In case you missed it, there's been a kerfuffle over Sarah Silverman's performance at TED and my response to it. (TEDster Jeffrey Rodman filled in some more of what happened here.) After catching up on some sleep, and a few hundred comments on the topic, here are my thoughts:
- Yes, we did know we were taking a risk booking her.
- She's a smart provocateur with a wide range of material.
- We did ask, though not clearly enough as it turned out, that she'd tailor something specifically for TED and avoid her more extreme content.
- TED talks work best when the speaker shows up for the full conference and takes the time to absorb audience and context. Didn't happen.
- Call me stuffy, but I still think humor about terminally-ill "retarded" kids is an acquired taste.
- And not a taste I personally want to acquire.
- Some of the audience got her and loved her, some were sickened by her.
- Even when sickened, it's best to count to 100 before sending out an angry comment on Twitter.
- Sorry for the tweet, Sarah.
- I gotta say: you're a way more eloquent insulter than I am. <g>
- TED is all for edginess, intelligent humor, and, in the right circumstance, provocation.
- TED is not so big on humiliation and debasement.
- There's a fine line between the two and different people draw it in different places.
- We'll continue to take risks. Just with a little better speaker prep ...and audience priming.
- Sarah, I wish you well.
Quick Update Aug 12, 2010. Some commenters below knock TED for 'censoring' Sarah's talk. This is based on a misunderstanding. First of all there's no promise to speakers that we will post their talks. A lot of TED.com's success is down to the fact that we only post those talks that get high audience ratings, and - for whatever reason - this one really didn't. Secondly, Sarah has full access to the media and has given her version of what happened on several occasions, including this -- which I thought was a brilliant interview by her http://bit.ly/aLGuAo After that interview, we offered to post the talk on youtube, but by this stage Sarah herself was tired of the issue, and declined. If you want to get a sense of the talk, just watch Sarah's other material on youtube.