About Tom


Tom Rielly
TED Conferences Community Director

Currently, Rielly is Community Director at TED Conferences. He is responsible for the TED Fellows Program, admissions, the TED Book Club, among other things. Reach him at tom[at]ted[dot]com.

Tom created and directs the prestigious international TED Fellows program, which brings outstanding young people from around the world to be part of the TED community. The program will have graduated 240 people after February 2011. Tom Rielly is best known as the Founder and former CEO of PlanetOut.com, which joined forces with Gay.com to create the largest gay and lesbian online company with over 5 million monthly customers. Based in San Francisco, the company is now called PlanetOut, Inc.

His original satires, which close the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conferences, receive standing ovations year after year. His deadpan delivery combines cerebral musings, wordplay, original props, and classic slapstick, including concussion-inducing pratfalls, bottles of olive oil drenching his head, or a dance duet with an inflatable lowlife woman.

His "warm up acts" have included evangelist Billy Graham and former Vice-President Al Gore. In 1980 he played the role of Reissman in the feature film, My Bodyguard. He also performed at the TYPO conference twice, the largest graphic design conference in Europe, and at YPO University in Florence, as well as the Aspen Design Conference.


English, French

TED Conferences

TEDGlobal 2014, TED2014, TEDWomen 2013, TED Fellows Retreat 2013, TEDGlobal 2013, TED2013, TEDGlobal 2012, TED2012, TEDGlobal 2011, TED2011, TEDWomen 2010, TEDGlobal 2010, TED2010, TEDIndia 2009, TEDGlobal 2009, TED2009, TED2008, TEDGlobal 2007, TED2007, TED2006, TEDGlobal 2005, TED2005, TED2004, TED2003

Areas of Expertise

entrepreneurship, Marketing, sales, Business Development, comedy , Humor, satire , producing , non-profits , gay and lesbian issues

An idea worth spreading

TED Fellows: www.ted.com/fellows

I'm passionate about

TED, Books, Science, the Environment, Climate Change, Design, Product Design, Civil Rights, Entertainment in all its forms: Movies, Thrillers, Humor.

Talk to me about

TED Fellows and Book Club, Comedy, Gay Issues, the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Design, Ideas for TED, Travel, Films, Glee, Visual Effects, Consumer Electronics, Computers

People don't know I'm good at

Being Serious

My TED story

Been coming since 1990. Have been to every TED since then, including TEDGlobal, TEDMED (with the exception of TEDMED 2 and 3), TEDCity, TEDNYC, TEDKOBE. Worked with Russell Brown of Adobe to make TEDZilla, end of TED Satirical movies from 1991-1999. Started doing live TED Conference Satire in 1995. Founded my company PlanetOut after agent approached me after 1995 performance. TED is my other family.

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

Tom Rielly
Posted over 2 years ago
Monika Bulaj: The hidden light of Afghanistan
The amount of hostility and anger in Dennis' comment is palpable. I trust he is working under very difficult circumstances and wish him peace. But the statement "if you come here tomorrow without a security team you would be raped and murdered," is a patent exaggeration and distortion. It may apply in certain narrow situations but to imply that all Afghan men are rapists and murderers is both false and plays into all the crazy stereotypes Monika's work is trying to overcome. As Polish national, Monika might have encountered less friction in her movements than an American would have. To say that she is a naive romantic is also not true; she's very cautious and prudent about her safety. Monika earned the trust of her subjects over many months, if not years and her technique involves sitting in silence with her subjects for hours and days to find the right moment and to disappear into the background. The fact is that she was welcomed into the locations she depicted. And he asserts "I doubt she even took most of the pictures," without providing a scintilla of evidence that this is true. Would you trust his angry rant or the TED Fellows vetting process? I assure you that not only is she is the artist she represents herself to be, but we need her quiet but powerful voice to counter all the dominant tropes about Afghanistan. Her pictures' painterly beauty pierces the heart to reveal truths about the universality of her subjects and their goals: peace, food, shelter, worship and a better life for their children. Ultimately Dennis' screed says more about him than about Monika.
Tom Rielly
Posted about 3 years ago
With the advent of amazing online videos, why are we still so compelled to experience live performance (music, sports games, dance)?
Robert, I think part of the reason why live performance is superior is RESOLUTION. technical resolution, i.e. size of image, SD vs. HD vs. IMAX vs. unobstructed center orchestra view; frames per second; quality of sound, lighting and projection if any; and how compressed and artifact-filled the image is all affect EMOTIONAL resolution. Experiment: watch a blobby low-rez clip of a music performance on youtube. Then watch the same thing on DVD, then a Blu-Ray, then LIVE. It's amazing the difference. Compressed video=compressed emotion.