Baratunde Thurston is a technology-loving comedian from the future who cares enough about the world to engage with it politically. Yes, he votes. Regularly. 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 and a mother who took over radio stations in the name of the black liberation struggle, Baratunde has long been taught to question authority. 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, on the sound waves of NPR, and on the screens of networks such as CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Al Jazeera and roughly one bajillion podcasts. He has hosted shows on Discovery Science Channel, Yahoo, and AOL.
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co-founded Jack & Jill Politics, a black political blog whose coverage of the 2008 Democratic National Convention has been archived by the Library Of Congress.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 for The Onion. He’s 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 best-seller.
Baratunde is constantly experimenting with creative expression on digital platforms. He was named Foursquare Mayor of the Year for holding a real-world rally to defend his virtual mayorship. Every year he live hate-tweets the Twilight movies to his 100,000+ Twitter followers, and in 2009, he embodied the swine flu with a Twitter account of that name. In the summer of 2012, he co-founded Cultivated Wit, a startup that exists at the intersection of comedy, creativity, and technology to make the world more fun.
His wide range of experience and activity has earned him an equally wide range of praise. The ACLU of Michigan honored him “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. Then-candidate Barack Obama called him “someone I need to know,” and YouTube user “mooospot” referred to him as a “dumbass liberal crackhead welfare sucker.” He accepts each of these honors with equal humility.
When he’s not staring at a glowing rectangle, Mr. Thurston, which he goes by toward the end of his bio, travels the world, speaking and advising on the subjects of our digital future and storytelling, satire and democracy, and race and politics. He has spoken at countless universities (actually they are completely countable, but he’s chosen not to for this document), and organizations as well as delivered keynotes at South by Southwest, Personal Democracy Forum, the Guardian Changing Media Summit, and more. In May 2011, he spoke at the presidential palace in Tbilisi, Georgia (the country) on the role of satire in a healthy democracy, and he has advised The White House on digital strategy and public engagement.
Baratunde resides in Brooklyn, lives on Twitter and has over 30 years’ experience being black.