WATCH: TEDx Drexel Got Pranked This Weekend

Comedian and real-life troll Sam Hyde gave 15 minute presentation on “ideas.”

On Saturday, Drexel University hosted its third TEDx symposium—independently organized TED talks showcasing the same flavor of futurism and technological wowing as the flagship, but featuring local speakers. Drexel professor Frank Lee spoke about putting Pong on the Cira Center for this year’s Philly Tech Week; Larissa Milne channeled the spirit of Elizabeth Gilbert and recounted her own Eat, Pray, Love-esque trip around the world; astronaut Paul Richards spoke about being an astronaut.

The event concluded with Sam Hyde, billed as a “video documentary filmmaker and journalist from Brooklyn” who “recently returned from Mogadishu, the most dangerous city on earth, where he shadowed the heroic al-Mahamud women on their quest to clean up their streets and restore humanity to their war-torn country.” TEDx organizer Dhairya Pujara introduced Hyde’s presentation, titled “2070 Paradigm Shift.”


Hyde, 28, is not a journalist; he’s a member of the Massachusetts-based comedy troupe Million Dollar Extreme, which employs a type of shock-value comedy along the lines of a more goalless version of Yes Men sabotage. Hyde took the stage dressed in a crimson sweatsuit and clad in a gold Roman centurion breastplate and shin guards, did a kind of faux deep breathing preparation, reclined on the steps in front of the TEDx letters, and began his talk.

“Guys, pat yourselves on the back right now, okay? I’m not gonna let you stop until I see everyone do it,” he began. “That pat on the back is for saving the world.” Hyde launched into a discursive presentation that touched on the “trash economy,” described a future in which gay men will develop the ability to procreate, and recounted his experience traveling to Africa with Elon Musk to give iPads to the impoverished:

“Now, we looked at the data, and what we found surprised us. What we found was that culture is a sewer. We’ve got lewd media, nasty bedroom things on TV. And they’re sexualizing young girls and it’s getting to the point where even I have a problem with it. And it shouldn’t be that way.”

The mission of Million Dollar Extreme has always seemed a spin on afflicting the comfortable, except its targets usually aren’t the comfortably powerful. To the extent that satire exists in MDEs comedy (Hyde told me afterward that he undertook his Drexel performance because “I don’t think TED talks are cool. I don’t want it to sound too sanctimonious, but I think [TED talks are] really self-congratulatory”), it feels like more of rationalization than a reason for the shock itself.

There’s a mélange of clear influences or at least clear correlates, such as the id-like Tim and Eric (even Hyde's stutter and awkward silence while looking down at his notes are straight from Tim Heidecker’s standup), but MDE’s main influence is the Internet itself, and Hyde’s performances appear to be what happens when a troll crawls out of the Internet and comes to life. Hyde once performed at a stand-up comedy night in Williamsburg in which he spent 20 minutes reading from an anti-gay manifesto as the entire room slowly exited, either believing that he was a bona fide ranting homophobe or getting the bit and simply not finding him funny.

“Great ideas come in all shapes and sizes,” Hyde said in his talk on Saturday. “9/11, September 11th. We’re gonna use some reverence here and not be silly about this, but look at what they accomplished with no weapons and just 11 guys who didn’t even speak English? And that proves that sometimes great ideas are actually horrible ideas.”

But moments quite that glaring were limited at his TEDx, so much so that the TEDx crowd stayed, even after Hyde exceeded his time limit. A sizable minority of the crowd, including most of the technicians, responded with enough laughter to offset the bone-rattling silence that can accompany an MDE performance.

At the rear of the audience, Pujara stared ahead, straight-faced, with something resembling apprehension or confusion or anger. If he was in on the joke, he didn't show it.

One wonders if the organizers of TEDx whiffed on vetting Hyde, which wouldn't have taken more than a few minutes of Googling. Pujara was not immediately available to comment afterward, but Hyde allegedly fed them a good story. Hyde said: “I told them I had just returned from Mogadishu where I was shooting war journalism following this group of women cleaning up the neighborhood, and by picking up trash, they had lowered crime rate. So it’s like broken window theory there, or whatever the fuck. A little Malcolm Gladwell. [They] wrote back and said, ‘Wow, that’s exciting. We got some real hard hitting stuff here.’”

Or maybe we’ve all been manipulated House of Cards-style and Pujara is a publicity genius (though this exchange confirms TEDx was not in on the joke). Either way, the whole thing is worth watching.

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  • Hoidel

    What the fuck is this bullshit review? This is awful journalism phillymag. “There’s a mélange of clear influences or at least clear correlates” Holy fuck what the fuck

  • fuck

    this is shit be an actual writer

  • fuck

    can u not say troll for one sec

  • gr8 article m8

    Pretty awful article. “feels like more of a rationalization than a reason” well it feels like you’re just mad and trying to make him look bad. The man gave you his reason and words and you suspect dishonesty rather than taking him at his word? You’ll never have a good career in writing if you don’t learn to keep your personal feelings out of it.

  • USMCGY

    LOL Classic

  • Brad

    Philly Mag loses all credibility with me by promoting this jerk’s antics- Pathetic. The real story is that 2 students worked hard to put on a positive event for the community, and this asshole took advantage. Shame on Philly Mag for giving stupidity a voice.

    • Stpidg0y

      hard work?????

      they only had to do one google search for Sam Hyde!!!

    • Manuel de Moustache

      i guess making people laugh isn’t positive then, huh. anybody offended or feeling disrespected by this is an asshole and could use some exercise in humility and reality

    • Jesse

      Don’t be a sissy, bradley.

  • Manuel de Moustache

    sam wasnt copying tim by looking at his notes, (obviously since sam is not trying to be an amateur comedian) he was actually unprepared. a couple hours before the show he messaged his fans to get someone to make a powerpoint for his talk. The organizers were so clueless, even the livestream had people going on about sam hyde and acting generally vulgar and disparaging. they closed the chat eventually.

  • Seanicus

    is that James Franco?

  • Seanicus

    You don’t know you’ll be dead in 2070. I’m gonna have your mind uploaded to my blackberry. :D

  • Ted Danson

    His presentation is basically EVERY TED TALK EVER. He’s just taken that sanctimonous stick out of his rectum and placed it firmly on his forehead for all to see. This is TED.

  • alethus

    The article makes fun of this individuals well-timed prank, because most online media outlets are as self congratulatory as TED is. There is a culture currently taking over online engagement that states that popularity equals intellectualism and that truth should be communicated with hipster-style self infatuation. This prank could not have been more correct about the nature of the new online “smart” culture.

    • Andrew Thompson

      lolwut; pretty sure we’re not making fun of sam, sir

  • Steve Lawrence

    I personally prefer his more concise criticisms of f@ggots and jews but he did slip a few digs at both of those accursed sub-groups of non-humans.

  • ANDREW THOMPSON

    This is fucking hilarious! This little shit-stain is the ultimate troll from RISD 2007. His whole life is a travesty… and he feeds off negativity like candy. Good going Mr. Thompson, keep sucking his dick like a good little prep journalist.