Comedy as social change? Only in Jerusalem. 🙂 December 21-22 saw the arrival of a group of comedy change-makers from around the world for the premiere Comedy for a Change conference. Originally signed up as an attendee, I was honored that they subsequently hired me as social media manager for the conference – I created and managed the @JJJComedy Twitter for the three weeks before the conference, during the event itself, and for several weeks after.
The brainchild of comedy writer and exporter of Israeli TV formats Omri Marcus, the conference brought to Israel people who had never been there before, to experience different styles of comedy, examine how comedy informs the social and political perspectives, and to participate in an international writers room.
As the social media manager for the conference, I watched the tweets fly fast and furious throughout the day, documenting the unique proceedings as they transpired. The mayor of Jerusalem was interviewed by a foul mouthed puppet (think Avenue Q, but ruder). Participants were treated to an inside scoop of from the writers of the German, American, and Israeli versions of the hit show, “The Office.” Two Canadian comedians talked about their Yiddish-language comedy series, YidLife Crisis. The head of television programs for the BBC spoke about his network, Israel in the news, and the changing face of anti-Semitism in Europe. Session panelists talked about pushing the envelope, the process of producing video, and how social change messages can be embedded in comedic contexts.
The United States, of course, was well-represented. Other comedy professionals hailed from countries as far away as Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, South Africa and Canada; there were also two Muslim comics (from Denmark and Brooklyn), who were a vital component to the “Non-Diplomatic Peace Talks” session (covered by CNN), an experience pairing them with two Israeli political comedians and moderated by a German. (If you pause at 2:00 in the clip, you can spy me in the audience, smiling demurely and looking down at my notebook.)
Check out a sampling of the Tweets and photos from the conference, as rendered through Storify:
In May, I was invited to London to speak as part of the Jewish Leadership Council’s Lead Division’s newest initiative, Leading In which was created in response to the desire and need for more leadership skills training, expressed by alumni of Lead’s programmes as well as employers within the community. The JLC, in a blog post about the program, explained:
We believe that Jewish communal leaders need both a deep understanding and knowledge of the UK Jewish Community as well as a core range of leadership skills. Leading In consists of regular bi-monthly evening sessions, open to all who are in a leadership position in the community, both lay and professional. Each session will include a leadership skills based session (a choice of three with the option to participate in a fundraising series over several sessions), an opportunity to network and a masterclass with an inspirational, visionary leader.
The event, held at the London Jewish Museum, was attended by 60 lay and professional leaders from more than 30 Jewish communal organizations. Debbie Klein, chair of JW3 (the about-to-launch Jewish Community Centre), gave the opening keynote discussing leadership tips, and participants chose from workshops like, “Inside the mind of a leader” with Jeff Wolfin, “Fundraising” with Jeff Shear (the second in the series), and my session, “Leadership in the Digital Age: Conversing, Commenting and Creating Meaningful Relationships” (available in its entirety – 1 hour, 22 minutes – below.
When a blizzard prompted the cancellation of hundreds of flights on December 26 of last year, I was scheduled to be on VS004 from JFK to London. My Virgin Atlantic flight – which had been cancelled on the 19th due to a blizzard at Heathrow and rescheduled for the 26th at 6:05pm – was again cancelled after we sat on the plane for two hours because of a blizzard at JFK, was rescheduled for 6:05pm the 27th, then delayed to 7:30, then to a boarding time of 8:15 that didn’t happen, and eventually, after great protest from the passengers, finally took off after midnight on the 28th. During the entire experience, Virgin Atlantic continued to answer questions on its @virginatlantic Twitter account – except about our flight. There was no “stay tuned,” no “sorry we don’t have more information right now,” just silence. This is unacceptable in a social media world.
Nearly a month later now, Virgin Atlantic still denies that passengers were due any compensation for the experience, even as JetBlue once again proves its VIP status by giving their stranded passengers 10,000 points, scoring customer satisfaction points among its inconvenienced passengers. When it comes to all-star VIP customer treatment and stellar social media response, JetBlue turns around their bad situation, resulting in another social media win. In other words, JetBlue was able to take a blizzard and turn it into snowcones.
What’s the problem? Why won’t Virgin Atlantic make any compensation to the 250 of us who were on VS 004? According to USA Today, Virgin Atlantic (via spokesperson Greg Dawson) claims that “monetary compensation is not due” to the people on our flight – who “had to sleep in the airport terminal because all hotels nearby were booked” – because the snowstorm was an “extraordinary occurrence.” (The Virgin Atlantic staff also told us that the hotels they were offering us were two hours away in Long Island, and that buses would take too long to reach us, collect us and turn around and go back to Long Island.)
Travel writer and the main Twitter voice of our Virgin Atlantic experience Jason Cochran hasn’t given up on the idea of compensation, and continues to battle the customer relations and public relations departments via email.
But apparently, Virgin’s petulant behavior extends far beyond our particular flight – according to Bnet’s Brett Snyder, “Virgin Atlantic has decided it won’t pay Heathrow Airport’s owner BAA anything until an inquiry into last month’s days-long shutdown is completed. Virgin Atlantic is acting like an impatient child here, and runs the risk of making relations with its most important airport even worse.”
This preposterous experience just doesn’t seem to end. And least of all for writers. Because Jason is still on this situation – it’s his job to be. And as for me, while I’m not spending every day fighting about it, I definitely have more to say. Because all the elements of this experience combined into something resembling a psychological experiment in how far people’s patience can be stretched before someone cracks and goes postal. And while a Tweet here and there might not have alleviated our discomfort as we lay down for 40 minutes’ rest on the cold floor of JFK Airport, Virgin Atlantic should have been using its social media presence to reassure us, to apologize to us, and to make us feel accompanied on our difficult travel. That kind of attention could really have helped us feel like we hadn’t been quite so abandoned.
Here endeth the lesson. Except not quite, because Virgin Atlantic hasn’t learned anything.
What’s a Twimprimatur? Here’s a hint: I made it up. And here’s another hint: imprimatur + Twitter. (Imprimatur literally means “let it be printed,” but here are some more definitions.)
In July, I was interviewed by Rusty Mike Radio in Jerusalem – we went deep into blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and more. Check out the entire interview here, for insights into making these social media work better for you, as well as stories about Jewish innovation, how to make blogging into a quasi-career, and what my connection is to Madonna. And, of course, how to create your own Twimprimatur. 🙂
2010 is right around the corner, and I’m booking gigs in at least four cities. Be in touch to discuss ways in which I can help you improve your relationship with social media and creative content in 2010…
January 21 – invitation-only Skills Building Workshop: Best Practices in Social Media (Los Angeles)
February 12-15 – Presenter, LimmudLA (Los Angeles) – register now – “Writing Your Inner Megillah” (writing class), and “Jews’ Line Is It Anyway?” (basic improv from a Jewish perspective)
March – TBA – (Los Angeles, and a probable visit to San Francisco) / Bay Area
April – TBA – NYC
June – TBA – Jerusalem
July – ROI Summit – Kfar Maccabiah (near Tel Aviv)
August – TBA – Los Angeles
Stay tuned for more events as they’re confirmed. And don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions about my appearing in a city near you!
In 2008, I attended the First International Jewish Bloggers Convention in Israel, sponsored by Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organizations that assists people who are making aliyah (moving to Israel). I was interviewed several times on the radio and in print, and one of those radio transcripts is available online. It’s kind of interesting to read it more than a year later (although the transcript is missing a few words – maybe I have to enunciate more next time, so Israeli transcriptions can be more accurate).
New posts added all the time! Keep this page bookmarked or RSSed to make sure you’re up-to-date!!
I’m in Israel for the summer, meeting different people (and eating new things apparently) and doing business in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. While it’s a surreal life, it’s an exciting one. Follow my experiences at MyUrbanKvetch.com, or see below, where I’ll list the posts as they go up.
What I Learned at Google
Geek Tiyul (PICZ Goes North)
Shout: The Pride Parade and the Quest for Identity
Scoop’d: How to Eat Hummus Like an Israeli
TV Show Nails Religious Singles Scene in Jerusalem
ROI Summit Concludes, Esther Crashes
Holy Hip-Hop! Pre-Sabbath Breakdancing in the Holy Land
Old and New in the Israeli Hip-Hop Scene
Tagged in Tel Aviv
In Honor of the Sex and the City Movie: Who’s Your Favorite Man?
Eurovision 2008, Liveblogged from Jerusalem
Football Jewligans in Gan Sacher