Guy Fieri, GOOP, and New York City pigeon culture are among the topics tackled (tipsily) at Drunk TED Talks, hosted by Eric Thurm, AB’13. (Photography by Kohei Kawashima)
TED with a twist
Eric Thurm, AB’14, serves up a wine-and-spirited lecture series.
Have you ever had a slightly inebriated friend try to explain the economic allegory at the heart of the unjustly obscure Pixar movie A Bug’s Life to you? (I have.) If so, you might have something in common with Eric Thurm, AB’14, who’s taken the practice of tipsy, erudite theorizing to a new level. During the spring of 2012, Thurm and a friend were sitting around poking fun at the titles of various TED Talks—he exaggeratedly recalls a particularly bad one as “How Do You Save a Shark You Don’t Know?”—when they pulled up a video of their friend drunkenly trying to explain a story from the Old Testament. He remembers thinking, “Well, we should do this thing, but with TED Talks. Just have people get drunk and talk about stuff that they’re really interested in and excited about, which will be both more fun and probably more educational than real TED Talks.” The resulting event, now a couple of years old, came to be straightforwardly known as Drunk TED Talks. And when he moved to New York after graduation, Thurm brought Drunk TED Talks with him. Each month, three or four speakers and a panel discussion take on a particular theme; recent installments include “My Brilliant Trend: A Celebration of Elena Ferrante” and a symposium on Kim Kardashian—the Kimposium, for short. Other memorable topics from years past include:
  • “Sense and Senility: On the Economic Importance of the Very Old”  
  • “Little Red Velvet: How to Woo Anyone with Prince and Cupcakes”  
  • “Hodor Hodor Hodor: Hodor Hodor, Hodor Hodor Hodor”  
  • “Pigeon Culture: Empathy and Advocacy for NYC’s Most Imperiled Community”  
  • “Unconscious Uncoupling: A Freudian Analysis of GOOP”  
  • “Love, #Actually: A History of Mansplaining”  
  • “Quit Playing Grocery Games with My Heart: The Passion of Guy Fieri”  
  • “It’s Gonna Be Meh: The Truth about What Happens When Boy Banders Go Solo”  
  • “Extremely Hot and Incredibly Sad: How the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Fanned the Flames of the Workers’ Rights Movement”
The intersection of theory and pop culture is nothing new for Thurm, who makes his living as a TV critic: he wrote his senior philosophy essay at UChicago on ethically identifying with the characters in Breaking Bad. “That’s the stuff I get really excited about, sort of tricking people, creating a porous space where people can get exposed to something that may be slightly disarming,” he said.