TedX talk on Storytelling

Daniel Sloss: it’s only a story

After looking at different TedX videos about storytelling, I choose to analyse this video:


Before explaining the reasons why I choose to analyse this speech, I think it is better to describe its content.

The speaker starts his reasoning telling something common but true: we always tell stories, different kind of stories, in different situations and with different styles. We tell true stories, exaggerated stories, funny stories, sad stories. But, as Daniel Sloss highlights, stories are only stories.

Usually, when we tell a story, we put ourselves inside what we are narrating. Whether if we think about parents who narrate stories to their children or about friends that describe experiences each other, the attitude is the same: there is a component of exaggeration, a component of simulation and a component of personal judgment. People telling stories are never 100% neutral: the description of the characters, the way in which the events are presented and the emphasis on certain topics underline the personal point of view of the person who is talking.

Even if we think about the more possible neutral narration, we have to consider that also the style is linked with the personality of the narrator: there are some people who give a lot of details while others are really synthetic. There are people who change the tone of their voice in order to simulate the characters, while other people maintain always the same voice.

Given these forewords, Daniel Sloss asserts that a good storyteller is able to not be himself when he is on a stage: he might be the true version of himself, but he can also pretend to be someone completely different. That is the reason why sometimes a comedian is allowed to say whatever he wants in order to aim his purpose: make the audience laugh.

From this point of his reasoning, he starts to defend the figure of the comedian, often accused of offending other people. The easiest example of this dynamic is the satire: comedians joke about the personal life of the celebrities and most of the time the celebrities are offended. In Daniel’s opinion, comedians are allowed to tell whatever they want because, as aforementioned, they are pretending. And storytelling could be only a way through which make the audience laugh. He also recommends to not take out of context the jokes: the same thing narrated in different contexts could have completely different meaning.

He ends his defense about the comedians with a really synthetic sentence: “stories are stories, jokes are jokes”: people must not be offended by comedians that change the true and exaggerate it, because the world does not revolve around them.

I choose this video because it refers to a problem that we can face every day and that a storyteller must to keep in consideration: the relation between a narration about someone and the personal dignity. I do agree with Daniel Sloss’ idea only in part. I agree with the importance of taking in consideration that the comedian is acting and, as I sad at the beginning, he could pretend to be someone else. I agree with the importance of focusing on the context, the aim of a comedy is to make laugh. But I am not agree with the idea of exaggerating and changing the true related to the life of someone else. Even if it is true that the world does not revolve around someone in particular, people are different and they have different perception, so something that for me is not important maybe for someone else could be very offensive. And another important thing is that people are easily influenced: if a comedian jokes about someone, other people could not understand that it is only a joke and they could have different reactions.

So, even if in theory “stories are stories, jokes are jokes”, in practice this distinction does not always work.


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