Drunk TED Talks transform the way we watch people rant about nothing

Drunk TED Talks transform the way we watch people rant about nothing

CultureMarch 08, 2017 By Brian Frederick

Eric Thurm hates the pretentiousness of most TED Talks. Often, the stale displays of what it sounds like when someone stands on stage and pats themselves on the back for 15 whole minutes is too much to handle for sober people. So he made his own night loosely based on what TED's been doing all along — only his speakers get smashed beforehand.

“Me and a bunch of other people were kind of drunk during TEDxUChicago, and we were looking at the talks and making fun of the titles of real TED Talks,” Thurm tells Jezebel. “Like, this is an incredibly stupid and pretentious and obscenely overblown way to educate people about these topics. At one point somebody said, ‘We would do a better job of teaching people about these topics if we were extremely drunk.’ And it just kind of stuck for awhile.”

It's been relatively successful, too, with multiple respected speakers kicking back a healthy amount of booze before going on about important things in life like witchcraft, crushes, conspiracy theories, the Kardashians and a Summit on the State of R&B (with TLC adorning its event posters). People go to these things, which is a reason why PASTE Magazine named it one of the '10 Best Alt Comedy Shows in New York City.'

Except, a few days ago the real TED Talks organizers sent him a cease and desist letter claiming the public might think he's affiliated with the brand ... even though they admit "Drunk TED’s a hilarious concept." Tonight's series "Drunk TED Talks: Patriarchy" is the last he'll host with 'TED' in the title, though he vows to continue on for the foreseeable future. 

For now, the series is relegated to the Chicago and New York markets, though as he says in an email exchange, he's looking to host an event in L.A. and hopes to announce it sometime in the near future. First thing's first, however, he needs to straighten out his legal woes and find a way to brand the night closely to what it's satirizing, but not so much his ass is going to be sued for it.

"I have a few options!" he says via email. "For now, I'm using variants on 'Drunk Talks' and 'Drunk [REDACTED] Talks,' one of which might end up being the final name depending on whether they clear legal hurdles."

It isn't substance he's missing, of which he has plenty of. "There are a bunch of hyper-specific things I've always wanted to cover, but I'm often not the best judge of what will make the best topics," he adds. "Themes I'm interested in doing in the future include wrestling, irony, and Carly Rae Jepsen's classic 2015 album E*MO*TION."

But with growth comes the pangs, and the cease and desist letter is, he admits, all part of the process.

“I didn’t expect that it would get to this point, so I guess this is a good problem to have, but it’s also funny to me that they care about this enough to take action,” Thurm adds in his interview with Jezebel. “They’ve done more than enough damage to their own brand. They don’t need my help.”