The folks at TED invited Sarah Silverman to speak at TED (mistake #1) and then said terrible things about her afterwards (mistake #2).
You can get a sense of what she said here: What the Hell Did Sarah Silverman Say at Her TED Talk? at Gawker. What surprises me is that the people at TED were surprised. Silverman is what she is, and anyone with Google should know this.
Actually, I shouldn’t say she is what she is, because what people think she is, simply a comedian, isn’t true. I think Silverman is half comedian, half performance artist. The comedian is what gets her onto the stage, gets people listening. Then the performance artist comes out along the way, and the performance artist wants to shock and make people uncomfortable. All the time she is performing, people are seeing only one person, but two performances, and that disturbs people. Not to mention what she says. Most comedians tell jokes, funny stories, and try to get you to laugh. That’s it. Great comedians try for more, try to actually change the audience and how they think and what they find funny. I think Silverman tries to do that.
In some ways, that combination of traits should have made her a great comedian to do TED. The mismatch comes about, though, because TED is more about awe (positive) and less about shock (negative).
So fine. They made a mistake. It happens: not everything is a good fit at a conference. Unfortunately, some of the TEDsters made the mistake of criticizing Silverman over twitter (Sarah Silverman Shows Why You Should Never Twitter Fight a Comedian at Gawker). Now to me this is a really big mistake, because, again, if you use Google, you will see you do not want to mess with Sarah Silverman. And Steve Case, no less. This is like watching the small nerdy kid at school pick a fight with the nastiest kid at school. All I can say is that I hope for Case’s sake that Silverman has better things to do than beat him up. Because it will not be a nice thing to see.
As a performance artist, I think Silverman is great. As a comedian, I am not sure if she hasn’t moved too far over into the Andy Kaufman territory. If you are going to be a cruel comedian, people need to see what drives it, what motivates it, allows them to sympathize with or at least understand it.
If you love her, great. If you can’t stand her, check out this is supportive article of Sarah Silverman in the Washington Post here: TED Organizer Trashes Speaker, Fails Social IQ Test – washingtonpost.com. It’s smart.
P.S. I am willing to bet the only comedian appearing at next year’s TED will be Jay Leno.