photo  © amy sly

Baratunde Thurston: On Creativity, Comedy, and the Creative Class. 

What is your dream for the future of America?

Less Honey Boo Boo. More MythBusters. I like to imagine an America that continues its march toward that “more perfect” union. We’d have more connected communities socially, more widespread local innovation in energy, education, and entrepreneurship. Our political system would be more accountable to more of the citizenry, and we would all walk more, listen more, and smile more, kind of like the Taylor family from Friday Night Lights.

If you could really change things for the better, where would you start and how?

It’s hard to think of a single place to start because real change for the better requires parallel and coordinated effort and many great ideas are already underway, so I’m not going to have one masterful concept that is original and on its own gets the ball rolling.

That said, here’s one masterful original concept to get the ball rolling: give the keys to the children, and let them drive. We know a few things about creativity and change and human development, so let’s compile all that into a program that has children powering a series of community innovation hackathons. We get kids before they can be completely poisoned by the biases, shortcomings, and limitations of their parents. We know they are creative as hell, thinking about problems in ways adults don’t allow themselves to. We know kids like to build things. A coordinated network of child-powered innovation labs—covering everything from community gardens to benevolent robot workers to more efficient energy production and consumption—could significantly expand our range of solutions and route around the old ideas and political gridlock of elder generations. Yeah, that sounds cool.

How does comedy change the world?

Comedy changes the world by changing individuals from the inside out. Laughter causes a transformation in the person experiencing it. It loosens and opens us up. We let our guard down. We become vulnerable. Laughter helps expose who we really are, and when we’re being who we really are we can see the world in a more true light. We can accept truths that in a different package, we might deny. We can find common ground with people we would swear are our enemies. Comedy can help us see the world, not just as it is, but as it might be, and that can serve as a great motivator.

Baratunde Thurston is a politically-active, technology-loving comedian from the future. He co-founded the black political blog, Jack and Jill Politics and served as Director of Digital for The Onion before launching the comedy/technology startup Cultivated Wit. He resides in Brooklyn, lives on Twitter and has over thirty years experience being black. He writes the monthly backpage column for Fast Company, and his first book, How To Be Black, is a New York Times best-seller.

This excerpt is from American Dreamers, available now from Sharp Stuff.

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