Traditionally, Tom Rielly closes the TED Conference with a merciless 18-minute monologue, skewering all the speakers with his deadpan delivery, spot-on satire and boundary-less performance (complete with PowerPoint, pratfalls and partial nudity).

Why you should listen

Talk a walk back through the history of digital media, and you'll find our colleague Tom Rielly every step along the way. He entered the mediasphere with a memorable turn in the 1980 film My Bodyguard. A lifelong performer, he soon found a second love in personal computing. He recognized early on the incredible power of Macs, CD-ROMs and the Web, founding Yale's Macintosh User Group in 1984, then working at SuperMac, Farallon and Voyager, among other pioneering companies.

Rielly is perhaps best-known for co-founding PlanetOut, the first digital home for gays and lesbians, which went public in 2004. He also co-founded the influential nonprofit Digital Queers. As TED's Director of Partnerships, Tom now choreographs the wide range of collaborations that help bring TED to life, at the conference and online. But he's found his true vocation as TED's resident satirist, a role he's played for more than a decade.

Since 1995, Rielly has been hijacking the final session of the conference with his whip-smart satire of all the speakers who came before him -- skewering the egos, mocking the flights of fancy, parroting the doomsday predictions, and imagining a world where Al Gore tells him "I can't quit you."

Fearless and unfailingly funny, Tom's lightning performances bring a flash of brilliance to the closing session and draw a standing ovation every time.

Tom Rielly’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Tom Rielly

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The TED Fellows program brings together young world-changers from many fields, from art to tech to activism, and encourages them to mix and combine and think big. On Monday morning we heard from a representative sample … Graffiti’s unifying vantage point. Street artist eL Seed shares the story of his most ambitious project yet: a mural […]

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The music of sign language, a computer of water drops: 21 TED Fellows share ideas that swim against the tide

August 28, 2015

Tides are strong. They move swiftly, sweeping all toward the shore. But TED Fellows refuse to simply drift with the water. They are innovators, advocates and artists who challenge the status quo and work in the spaces between disciplines. At the second TED Fellows Retreat — held from August 25-28, 2015, and themed “Swimming Against the Tide” — about […]

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What makes a TED Fellow? Tom Rielly tells all

April 21, 2014

Twice a year, we select 20 unconventional change-makers to join the TED Fellows program, a global network of innovators from a wide spectrum of disciplines. Last year’s TED Fellows class included an eye surgeon using low-cost mobile phone technology to make eye care more accessible across Kenya; photojournalists documenting conflicts in Palestine and Bosnia; a biological anthropologist researching cancer […]

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