Photo by Oliver Chapin-Eiserloh
“Cool T-shirt guy back with a really cool T-shirt” is the text on junior Kenny McLaren’s favorite shirt. McLaren is a computer science and math double major originally from Houston, but he may be best known for his more than 40 punny T-shirts, many of which feature math, physics and computer science jokes.
Why do you wear T-shirts with puns on them?
Kenny McLaren: Sometime in middle school I got my first funny T-shirt, and I realized that people enjoyed when I wore them to school. So I kind of just kept getting more and kept wearing them, and eventually, I had enough that I could only wear funny T-shirts and I just kept doing that.
So you said the response that you get from people from wearing your shirts is good. Can you elaborate on that?
KM: Yeah, it’s kind of nice to think my shirts are able to make other people happy, especially when I don’t have to put any effort into it. They just walk by, they read my shirt and so I kind of get to interact with people without having to be stressed out by individual small talk conversations.
How many shirts would you say that you have?
KM: Here, I have around 40 or 45. I think there’s a couple more back home that didn’t make the cut to bring to Trinity.
Do all your shirts revolve around puns? Why do you like math puns so much?
KM: I think the most common thing on my shirts are puns or jokes. Maybe a third of them are mathy, and the rest of them are other jokes. I think a lot of the times math boils down to just interesting puzzles, and figuring out what they are saying is kind of an interesting puzzle.
When would you say that your interest in math and computer science began?
KM: I guess around high school it started. I had a programmable calculator, and so I would, during class, write programs on that. So, that probably sparked my interest in computer science. And math, I guess I’ve kind of always found math fun, and I’ve always done the best in my math classes, so I kind of just kept taking math classes as well.
Can you list a few of your favorite math shirts?
KM: I have one that says, “The square root of negative one, two cubed Sigma and then pie,” and it means “I ate some pie,” and the words “it was delicious” are at the bottom. And then another one, it’s got a triangle with angles and an X. At the bottom it says, “Find X” and then X is circled with an arrow pointing saying, “Here it is.”
Do you find that people in your math and computer science classes tend to appreciate your shirts more?
KM: I guess there’s some of them that are a bit more esoteric. Like there’s one that says don’t be a D3X over DT cubed, which is the third derivative, which is called jerk. So that’s a bit of trivia. People who have taken a bit of physics or calculus would recognize that and get more out of it than if I have to explain that it means jerk. But a lot of my shirts are more approachable so that I don’t think you need to have a math degree to get them.