At a Glance

Baratunde Thurston : Biography at a Glance

  • Baratunde Thurston is an Emmy-nominated host who has worked for The Onion, produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House, and cleaned bathrooms to pay for his Harvard education.
  • He’s the executive producer and host of We’re Having A Moment, a limited-run podcast series that captures this defining moment of pandemic, policing, and race in the U.S.
  • He’s also the creator and host of Live On Lockdown, has hosted the iHeartMedia podcast Spit, wrote the New York Times bestseller How To Be Black, and serves on the boards of BUILD and the Brooklyn Public Library.
  • Baratunde makes media, delivers keynotes, and promotes action with his unique blend of criticism, humor, and optimism.
  • He’s most invested in topics of race, technology, democracy, and climate because the hard stuff has already been solved.
Biography

Baratunde Thurston is an Emmy-nominated host who has worked for The Onion, produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House, and cleaned bathrooms to pay for his Harvard education. He’s the executive producer and host of We’re Having A Moment, a limited-run podcast series that captures this defining moment of pandemic, policing, and race in the U.S. He’s also the creator and host of Live On Lockdown, has hosted the iHeartMedia podcast Spit, wrote the New York Times bestseller How To Be Black, and serves on the boards of BUILD and the Brooklyn Public Library.

Baratunde makes media, delivers keynotes, and promotes action with his unique blend of criticism, humor, and optimism. He’s most invested in topics of race, technology, democracy, and climate because the hard stuff has already been solved. Baratunde has an uncanny ability to crack the shell of any uncomfortable topic through a personal, accessible, and intelligent point of view.

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, a computer-programming mother who took over radio stations in the name of the black liberation struggle, and an older sister who teaches yoga at her donation-based studio in Lansing, Michigan, Baratunde has long been taught to question authority and forge his own path. 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 and the New York Times, the screens of HBO, Comedy Central, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, the sound waves of NPR and roughly one bajillion podcasts. He has hosted shows and stories on NatGeo, Discovery's Science Channel, Yahoo, AOL, YouTube, and Pivot TV. In 2016 he hosted a special three-part PBS series of TED Talks and earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for the Spotify/Mic series, Clarify

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 then did something similar as Supervising Producer for digital expansion at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. He has been a judge for the Knight Foundation News Challenge, 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.

In 2012, he co-founded Cultivated Wit, a comedic digital company on a quest to merge comedy and technology into a new genre of creative expression, with Brian Janosch and Craig Cannon. The company produced Comedy Hack Day during which developers and comedians collaborated to make intentionally funny tech projects that humanize technology while offering social commentary on the world at large. 

The ACLU of Michigan honored Baratunde “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. He has advised the Obama White House and serves on the National Board of BUILD, an organization that uses entrepreneurship-based experiential learning to propel underserved youth through high school on to college and career success. He also serves as a mayoral appointee to the Brooklyn Public Library board of trustees.

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Reviews

Baratunde was terrific, start to finish - smart, funny, prepared and professional. We had tons of compliments throughout the night on his hosting.

Integrated Marketing Director, ADWEEK

I just wanted to reach out to say how AMAZING Baratunde was as emcee. I cannot tell you how many people have gushed about him – he was funny, compelling and all-in-all pretty much the best host we could have asked for.

Brooklyn Public Library

Baratunde did a terrific job and tailored his message brilliantly to appeal to the marketing executive audience.

Deloitte Consulting

Our attendees LOVED him. His remarks hit home for us and tied so nicely into the themes we were addressing at the Conference, around engagement, equity, and inclusion.

Theatre Communications Group

Baratunde was AMAZING! He was so well received; his content was wonderful. He tied in so well with our messaging and goal of the event.

       

Microsoft Awards

He is one of the smartest, most real, most creative people I have met. A++++

GM, AOL Original Video

It. Was. AMAZING! Baratunde was incredible.

Human Impact Solutions

Baratunde's presentation was fantastic. It was engaging, funny, and compelling. The social media teams really loved the content and gave them a lot to think about.

Beam Inc.

Baratunde was beyond our expectations. He was funny, inspiring, and poignant. We couldn’t have been happier.

Chief of Staff, Verna Myers Consulting Group

Baratunde was great. His message was powerful and delivered so well.

University of Virginia
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