Baratunde Thurston
CEO & Co-Founder, Cultivated Wit
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Biography Print Bio

Baratunde Thurston is a technology-loving comedian from the future who cares enough about the world to engage with it politically. Yes, he votes. Regularly. With an ancestry that includes a great-grandfather who taught himself to read, a grandmother who was the first black employee at the U.S. Supreme Court building and a mother who took over radio stations in the name of the black liberation struggle, Baratunde has long been taught to question authority. It helps that he was raised in Washington, D.C. under crackhead Mayor Marion Barry.

His creative and inquisitive mind, forged by his mother’s lessons and polished by a philosophy degree from Harvard, have found expression in the pages of Fast Company, on the sound waves of NPR, and on the screens of networks such as CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Al Jazeera and roughly one bajillion podcasts. He has hosted shows on Discovery Science Channel, Yahoo, and AOL.

Far from simply appearing in media, Baratunde is also helping define its future. In 2006 he co-founded Jack & Jill Politics, a black political blog whose coverage of the 2008 Democratic National Convention has been archived by the Library Of Congress. From 2007 to 2012, he helped bring one of America’s finest journalistic institutions into the future, serving as Director of Digital for The Onion. He’s an affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and a director’s fellow at the MIT Media Lab. His book, How To Be Black, was published in February 2012 and is a New York Times bestseller.

Baratunde is constantly experimenting with creative expression on digital platforms. He was named Foursquare Mayor of the Year for holding a real-world rally to defend his virtual mayorship. In the summer of 2012, he co-founded Cultivated Wit, a startup that exists at the intersection of comedy, creativity, and technology to make the world more fun.

His wide range of experience and activity has earned him an equally wide range of praise. The ACLU of Michigan honored him “for changing the political and social landscape one laugh at a time.” He was nominated for the Bill Hicks Award for Thought Provoking Comedy. The Root named him to its list of “100 most influential African Americans,” and Fast Company listed him as one of the “100 Most Creative People In Business.” Then-candidate Barack Obama called him “someone I need to know,” and YouTube user “mooospot” referred to him as a “dumbass liberal crackhead welfare sucker.” He accepts each of these honors with equal humility.

Baratunde travels the world, speaking and advising on the subjects of our digital future and storytelling, satire and democracy, and race and politics. He has spoken at countless universities, and organizations as well as delivered keynotes at South by Southwest, the Guardian Changing Media Summit, and more. In May 2011, he spoke at the presidential palace in Tbilisi, Georgia (the country) on the role of satire in a healthy democracy, and he has advised The White House on digital strategy and public engagement.

Baratunde resides in Brooklyn, lives on Twitter and has over 30 years’ experience being black.

Speech Topics

  • Digital Storytelling Doesn’t Have To Be Boring And Sucky. It Can Be Fun!
    There’s just too much content in the world, and getting people’s attention is, like life, hard. Baratunde Thurston was a political blogger for four years, ran digital strategy for The Onion for five years, authored a New York Times best-selling book that continues to find life on Instagram, and lives to engage communities and tell stories in fun and empathetic ways. This talk comes with guaranteed laughs and guaranteed actionable insights based on Baratunde’s direct experience, the work of his creative storytelling agency Cultivated Wit, and the good work of people with whom he has no connection but for whom he has respect because he’s humble like that.
  • How To Be Black (And Other Matters of Race and Identity
    Baratunde uses his New York Times best-selling book, and the public reaction to it, as a jumping-off point to thoughtfully, hilariously, and interactively talk about that most uncomfortable of subjects: race. The live experience of How To Be Black is part biographical journey from the birth of his great-grandfather post-slavery through the re-election of the nation’s first black president. It’s part digital media showcase, looking at how race intersects with the internet. It’s part discussion forum as Baratunde fields and facilitates open questions from the audience. Also, if you don’t book him to give this talk, you’re a racist.
  • Event Instant Replay (Special Offering! Really, It’s So Special!)
    When your event is all said and done, it can be tough to put a bow on the experience and have attendees leave feeling the full awesomeness of the event. Baratunde can provide that bow because he’s attended and presented at thousands of conferences, panels, stand-up comedy shows, working groups, brunches, and other-names-for-gatherings-of-humans. Bring Baratunde and his team at Cultivated Wit to your event as an observer. He will close the program and raise the roof, delivering a highlight real of your event complete with social media highlights, memorable stage moments, smart and witty observations, and a substance-driven overview of your entire gathering that will remind people of why your event was a great idea. It’s a combination of a roast, CliffsNotes, multimedia review, and improvisational high wire magic. There’s nothing else like it.
VIDEO
MEDIA GALLERY
Official Site
Official Site: Cultivated Wit
How To Be Black
Article: #unplug From The Internet For 25 Days
Video: Real Time with Bill Maher
REVIEWS
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