hereford Mappa Mundi.

‘We’re not always actually talking about the map itself, it’s really all about what the story behind the map is,’ says Cooper-Jones. ‘I wanted to do some more political ones like the South China Sea, or Bir Tawil. Jay, he likes the quirks, so he was very much behind the “maps with gaps”, this idea that there’s this strange gap on a map. But there’s still a long list of other maps that we would like to talk about and discuss. There are so many more maps out there, so we could potentially do hundreds, as many as there are geographical stories, really.’

Mark Cooper-Jones is currently performing his new geography-themed solo stand-up Geographically Speaking at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, following his previous show Geography Teacher.

‘A lot of geography is depressing,’ he argues. ‘So much of geography is inequality, poverty, under-development, extinctions, climate change, whatever it might be. But, given geography’s breadth, there is a lot that you can talk about for stand-up comedy. You can even talk about the depressing stuff. In my show I talk about climate change, but I do a role-play with an audience member, getting them up on the stage and making them play an icecap or the weather. So you’ve just got to find a fun way of making your ultimately depressing points.’

cooper jones

‘For Geographically Speaking, I’m trying to talk about a lot more geography, and move away from only basing it in the classroom and basing it on GCSE-level geographies, like Geography Teacher,’ he says. ‘I talk about some genuinely fairly in-depth geology in this show, some political geography, and of course some silly stuff as well.’

Mark Cooper-Jones will be performing his solo Edinburgh Fringe Festival show Geographically Speaking at Movement (Venue 56) at 3.45pm daily, until 27 August

Related items

Subscribe to Geographical!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...


NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...


Glacial melt is increasing  land instability in mountainous regions, with huge tsunamis…


A large-scale terrain mapping project makes Antarctica the best-mapped continent…


New research reveals that microplastics can survive in mosquitos from…


New research measures the ability of major cities to re-use…


Biosphere 2 was one of the most ambitious experiments in…


High-quality, affordable drones can revolutionise the way that landscape and…


Benjamin Hennig charts the impact of volcanoes on nearby human…


A volunteer-led digital mapping project is at the heart of…


As the planet urbanises, attention is turning towards the most…


Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many…


A rising number of cruise ships and their ‘overlooked’ diesel…


Benjamin Hennig charts the growth and impact of the world’s…


Long-term studies reveal the Sahara desert has expanded substantially over…


South America’s wealthiest economy is at a crossroads between environmental…


The European Court of Justice finds the logging of a…


In this extract from his new book, Tides, mountain climber…


New data from the World Health Organization reveals that nine…


In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan,…


Benjamin Hennig maps out the global production and distribution levels…