Demi Adejuyigbe, Screenwriter/Comedian/Podcaster – XOXO Festival (2018)


[Applause] Welcome to Jazz: Part 2. [Laughter] I’m kidding. It’s a three day rental, I thought I’d use
it as a bit. [Laughter] Thank you all for coming out, again. Sorry. I’m just placing things down now, because
that’s what happens when you come out strong with a bit that you’re not going to do anything
with. [Laughter] You’re probably wondering why I
am wearing a suit. Same. [Laughter] Hi, everyone. My name is Demi Adejuyigbe, I identify as
he/him for anyone who wants to talk me afterwards. Thank you so much for coming out to this,
especially if you came to my presentation on Friday night because it means you sat through this
and you decided, yeah, I’ll give this guy another shot. To be honest, even thought that was put on
the schedule as a surprise, I was infinitely more prepared for that presentation than I
am for this one. I joined the festival thinking I would deliver
that, and when I told Andy about it, he said that sounds fun! If you want to do that Friday, then you can
do your real talk on Sunday. And I was like, ahhh… [Laughter] Oh yeah, yeah, my real talk, totally,
totally. [Laughter] I didn’t know what I wanted to do for this, partially because I don’t how to deliver a
real talk where the purpose isn’t just a laugh, but also because I don’t know exactly what
people most prominently know me for or see me as. I think I’m often described as a general content
creator, but that feels very sterile and reductive, like I’m just pumping out things as a job. Whenever I get more specific than just saying
I’m a comedian, it’s always something different to people. Sometimes people know me for one of my podcasts,
formerly Gilmore Guys, currently Punch Up the Jam. [Cheers] Sometimes people know me for being
a writer on The Good Place or The Late Late Show. [Cheers] Sometimes, people know me for one
of my many video gags on Twitter, which are also on YouTube. Thank you, by the way, for coming. It’s just a list of things I’ve done today. [Laughter] I do a lot of different things and I’ve been doing so many other things lately that I am
not known for, but I didn’t want to focus on one specific thing and risk not saying
something for people who knew me as something else. So I ran through a few potential presentation
topics. My first one was this. [Laughter] I didn’t want to do this because
it still felt like a joke presentation, so I moved on to my second idea, which was this. [Laughter] And honestly, the only reason I’m
not doing this is because I only have 20 minutes. I could talk about this for four hours. [Laughter] You can’t read this, but on the
left over here, his tweet says, “Steven Spielberg is a genius. Let’s beat the game.” “Let’s beat the game” is not a line in the
movie, it’s not a tagline. It is just a catchphrase he made up. [Laughter] I’m obsessed with it. Again, this is still a joke presentation,
so I moved on and thought I would do this. This is a little less of a joke. Jazz is good. Sorry that some people thought I was truly
dissing jazz. I love this stuff. But I was trying to think of my presentation
idea on Friday night and then a very crazy thing happened. Shortly after I got off stage, I got a hilarious
email from Twitter notifying me that I had been suspended from Twitter. [Applause] Oh, thank you so much. And the reason they suspended my account is
because one week ago, I tweeted at one of my best friends that I would “fucking kill
him” because he jokingly insulted Paddington Bear. [Laughter] [Applause] This is completely real. And they’re technically right. I did threaten my friend, it’s against the
Terms of Service, I knew when I tweeted there was a chance I would get suspended, but come
on, you have to look at the context of things like this. When that happened, I knew what my presentation
has to be. [Applause] This is not a joke. This is not a joke! It’s crazy! This is serious, get rid of the fucking Nazis! There are so many Nazis on Twitter. I didn’t end up going with this though, because
even though it’s not a joke and I truly believe it, I’m just a lovable lil’ scamp, it’s a
real idea that’s still couched in the comfort of comedy. And that is because I’m realizing it’s hard
for me to believe in myself and work up enough confidence to talk about anything like I’m
an expert on it, or to try and speak on anything without getting the fallback on the cushion
of making someone laugh, as a sort of confirmation that I did something right. And that’s not just on a stage, but everything
I do. Which is, I think, an attitude I started adopting
as a child as a defense mechanism and it just flourished into a career before I could ever
stop it. [Laughter] Thank you! That makes me feel good. That’s actually what my talk is about today. I got into comedy when I was really young
as a way to make friends. I knew that being funny would make people
like me because laughing feels good, and like, nobody hates the person that makes them laugh. Now I look back on the way I used that comedy
as an insulation as a kid and I get a little sad. I thought if I made fun of myself first, then
it can’t be used to hurt me. So I turned my insecurities into comedy. I joked about being short, I joked about being
pudgy, I joked about being black, I joked about being “actually white” and “not really
black” and it didn’t stop anyone from making fun of me for those sort of things. It just sort of eventually convinced my friends
that they could also joke about those things, thinking that because I joked about it, it
wouldn’t hurt my feelings. It reminds me a lot of something Hannah Gadsby
said in her special Nanette, if you’ve seen it, and that is, “Building a career of self-deprecating
humor isn’t humility, it’s humiliation.” That really resonated with me, because I felt
that even as a kid. So I started trying to think of other ways
to be funny without sacrificing my self-image, and I became obsessed with comedy on a formulaic
level. I spent summers isolated in my bedroom teaching
myself about film and learning to direct and edit pictures and videos through video tutorials
for software that I just straight up pirated. I’m paying for them now, so Adobe, if you’re
here, calm down. [Laughter] It became my entire life. I have a very vivid memory of myself curled
under a blanket watching the finale of Arrested Development live, and pausing and unpausing
a video tutorial of a very old version of After Effects in between the commercial breaks. I would tell my friends that I couldn’t come
out and hang because of my parents, but the truth is my parents would have loved for me
to get off the computer and go outside. I just thought that staying on the computer
meant getting good at comedy, and getting good at making things in a way that would
just impress people. I became part of internet forums full of people
that shared my interests, and I sort of tested the waters there trying to figure out what
worked and what didn’t. Here is a great picture from that period of
my life. [Laughter] There’s a chance you might have
seen this photo before. This image became a meme for a while and circulated
very quickly on the internet outside of my control and it very quickly became a racist
meme, which is the bad part of it but still, it’s a funny photo. That was in 2006. I was 13 years old. I am 26 now which means I’ve spent half of
my life doing this. When I think about who I am now versus who
I was as a 13-year-old, I realize I have spent all 13 of those years still trying to throw
myself into comedy as insulation, as a way of never letting people get close and keeping
them at arm’s length, and never needing to be open or vulnerable so I can never be hurt. I still do know I’ve grown up though. I’m happy to say I’m not the same little kid
who humiliates himself as a way to make friends. In fact, the only jokes I make with my friends
now are the kind of jokes that get me kicked off of Twitter! Insane. I actually do want to talk about Twitter a
little bit, because Twitter has been the biggest tool in helping me have a sustainable career
and it’s allowed me to take the skills I fostered as a kid and put them in place where I get
to use them in different ways, but I also get to use the community aspect of Twitter
as a feedback loop where I can explore other types of comedy and build my own sense of
comedy by figuring out what’s funny and what’s been done before, and what people don’t like. But the same thing that makes Twitter great
as a tool for my career also makes it the absolute worst invention of the 21st century. It is the ultimate Monkey’s Paw. Because Twitter is just an incubator for everything,
good and bad. It’s the sort of system that gracefully, thankfully
magnifies marginalized voices and almost socializes the creative playing field in a way that works
for everybody, but it’s also the sort of system that magnifies all your little fuck-ups and
makes them feel like these big life-ruining transgressions. It’s the kind of place where you don’t just
make mistakes, you’re either a perfect person or you’re a bad person. And that’s just on a tiny level. It’s also the system that gives us things
like the alt-right or the weird reverse Cinderella scenario we’ve got in the White House. A reverse Cinderella scenario is when a pumpkin
turns into a person. [Laughter] I made it very small so you don’t
have to look at him too much. Twitter makes it very easy to get a sense
of how comedy evolves and how society evolves and moves in a progressive fashion. It lets you interact with people you might
have never met in your tiny little insular communities and learn from them and empathize
with them. For the people who spend their lives being
beaten down, Twitter is a megaphone. It’s not 1999 anymore. Twitter is real-life and internet communities
and friendships are real communities and friendships. Twitter gets us all closer to each other,
but it also becomes a megaphone for the worst people. For the outspoken “activists” who want to
aggressively wear their whiteness or their toxic masculinity as a badge of pride, who
know they can game the system for their own needs. For people who insist they deserve a right
to your attention or deserve a voice in your work because they admire your work. For people who don’t just use comedy as insulation
for their own insecurities, but as a trojan horse to hurt others. If you’ve wasted as much time on Twitter as
I have, you have probably heard of a phenomenon referred to as “irony poisoning.” It’s an apt term. Irony poisoning is when you become so embroiled
in ironic comedy that you use it to detach yourself from any semblance of real emotion. Sometimes that means using your irony to just
be an asshole, sometimes it means shrouding yourself entirely in irony so you’re never
open enough to be hurt. I find myself very often being scared of the
former, and I think as a comedian, I made myself the latter. Getting to use Twitter as a feedback loop
taught me comedy is safety, and vulnerability means getting yourself hurt. Being open and earnest means getting ridiculed
for no other reason than daring to be open and honest, and it bleeds into parts of my
life. Multiple times in my life, I have become very
close friends with people, only for them to tell me about a year into our friendship that
they are confused why I never open up to them. And all this time, I do think I’m opening
up, I just am only staying surface level, letting myself be an open ear for my friends
and never diving in my own life, without letting myself rest on a moment where I make them
laugh. It’s almost like I’ve sort of made comedy
so much my personality that trying to go without it, even in quiet personal moments of my life,
is uncomfortable for me. And for the last few years, I’ve been making
comedy music pretty regularly. It was never something I planned to do, but
it was a way I decided to branch out from just writing in text to using these skills
I had fostered to make something bigger. It slowly spiraled. I started doing these gags every year for
the Oscars where I would decide to make a song. This was my first one I did when Vine was
still around. I wrote a full song with the joke being that
I wrote a song that was in the credits of The Winter Soldier and it’s nominated for
an Oscar, and eventually it spiraled and became a thing I sporadically do with videos on Twitter. It became my professional current writing
job. And it became a thing I do weekly with my
best friend as part of a podcast. It’s so fun. It is so, so, so fun. I love it so much, because I’m obsessed with
comedy and obsessed with music and it makes me so happy to get a place to work with both
of them. I think of both of them in terms of composition
and how their pieces make the whole and it’s scary to say, but I think I’m good at it. I really do. [Applause] It’s hard for me to admit, but
I still am proud of the comedy music I make, I still listen to my Childish Gambino Lando
rap. And it makes me smile, I’m happy about it. Last night, Open Mike Eagle gave a great talk. [Cheers] Yes, please give it up for Open Mike
Eagle, he’s great. [Applause] He gave an incredible talk and
he mentioned a thing about creating things that fill you with an intense uncertainty
and how you know that’s when you know you’ve made something good. Recently, I got a chance to actually make
legitimate original music for an Old Navy commercial with Kristen Bell, and I genuinely
felt so fulfilled in doing it so much that lately, I’ve been thinking about writing a
full-length comedy musical where I can compose original songs and make them funny and weave
them into a story. Shortly after that job, a friend of mine who’s
here — hello, he’ll know who he is in a second, I don’t want to out him — asked
if I would ever consider making real original music with him and my gut reaction was no,
god no! Never. Not in a million years. Absolutely not. Which is crazy because I know what kind of
things I would want to make if I were to make serious art. I know the feeling of listening to a piece
of music that really inspires me and just going, oh my god, I want to learn everything
about it. I want to find the stems online, I want to
pick it apart, I want to figure out how they do these things and play these instruments. I know the feeling of seeing a movie that
really inspires me and deciding I need to see the DVD, I need to get all the extras,
listen to the commentary a million times, go online and see the b-roll I an find on
YouTube and just insulate myself in the experience of these things that inspire me. So why would I not try it for myself, and
why wouldn’t I jump in head first and having the intense fulfilling uncertainty of making
real music? And the answer which, I hate to say in a 2,300
seat stadium, is that I am scared. I am legitimately scared. I am scared of so many things. I’m scared that I’m not good enough. And I’m scared that by saying I’m not good
enough, people will go, Demi, no, you’re good enough! Then I’m scared because I worry other people
will assume I’m saying I’m not good enough so that other people will tell me I’m good
enough. And then I’m scared that people internalize
that assumption and people will see that I’m good, while they think I’m not good enough. And then I’m scared people will think, no,
he’s not just not good, but now that other people think he’s good, he’s overrated. And then I’m scared of those people deciding
that I deserve to be taken down a peg for daring to try, and not being good enough,
are doing so because they consider me overrated for just trying and telling myself I’m not
good enough. [Applause] It is a crazy, crazy series of
fears driven by anxiety, but it’s real and the worst thing is that I’ve seen it happen
multiple times. I’ve seen people who I admire who try and
do things earnestly on Twitter, and on the internet in general, and they get ridiculed
for no reason other than people think they’re corny. And I always think, well, just ignore them. Just move on. But because I see these things, I internalize
that fear and tell myself that trying in any field where I’m not good enough… Can’t do it. So much of Twitter and the internet’s sense
of comedy have morphed, these people who make ironic detached cruelty their personality,
and go after anyone who dares to try and do something and can’t match up to a standard
these people set up for whoever. When I see that, I shut down and decide that
throwing myself into it is not worth it. But there’s no growth in that. A while ago, I saw a tweet where somebody
talked about how people making things on the internet cannot wait until their things are
perfect because they have to be trying and putting things out and sometimes failing,
because you don’t have time to wait until it’s perfect. You’re not capable of seeing your own creations
as perfect and you’re not capable of growing until you learn what doesn’t work, and you
need an audience to do that. For me, Twitter started out as that audience,
but then I deeply internalized this fear of criticism and being targeted by assholes,
and I let it push me away from Twitter entirely until I only let it exist as a place for jokes. I stopped doing serious work there for fear
of criticism, I stopped getting open or vulnerable for fear of getting made fun of, and don’t
even use my voice in an important way to support things I truly believe in for fear I’ll do
it the wrong way and get taken down by smarter people who are mad that I’m not a perfect
activist. But that’s not good. It’s not good for any person, it’s not good
for comedy, because comedy cannot exist without the space between the laugh. To paraphrase The Incredibles, when everybody’s
special, no one is. And when everything is comedy, nothing is
funny. It’s a regular rule of comedy that letting
a joke go away makes it event funnier when it comes back. Let’s hope I’m fucking very funny when I come
back to Twitter. But I think about this idea a lot. I mostly made the comparison with love and
relationships, but to me it feels like agoraphobia in a way. For someone who stays inside habitually with
agoraphobia, going into the sun is a stronger experience and they’re much more likely to
get a sunburn. For someone who never gets to embrace love
or a relationship, any romantic feelings you start to feel for somebody are magnified exponentially. You love more and it feels like the most important
thing in the world. I often feel that the more I use satire and
comedy as the entirety of my personality, the more any attempt to stray into an earnest
space terrifies me, or makes me feel small and makes me feel hurt. As I mentioned before, a lot of you know me
from my fake Will Smith and Donald Glover rap videos. And the reason I’m so compelled by these two
people is because they’re just extremely creative, extremely charming, pretty attractive, and
extremely talented and I want so much to be skilled in as many fields as they are. But I also think about the trajectory of their
work, and how they both had this period in their careers where they were trying to pull
double duty as very goofy comedians and serious musicians. But their music had minor comedic elements
to it, and because of that, so many people just looked at their music and decided it
was entirely goofy, despite being serious and actually very different creative endeavors. Which makes them great targets for satire,
because satirizing them means you have to ape their goofiness while also putting in
the real work to try to ape the skill that it takes to make that music in the first place. As much as they are people I admire, I also
worry about becoming like that period of their life, where the only way people ever see me
is as either goofy or either serious. There’s no middle space. There’s never a single person who can exist
as both at the same time. When I was doing my podcast Gilmore Guys,
I noticed our listeners slowly had a growing meta-attachment to us as the hosts and it
made me uncomfortable, to the point that when we were done with it all, I was like I don’t
want to do the podcast anymore. And a lot of people were like, what, why? Why would you not want to do it? In my head, I was like it doesn’t make sense
to keep it going, all the episodes are done and I don’t want to extend this longer than
we need to. I started realizing that I resented people
placing importance only on us as a duo, and stopped seeing me as an individual person
who had interests and a life outside of the podcast and my co-host, Kevin. I started resenting that people who liked
the podcast and felt close to us because they listened would only communicate with us through
references to the podcast and to Gilmore Girls. It made me feel like a bunch of strangers
refused to allow my life to exist separately from what they wanted and from this show that
I wanted people to see as entertainment and comedy. And I couldn’t understand or verbalize why
this made me so upset, but I realized it was because they were strangers reflecting my
own attitude of comedy back at me. I get unreasonably upset when people insist
only communicating through me with jokes or references to my jokes, because I subconsciously
know that’s exactly what I have been doing: allowing myself to only exist through the
comedy I make. And I don’t want to do that anymore, because
it’s not healthy. But that said, I do not want people to think
that this means any of my comedy has like this strange palpable sadness to it now, because
it doesn’t. It is generally all produced out of nothing
but joy, and the desire to create and love. I just want to find a way to promote the spaces
between that joy. I want to be okay with sadness and fear, and
accept them as emotions in my life and in my work. I don’t want the internet to completely poison
my sense of self. I honestly hope that I never stop making goofy
comedy, even in the smallest possible portions. I love it so much. Comedy and creativity are my greatest loves,
after Paddington Bear. [Laughter] And I want to be making comedy
forever without burning out, if possible. I think a lot about this little guy, 13-year-old
me, watching Arrested Development and getting viruses on his parents’ busted-ass Toshiba
laptop because he’s clicking on the wrong links on pirate websites. And I wish I could go back in time and tell
him 26-year-old Demi is still doing the same shit, but he’s doing it out of love and not
out of preservation. I want him to know that it’s fine to cry and
be vulnerable, and get feelings hurt and fail. But I also want him to know that I’m really
proud of him. I’m proud of the sense of exploration he had
and his love for tinkering and making people laugh, because it still makes him happy and
I hope I can use it to make him proud too. So thank you so much for coming to what turned
out to be a very public therapy session. [Applause and cheers]
>>This is… Thank you. Oh, wait, not yet! Sorry! Oh, thank you. [Applause] This is, in fact, the end but I
don’t know how to end a talk and as I said before, I definitely don’t know how to do
something like this without giving it the brief respite of comedy. But there’s one thing I do know how to end,
and that’s movies! Because those end with an end credits rap. So I reached out to my good friend, Will Smith,
to write an end credits rap for my talk. I’m going to be real with you guys. [Laughter] I wrote this very late last night. It’s not perfect. I’m exhausted. I haven’t slept since. And that’s okay because failure needs to happen
in public. I need to be okay with this. [Cheers] And also, this is a one-time live performance
of a song that will never be recorded professionally, so I don’t care! Fuck it! Without further ado, this is “Exit Music (For
A Festival Talk)”. [REMIX: Radiohead – “Exit Music (For A Film)”]
>>[Will Smith voice] Let’s get it goin’. Woo! Ha ha. Uh. Uh.>>Well, that was my talk at the XOXO. They got a lot of great speakers coming up
next though So don’t leave your chair
We still got Hari, Ijeoma, MariNaomi, Helen, Adam and Claire
Man, those are incredible speakers Discussing how they work with the web and
its features I talked about comedy and hiding what’s inside
me And then I did a comedy rap
Oh, the irony [Laughter] [Applause]>>Man, you can’t go one minute without makin’ a joke! Nope! When I was young I taught myself tricks
So I can make friends, and it turned into this
See, the internet provided my voice and Now I think it mighta got me irony poisoned
The poison’s like a crazy ulcer, it’s killin’ me
So now I think about embracing vulnerability But there’s really one takeaway you should consider Cause I’m still a little bitter
How the fuck are they gonna ban me from Twitter!? [Applause]
Fuck Twitter, that’s right, I’m still mad at them
You really think I would commit a murder over Paddington? Come on! I wouldn’t, and we’ll discuss that after
I figure out how to make art without laughter Another thing I discussed up here
Is how to open up online and face your fears The fear of sincerity, the fear of shame
And the fear of failure in front of folks who want to fuck with your name
Could I do it? At least with a trial? Could I ever create without Big Willy Style? Could I make something maybe instead
Of just remixing an existing song I know and love from Radiohead? [MUSIC SPEEDS UP]
>>Oh, wow, I already missed the intro. This is going to be a real rap. Or am I obligated just to try and stay creative
In the form that I have made Until I start to fucking hate it
I mean, I love and always will love comic endeavors
No, I missed it already, it’s fine [Cheers] Talked about my anxieties and my ADHD
If I just made some music that you wanted to dance to
Could I be seen as serious as women in pants suits
Could I write a feature about grief About needing little bits of comic relief
>>I don’t know where I am, it’s fine. [Applause and cheers]>>You can tell me yourself when my Twitter’s unsuspended! [REMIX: Beyonce, “XO”]>>I’m kidding, Twitter Safety’s the best,
right That’s they JUST NOW got Alex Jones off the
website! And now I’m done with this speaking
And I got the clarinet again, because my rental lasts for the weekend! I’m mimicking this, by the way
I never bothered learning, I still do not know how to play [CLARINET NOISES] [APPLAUSE] Thank you.

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