TED Talks
TED talks can be fun and make a good study break when you need some inspiration (Image via Wishberry)

5 Funny TED Talks You Should Watch Now

In the mood for something more intellectually stimulating than stand-up comedy but less than a TED Talk? You’ve come to the right place!

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TED Talks
TED talks can be fun and make a good study break when you need some inspiration (Image via Wishberry)

In the mood for something more intellectually stimulating than stand-up comedy but less than a TED Talk? You’ve come to the right place!

When thinking about TED Talks, most people picture some artistic or scientific genius telling the stories of how they accomplished what they accomplished in life. What people might not expect is that some of those talks are actually quite hilarious.

Given that the TED Talk platform runs on “Ideas Worth Spreading” and some good jokes are always worth spreading to the world, the existence of those funny TED, which seems to be very much contradictory to general expectation, is not that surprising. By introducing humor into the serious space of a TED Talk, these speakers bring about unexpected laughter. So, if you are in the mood for something lighter, instead of looking for some inspiring TED Talks this semester, spend some time watching these ones, which will have you laughing but also get you to stop and think.

Bob Mankoff: Anatomy of a New Yorker cartoon

The fact that the speaker, Mankoff, made a career as a cartoonist lends itself to great comedic moments. His job is to sift through cartoons submitted to the New Yorker, and he, at one point, explains the danger of being a critic to comedy with a hilarious sketch. He uses some of his favorite and least favorite cartoons to demonstrate his points, allowing for the audience to analyze them and join in on the laughter that he experiences at work.

As a prestigious magazine, The New Yorker maintains a high standard of sophistication in its cartoon that requires a lot of critical thinking readers and viewers within a few seconds in order to understand the humor. He also explains through a collection of rejected cartoons how humor needs to feel like a risk, but not too much of a risk.

One of the sketches shows a man with an unfortunately shaped head holding a sign that says “Asshead please help.” While the message sends off a wrong message when placed in the magazine next to an article about T-Cell Therapy to treat cancer, in the context of the collection of rejected cartoons and through the explanation of Mankoff, this piece is alright for you to laugh at. Informative on how humor works and hilarious at the same time, this funny TED Talk is perfect for a study break.

James Veitch: This is what happens when you reply to spam email

Ever wonder what happens when you pretend to take a spam email seriously? Well, wonder no more as this man exchanges emails with online scammers. We’ve all received spam in our email, voicemail and even GroupMe inboxes, and Veitch took it upon himself to confront annoying spammers by going along with their storylines.

Using screencaps of his email threads as a visual aid, he walks the audience through some especially ridiculous spammers, including someone claiming to be Nelson Mandela’s wife. When the “wife” requests a bank transfer to get her own money out of the country and help Mandela’s “serious health condition,” Veitch responds that as Mandela died three months prior, his health condition was most definitely rather serious. Rather than inspiring you to sit down and get work done, this funny TED Talk inspires you to sit at your email and entertain some of the ridiculous requests of spammers.

Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator | TED

At times a little too relatable, this funny Ted Talk addresses a problem known all too well by students: procrastinating. Urban speaks of his days as a student with a graph depicting his typical work schedule for a big assignment, which consists of days of getting no work done followed by an all-nighter of completing all the work because his procrastination went a little too far. He jokes about incredibly specific situations that distract him and result in procrastination, such as reading the Wikipedia page for the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan scandal.

Unusually specific, his jokes are still relatable to all who have fallen into the black hole of the internet rather than work on assignments. He uses diagrams labeled with Comic Sans to show his audience the mind of a procrastinator compared to that of a person with a typical working schedule, but he comes to the conclusion that we all procrastinate and need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and start getting work done today. Or, well, sometime soon.

Julia Sweeney: It’s time for “The Talk”

Exactly what it sounds like, this woman recalls telling her eight year old daughter about reproduction after the daughter asks a question about frogs and tadpoles while working on a school project. Shorter than most Ted Talks, it feels like more of a story-time from a stand up comedian as she gives the play by play of the conversation.

The daughter reacts as most eight year olds would, which elicits laughter from the audience as well as some moments of discomfort. Everyone used to be that kid who was just a little too curious for their own good.

Julia Sweeney reiterates the importance of being honest to a child, but at some point she needs to put a stop to her curious daughter’s questions by flat out lying, when their talk leads the daughter to asking if the internet would have videos of humans mating. Short and to the point, this TED Talk will have you laughing all the way through.

Negin Farsad: A highly scientific taxonomy of haters

A highly scientific taxonomy of haters | Negin Farsad

A self-proclaimed social justice comedian, Farsad educates her audience while weaving humor into her speech. She asserts that a good joke is one of the most effective ways to fight bigotry while showing some expertly researched data, such as a graph that rates brochures as “Boring” and comedy as “This is fun!” on a scale of information enjoyment. This outlook inspired her and other Muslim comedians to tour more conservative parts of the country in a tour titled “The Muslims Are Coming!,” which they then turned into a documentary.

Her TED Talk is a good example of a talk that leans more on the side of informative, but since she herself is a comedian it’s filled with many good one liners and comedic visuals. To educate yourself and enjoy a few laughs at the same time, watch this funny TED talk.

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Bethany Knickerbocker

Emerson College
Creative Writing

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