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A Call for Comedy at the UN Climate Summit

Let’s hope there is a lot of laughter pouring out of General Assembly Hall today.  As the UN Climate Summit begins this week, what would be possible if Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and team consider what John Cleese preaches about the power of laughter:

“The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else. I think we all know that laughter brings relaxation and humor makes us playful, yet how many times have important discussions been held where really original and creative ideas were desperately needed to solve important problems, but where humor was taboo because the subject being discussed was ‘so serious’.”

Not only does laughter open your mind, it opens the minds of those on the other side of the debate.  We usually tune out to an argument that we have already concluded is wrong.  But laughter is a powerful interrupter.  If we’re being entertained, we’re more likely to pay attention, and be less defensive.

John Oliver, Bill Nye, and the Last Week Tonight team produced what The Guardian dubbed “the best climate debate you’ll ever see.”  [Note:  use headphones for the first 1:08 if you’re at the office]

Much of the sketch’s brilliance is the stunt that would qualify it for  Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” Hall of Fame.  Combined with Bill Nye (who received a rockstar ovation from the crowd when he walked on stage, and was genius improviser during rehearsal) and brilliant comedic writing (“Are there hats?”), the comedy sketch makes for an attention-grabbing, concise, persuasive argument.   As The New York Times best-selling author Chris Mooney said:

“I feel like they said in 4 minutes something I’ve been saying for 10 years with like tens or hundreds of thousands of words”

At the summit today the UN will honor Leonardo DiCaprio with the title Messenger of Peace, although his name tag for the luncheon reads “Wolf of Wall Street.”  Leo’s presence will certainly bring more exposure to the conference.  But if John Cleese had booked the event talent, the opening keynote speaker would have been John Oliver.