Baratunde Thurston
Supervising Producer, Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah"
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Baratunde Thurston is a supervising producer at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central. There, he oversees digital expansion and contributes to the overall comedy goodness of that American treasure. A New York Times best-selling author, activist, comedian, and entrepreneur, Baratunde has an uncanny ability to crack the shell of any uncomfortable topic through a personal, accessible, and intelligent point of view.

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, a computer-programming mother who took over radio stations in the name of the black liberation struggle, and an older sister who teaches yoga at her donation-based studio in Lansing, Michigan, Baratunde has long been taught to question authority and forge his own path. 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, the screens of HBO, Comedy Central, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, the sound waves of NPR and roughly one bajillion podcasts, including Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race, which he co-hosts with Raquel Cepeda and Tanner Colby. He has hosted shows on Discovery’s Science Channel, Yahoo, AOL, YouTube, and Pivot TV.

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co-founded Jack & Jill Politics, a black political blog whose coverage of the 2008 Democratic National Convention has been archived by the Library of Congress.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 and politics editor for The Onion. He has been a judge for the Knight Foundation News Challenge, 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 by Harper Collins in February 2012 and is a New York Times bestseller.

In 2012, he co-founded Cultivated Wit with two former Onion employees, Brian Janosch and Craig Cannon. The company produces Comedy Hack Day, during which developers and comedians collaborate to make intentionally funny tech projects. Cultivated Wit also produces smart and funny media objects for clients.

The ACLU of Michigan honored Baratunde “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.” He has advised the Obama White House and serves on the National Board of BUILD, an organization that uses entrepreneurship-based experiential learning to propel underserved youth through high school on to college and career success.

When he’s not staring at glowing rectangles, Mr. Thurston, which he goes by toward the end of his bio, cooks, does yoga, and rides his bicycle (but it’s not a fixed gear because he’s not annoying like that). Mr. Thurston travels heavily within and beyond the United States and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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 media company 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 reel 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.
  • Cultivated Wit’s Comedy Hack Day at Your Thing
    Cultivated Wit, the company Baratunde co-founded, has built a community of comedians, software developers, and designers who come together to build satirical tech products and put on an inspiring live comedy show. This creative, topical, fun and technological showcase is available for your conference or festival and will leave your community uplifted, excited, and 27 IQ points higher. Find out more.
VIDEO
MEDIA GALLERY
Official Site: The Daily Show
Official Site
Official Site: Cultivated Wit
Comedy Hack Day
How To Be Black
Article: ‘The Daily Show’ Gets Ready to Go Viral
REVIEWS
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