New York's 'Drunk Education' Brings Its Inebriated Lectures To Los Angeles
A few years ago, at Videology in Brooklyn, writer Eric Thurm hosted TEDxxx: Ideas Worth Dreading. The event was the first New York edition of an event he had started while at the University of Chicago, and the premise was simple: give a powerpoint presentation on a hyper-specific topic of your choice, and do it while drunk. Well, actually, "one to one-and-a-half drinks outside your comfort level," according to Thurm. The first public event was small, but a year later they hosted "Drunk in Love," an evening of treatises around love (this time at Littlefield, a bar in Brooklyn). Talks included "I Couldn't Help But Wonder: Why Do I Tell Everyone About My Sex Life? On Being Carrie Bradshaw" and "Farts and Leisure: Toward a Grand Unified Theory of Netflix and Chill, or Why E = NC^2." The show brought in hundreds compared to the usual dozens, and Drunk TED Talks became the preeminent event for "taking super serious things like academic methods and applying it to stupid shit."
The show continued to grow, eventually attracting the eye of its namesake. In March of this year, Thurm received a cease and desist letter from the official TED Talks nonprofit. Apparently, continuing to host under the name Drunk TED Talk would "result in the dilution of the distinctive nature of TED’s famous marks through the blurring or tarnishing of those marks.” As Thurm said to Jezebel, "They’ve done more than enough damage to their own brand. They don’t need my help.” But still, the TED Talks name had to go.
In its place, Drunk Education was born. It's the exact same show, minus the possible legal repercussions. It's also grown immensely as an event. Thurm has brought it to several cities outside New York, and their recent Carly Rae Jepsen show in New York had over a thousand respond via Facebook.
The time has now come for Thurm to officially pass the baton to an organizer outside New York so he doesn't have to travel to three cities in a given week. That baton sits in writer Alana Levinson's hands, and the first official Los Angeles edition of the show will center on the city's most contentious claim to fame: La La Land.
Thurm chose to ask Levinson to host the show because she had both done several talks at previous iterations of the show, and because she recently moved to Los Angeles. One of her most iconic talks happened in the fall of 2015 for the "Drunk DREAD Talks" edition of the show. Her presentation, "Love in the TIme of LOLera: How to Make Your Flirting Go Viral," showed IRL the result of texting the same absurd GIF to a variety of exes. She later published an online version of the talk.
She describes the events to LAist as an experience where "you learn a lot, but they're also fun and they poke fun of people who are super self-serious." She notes how they're also specifically for providing an outlet for people who are very, very interested in one specific topic. "It should be like you're ranting to a friend when you get home drunk at 2 a.m. about something in history or some meme you saw and why it's important to society."
So how will this ethos translate to Los Angeles and an evening about Damian Chazelle's La La Land?
When brainstorming the topic for the first L.A. show, other ideas came up, but Thurm and Levinson both new that La La Land had to be the first one. The Drunk Education shows usually start with a name or pun and then the subject expands from there. On La La Land, Levinson thought, "yes, the movie" but also "like duh, of course."
Compiling the lineup came next. Thurm considers the mix of speakers to be one of the most important components of a successful show. "Sometimes you want funny, learning, and lecturing," he said to LAist. Levinson reiterated how a good show comes from featuring people on stage who are actually writers; someone who knows a lot about the topic, is genuinely obsessed, and has a sense of humor. "I don't want someone to just be doing a bit," Thurm said. "This isn't the time for your tight five."
For this show, that means the lineup includes Josh Androsky, agitprop co-chair for the Los Angeles arm of the Democratic Socialists of America, Dave Schilling, writer-at-large for Bleacher Report, Demi Adejuyigbe, writer and creator of two of the greatest tweets of all time, and Allison Herman, writer at the Ringer.
In a city of an overabundance of stand-up shows, having a literary-focused event is a refreshing change of pace. Levinson remembered noticing the lack of writer events in L.A. (when compared to New York), and she feels confident Drunk Education can help cultivate a new type of scene for Los Angeles. Thurm says regardless of the city, the show fills a very specific void in nightlife. "People like learning things," he said, "and you don't necessarily want to get drunk and have an experience with no meaning."
But what if you don't drink and want to present in a future show? "It's all about doing something destabilizing," said Thurm. "For some people that means eating a ton of ice cream before going on stage." This is also L.A., so expect some 4/20 friendly shows in the future as well.
As for how often the show will happen, it will likely be every two months at first. This first event will happen at the Virgil in Silver Lake, but the location may vary depending on how it plays out.