how the hell am I going to deliver this TED talk? help.

hola comrades!

so, if you missed the announcement on twitter….it’s official.
i am going to be a SPEAKER/PERFORMER at TED this year. LOOK!!!

i’ll be speaking/performing to and alongside some of the fastest-broadest-craziest-wisest-thinking minds of our times.
two of the the other musical guests are fucking BONO and PETER GABRIEL.
no pressure what.so.ever. nope.

if you don’t know what TED is, ima edumucate you right here and now (and ask for others to pitch in – since i know i have some serious TED-heads in the community)…but first, let me express to you how HUGE this is for me.

me speaking at TED is the equivalent of…
a violinist having her first solo concert at carnegie hall.
or an athlete getting invited to the olympics.
or like….anybody on earth being asked to give the commencement speech at harvard.
or a person who’s always wanted to be in “disney on ice” finally getting hired by “disney on ice”.

it’s giant.

if you ARE NOT aware of TED, here’s the basics. it’s happening in late february-early march.


from wiki:
TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading.”

TED was founded in 1984 as a one-off event. The annual conference began in 1990, in Monterey, California. TED’s early emphasis was technology and design, consistent with its origins in the Silicon Valley. The events are now held in Long Beach andPalm Springs in the U.S. and in Europe and Asia, offering live streaming of the talks. They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture, often through storytelling. The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prizewinners. TED’s current curator is the British former computer journalist and magazine publisher Chris Anderson.


there are over 1,400 TED talks currently available on the TED website, all of them pretty compelling.

here is one of my all-time favorite TED talks, and it’s also one of the all-time most-viewed talk…for a reason.
it’s jill bolte taylor, a brain researcher, telling the story of what it felt like to have a stroke – and what it means for ALL HUMAN KIND:

(or direct, via their awesome site: ted.com)

such a powerful, amazing thing. and it’s…a story. which is what makes it awesome.
the best TED talks are like this…a strange amalgam of personal and universal.

here’s a much lighter, but super informative and entertaining one by the book designer chip kidd, who i have the pleasure of knowing through neil, since they work together.
i assure you he IS this entertaining in real life:

(via ted.com)

that should get you started.
there’s SO much there to delve into, and i suggest just clicking and watching and going down the rabbit hole of their site.
the next time you’re curling up with yourself, your cat, or your hunny bunny and browsing through netflix to see what’s on offer in the romantic comedy section, just watch ten or eleven random TED talks instead. you’ll probably wind up a better person.

as for you familiar with TED – and i know there’s lots of you – would you, could you, might you POST IN THE COMMENTS your very favorite TED talks, regardless of whether they’re “well-known” or not!? i ask this as a favor for ME as much as for the newbies out there, since i’m digging, digging, digging into the TED archives and watching as many talks as i can to wrap my brain around WHAT I AM GOING TO DO.

which brings us to the million dollar question!!!!!!!



guess what??


which is absurd, because it’s about a month and a few days away.
according to my fine friend and TED advisor, thomas dolby, many people get invited and start preparing their talks in SEPTEMBER.
they hire coaches. they enlist writer-helpers. they know that if their talk explodes and goes viral that it’ll possibly change their careers and their lives.

i know basically what i want to talk about. i mean, it’s obvious.
something about me, and probably me as a street performer, and about you, and about crowdfunding, and about love, and about how there’s a new currency of connection and type of exchange on the net that could revolutionize the way we make and support art on the internet and in the world. something about how things have to get less locked up, not more, and about how artists need to learn to ask, and audiences need to learn to give, and how the system needs to allow for and encourage all of this.


i don’t want to preach to the choir. most people, especially people at TED, already know and pretty much agree with all the above.
i don’t want to just get up there like the guidance counselor in south park…..


and just say “um, crowdfunding’s GOOD, m’kay?”

so, i need your helps.

i did THIS *very* rough and tumble talk at harvard a few years ago, as a kind of audition for TED, so they knew that i wasn’t just an idiot rockstar who couldn’t get on stage, talk, and articulate a point. i worked on this talk for a few days and used notes….which i won’t be doing at TED (“notes and teleprompters are BAD, m’kay?”:

when i look at this clip, especially against the super-slick and non-wander-y TED talks above, i feel truly shit-scared.

but i have a month to put this puppy together, while i am cosmically here at home with anthony, biding my canceled-tour time.

here’s the THING.

i thought i had my head on straight and my talk all planned out.
it was a few days ago, and i’ve been thinking and thinking and chatting with people and making copious mental notes about WHAT IT IS I REALLY HAVE TO SAY and WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO SAY IT. and i was heading towards something that i could wrap my brain around.

i had a fantastic talk with thomas dolby, who is the best advisor for me about these sorts of things because he KNOWS me and KNOWS TED and can probably see what ratio of peanut butter and chocolate would be correct to make the perfect AFP-TED peanut butter cup.

i hung up with him, very relieved. i could do this. i could see it in my head and i knew what to do.
i scrawled a ton of notes in my happy new TED SHIT notebook, and was ready to get down to work, literally writing out my talk and tweaking it, a little bit every day for the next few weeks, and then presenting it and rehearsing it for the last half of february, working out any kinks or awkardnesses.

two days later, confident and gleeful that i was on the correct TED path, i talked to chris anderson (yes, the dude from the wiki!) about my talk.

i hung up the phone CONFUSED and ON FIRE.

instead of narrowing down the already-congealing talk i was composing in my head, chris suggested we take a totally different tack.
maybe something DIFFERENT, not just amanda-talks-in-a-mic, but maybe something more performance driven, more laurie anderson-y.

i ran with him and this idea, and within ten minutes i was going to compose a mini-opera in 4 acts for ukulele, piano, and various other instruments.

and of course, in my head, there’s also a full boys’ choir and a bunch of crowd-sourced circus musicians to illustrate key points. i’m thinking….i could crowd-source on the spot!

wait! i could CROWD-SURF!!! AT TED!!!!

i started wondering if it was possible for me to ask them to remove all the chairs in the conference center. just for, like, my talk. i need to crowd-surf to prove a point, fuckers. maybe i could sing my thesis to the tune of wagner’s “ring cycle”, crowd-source some local strings and horns, bring them onstage and, wearing a lab-coat and wielding a smoking beaker and a slide-rule, illustrate the emotional mathematical quantitative difference between a beer, a hug, a high-five, and a dollar. with trapeze-artists in business-suits swinging menacingly above throwing coins onto the audience while screaming “BUY!!!! SELL!!!!! BUY!!!!! SELL!!!!” into flaming sequined iPhones while blindfolded, naked, stilt-walkers topple onto the likes of al gore, lawrence lessig, and bill gates – vomiting ribbons of double rainbows that magically vaporize into blazing mini-LCD scrolls from my twitter live-feed hashtag #TELLTED that would be personally projected in front of each attendee, making them cough and wheeze and weep tears of transfixed joy. this is where my head goes when you start giving me ideas. this is not good.

and i have…how long to put this together? about a month.
where is this? LA?

time to call burning man.




here’s the thing again.

i tend to overcomplicate things, especially when it comes to the stage.

wouldn’t it be better to skip the music, skip the gimmick, and just be brave, bold amanda, speaking my truth to the people with no props?

then again, who else but amanda palmer could write a mini-ukulele-opera and get MORE to the core point of connection and crowdfunding and money and energy and art and love than a simple talk could? this is the kind of shit i do.

i waffle.

i had a bunch of friends over for dinner, and i presented them with my quandary.
michael pope pointed out that i got so passionate and animated when i simply TALKED ABOUT what i WAS GOING TO TALK ABOUT that he thought it was a no-brainer. skip the trained monkey stuff, amanda, and just say your shit, he said. it’ll be more powerful.

i could totally see his point.

but i can see it the other way, too.

what can say things about art better than art? what can condense better, and add humor better, than putting this into song form?


i am confused. i haven’t decided yet.

i do know one thing, whether i bomb or not, and whether this talk even gets POSTED TO THE INTERNET or not (there’s no guarantee TED.com will even post it….they don’t post everything they film, only the truly great shit), i want you guys to be a part of the whole process. that to me is the even bigger and more relevant point.

i’m absolutely certain that a huge part of WHY they chose me to speak at TED is because of the kickstarter, kerfuffle or no.
and the kickstarter isn’t just me, it’s you. it’s US.
i think not involving you guys in this and keeping you abreast of the situation would feel like murder.

here’s the key:
i want to tell people something they don’t already know, and tell them in a way that will inspire them, that they won’t forget.

so….help me, obi-wan(s).

and i don’t have much time til this happens….i need to conserve and spend that time wisely.

i need to make this decision (whether to put the talk itself to music or not) within the next few days, so that i can barrel ahead and make WHATEVER I AM GOING TO DO the most awesome thing possible.

and i am convinced of one thing: it will be awesome.
it must be awesome.
if my TED talk is not awesome, i will feel the greatest of sads.



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