Rory Bremner: A one-man world summit
July 24, 2009
Scottish funnyman Rory Bremner convenes a historic council on the TEDGlobal stage -- as he lampoons Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and a cast of other world leaders with his hilarious impressions and biting commentary. See if you can catch a few sharp TED in-jokes.Rory Bremner
One of the UK's sharpest funny men, Rory Bremner exposes the lunacies of modern politics with devilishly clever political satire and spot-on impressions of leaders from around the world. Full bio
Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Chris has been so nice.
I don't know how you keep it up, Chris, I really don't.
So nice, all week. He's the kind of man you could say to,
"Chris, I'm really sorry, I've crashed your car.
And it gets worse, I crashed it into your house.
Your house has caught fire.
And what's more, your wife has just run off with your best friend."
And you know that Chris would say, "Thank you."
"Thank you for sharing, that's really interesting."
"Thank you for taking me to a place that I didn't know existed. Thank you."
One of the -- (Applause) Thank you for inviting us.
One of the things about appearing later on in the TED week is that,
gradually, as the days go by,
all the other speakers cover most of what you were going to say.
Nuclear fusion, I had about 10 minutes on that.
Spectroscopy, that was another one.
And so this morning I thought, "Oh well, I'll just do a card trick."
That one's gone as well.
And today is Emmanuel's day, I think we've agreed that, already, haven't we?
Emmanuel? Absolutely. (Applause)
I was planning on finishing on a dance ...
So, that's going to look pretty shabby now.
So, what I thought I'd do is -- in honor of Emmanuel --
is, what I can do is to launch today the first
TED Global auction.
If I could start, this is the Enigma decoding machine.
Who will start me with $1,000? Anyone?
Thank you. Bruno's face, just then,
he said, "No, don't go through this. Don't, please don't.
Don't go through this. Don't do it."
I'm worried. When I first got the invitation,
they said somewhere in the thing, they said, "15 minutes to change the world,
your moment onstage." 15 minutes to change the world.
I don't know about you, it takes me 15 minutes to change a plug.
So, the idea of changing the world is really quite an extraordinary one.
Well, of course now we know we don't have to change a plug,
now we've seen that wonderful demonstration
of the wireless electric -- fantastic. You know, it inspires us.
300 years ago he'd have been burnt at the stake for that.
And now it's an idea.
It's great. It's fantastic.
But you do meet some fantastic people,
people who look at the world in a totally different way.
Yesterday, David Deutsch, another one
who covered most of what I was going to say.
But when you think of the world in that way,
it does make going to Starbucks a whole new experience, don't you think?
I mean, he must walk in and they will say,
"Would you like a macchiato,
or a latte, or an Americano,
or a cappuccino?"
And he'll say,
"You're offering me things that are infinitely variable."
"How can your coffee be true?"
And they will say,
"Would you mind if I serve the next customer?"
And Elaine Morgan yesterday, wasn't she wonderful?
Fantastic. Really good.
Her talk about the aquatic ape, and the link, of course,
the link between Darwinism
and the fact that we are all naked beneath this --
we're not hirsute and we can swim rather well.
And she said, you know, she's 90. She's running out of time, she said.
And she's desperate to find more evidence for the link.
And I think, "I'm sitting next to Lewis Pugh."
This man has swum around the North Pole, what more evidence do you want?
And there he is.
That's how TED brings these connections together.
I wasn't here on Tuesday. I didn't actually see Gordon Brown's
job application -- um, sorry.
I'm so sorry. (Applause)
I'm so sorry. No, no. (Applause)
No, no, ahh ... (Applause)
(As Brown): "Global problems require Scottish solutions."
The problem I have is because Gordon Brown, he comes onstage
and he looks for all the world like a man
who's just taken the head off a bear suit.
(As Brown): "Hello, can I tell you what happened in the woods back there?
Uh, no." (Laughter)
"I'm sorry. I've only got 18 minutes, 18 minutes to talk about saving the world,
saving the planet, global institutions.
Our work on climate change,
I've only got 18 minutes, unfortunately I'm not able to tell you about
all the wonderful things we're doing to promote the climate change agenda
in Great Britain,
like the third runway we're planning at Heathrow Airport ..."
"The large coal-fired power station we're building
at King's North,
and of course the exciting news that only today,
only this week, Britain's only manufacturer
of wind turbines has been forced to close.
No time, unfortunately,
to mention those."
"British jobs for Scottish people ...
"Christian principles, Christian values.
Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal,
thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife."
"Although to be honest, when I was at Number 11 that was never going to be a problem."
(As Tony Blair): "Yeah, alright, come on, eh.
Alright Gordon, come on, eh.
I just, can I just say a few things about,
first about Cherie, because she's a wonderful lady,
my wife, with a wonderful smile.
That reminds me, I must post that letter."
"I just think, you know, what people forget,
Gordon and I, we always got on perfectly well.
Alright, it was never exactly 'Brokeback Mountain.'"
"You know, I wrote to him, just before I left office. I said,
'Can I rely on your support for the next month?'
And he wrote back. He said, 'No, you can't.'
Which kind of surprised me, because I'd never seen 'can't' spelled that way before."
Another thing Gordon could have mentioned in his speech
to the Mansion House in 2002 --
that was to the building; the people weren't listening.
But the people, when talking about the finance industry, he said,
"What you as the city of London have done for financial services,
we, as a government, hope to do for the economy as a whole."
When you think what's happened to financial services,
and you see what's happened to the economy, you think,
"Well, there is a man who delivers on his promises."
But we're in a new world now. We're in a completely new world.
This is the first time that I can remember, where if you get a letter
from the bank manager about a loan, you don't know if you're borrowing
money from him, or if he's borrowing money from you.
Am I right?
These extraordinary things, Icelandic Internet accounts.
Did anyone here have an Icelandic Internet account?
Why would you do that? Why would -- It's like one step up
from replying to one of those emails from Nigeria, isn't it?
Asking for your bank details.
And, you know, Iceland, it was never going to cut it.
It didn't have that kind of collateral.
What does it have? It has fish, that's all.
That's why the Prime Minister went on television. He said,
"This has left us all
with a very big haddock."
A lot of what I do -- I have to try and make sense
of things before I can make nonsense of them.
And making sense of the financial crisis is very, very difficult.
Luckily, somebody like George Bush was really helpful.
He summed it up, really, at a dinner.
He was speaking at a dinner, he said,
"Wall Street got drunk."
"And now it's got a hangover."
And that's, you know, that's something --
And that's something we can relate to.
It's certainly something he can relate to.
And the other one, of course, is Donald Rumsfeld, who said,
"There are the known knowns, the things we know we know.
And then you got the known unknowns,
the things we know we don't know.
And then you got the unknown unknowns, those are the things
we don't know we don't know."
And being English, when I first heard that I thought, "What a load of cock."
And then, you're now, well, actually, that's what this is about.
This whole, what Ben Bernanke has said,
the chaotic unwinding of the world's financial system,
it's about -- they don't know, they didn't know what they were doing.
In 2006, the head of the American Mortgage Bankers Association said, quote,
"As we can clearly see,
no seismic occurrence
is about to overwhelm the U.S. economy."
Now, there is a man on top of his job.
And when the crisis was happening, the head of quantitative equities
at Lehman Brothers said,
"Events which models predicted would happen
once every 10,000 years
happened every day for three days."
So, it's extraordinary. It's a new world that's very, very difficult to make sense of.
But we have a new hope. We have a new man.
America has now elected its first openly black President.
Not only that, he's left-handed. Have you noticed this?
How many people here are left-handed?
You see, a lot of the people that I most admire,
they're great artists, great designers, great thinkers,
And somebody said to me last night, you know, being left-handed,
you have to learn to write without smudging the ink.
And somebody was talking about metaphors on Monday.
And I thought, what a wonderful metaphor, isn't it? An American President who
has to write without smudging the ink.
You like that one? As opposed to you could see
George Bush, well, what's the metaphor there?
I think it would be something out of the aquatic ape thing, wouldn't it?
"Well, you know I'm sorry about that.
I'm right-handed but I seem to have smudged that ink as well."
But, you know, he's gone. Now he's gone.
That's eight years of American History, eight minutes of my act,
just gone like that.
"You know, it's the end of an error [sic].
I happen to believe it was a great error.
I know folks said to me they believe it was one of the greatest errors
in the history of the United States.
But we proved them wrong in Iraq.
They said there was no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
There is now."
"But I have a message for the suicide bombers,
for those people who've blown themselves up."
"We're going to find you."
"We're going to make sure you don't do it again."
But now he's gone, and it's great to see one of the --
arguably one of the worst speech makers
in American history,
now given way to one of the greatest, in Obama.
You were there, maybe, on the night of his victory.
And he spoke to the crowd in Chicago, he said,
"If there is anyone out there
who still doubts
that America is a place
where all things are possible ..."
I can't do the whole thing because it would take too long, it really would.
But you get the picture. And then it goes to the inauguration.
And he and the Chief Justice, they trip over each other,
they get their words wrong and they screw the thing up.
And there is George Bush sitting there going, "Heh heh heh heh ..."
"Not so easy is it? Heh heh heh."
But the interesting thing is, Gordon Brown was talking about Cicero,
who said, people would listen to a speech, they said, "Great speech."
And then they'd listen to Demosthenes,
and they'd say, "Let's march."
And we all want to believe in President Obama.
It's rather like that line in the film "As Good As it Gets."
Do you remember that film with Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson,
and Helen Hunt says to Jack Nicholson, "What do you see in me?"
And Jack Nicholson just says,
"You make me want to be a better man."
And you want a leader who inspires and challenges
and makes you want to be a better citizen. Right?
But at the moment, it's a Cicero thing.
We like what Barack Obama says, but we don't do anything about it.
So he comes over to this country, and he says,
a big fiscal stimulus."
And everyone goes, "Great!" He leaves the country
and the French and the Germans go, "No, no, forget about that,
absolutely not." Nothing happens. He goes to Strasburg.
He says, "We need more boots on the ground in Afghanistan."
And everyone goes, "Great idea."
He leaves, people go, "No no no, we're not going to do that.
5,000 maximum, and no rockets. No, no, not going to do it."
He goes to Prague, he says, "We believe in a nuclear-free world."
And it's great to have an American president who can say the word "nuclear,"
let's just point that out first.
Do you remember that? George Bush, "A nu-ca-ler."
Sorry, what? "A nu-ca-ler."
Could you say "avuncular"? "Avunclear."
Thank you very much.
But he says, "We want a nuclear-free world."
And that day, North Korea, that very day,
North Korea is just seeing if it can
just get one over Japan --
and land it before ...
So, where do we look for inspiration? We've still got Bill Clinton.
"Travels the world." (Laughs)
"I believe, I believe it was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who said ..."
"Tell a lie; it was Diana Ross ..."
"... who said, reach out and touch ..."
"... somebody's gla -- hand."
"Make this world a better place, if you can.
I just think that's important. I really do.
And I was hoping Hillary would get to the White House,
because she'd have been out of our home for four years.
And I, you know." (Laughter)
"So, when that didn't work out I had to make a few arrangements, let me tell you."
So, there's him. In Britain we have Prince Charles:
"And the environment is so important, all we can do.
My wife gets fed up with me constantly trying to
push emissions up her agenda."
Or, any South Africans, we have Mandela to inspire.
Mandela, the great man Mandela.
He's been honored with a statue now.
The previous highest honor he had in Britain
was a visit from the team from Ground Force, a gardening program.
"So, Nelson, how would you like a nice water feature?"
"Ahh, listen to me Mr. Titchmarsh."
"I was held in prison
for nearly 30 years
on an island
in the middle of the ocean.
Why would I need a bloody water feature?"
Very quickly: I wasn't quite sure how to end this talk
and then yesterday that man came up with a wonderful quote
from the "Japanese Essays on Idleness"
which said it's nice to have something which is unfinished
because it implies there is still room for growth.
Thank you very much indeed.
One of the UK's sharpest funny men, Rory Bremner exposes the lunacies of modern politics with devilishly clever political satire and spot-on impressions of leaders from around the world.Why you should listen
From pop star to political pundit, Scottish-born satirist Rory Bremner has been channeling famous folks for decades. While the frenetic funny man may be most recognized for his regular cameo on Whose Line is It Anyway? (that was Bremner as Prince Charles on a dating show), his wicked impressions of Tony Blair and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have landed him in popular one-man shows and on BBC news and comedy spots like Mock the Week. Bremner's comedic antics run the gamut between anti-war activism to Monty Python-like goofiness. He recently convinced Labour Party's Margaret Beckett he was Prime Minister Gordon Brown during a controversial phone conversation.
When he's not prank-calling members of Parliament, the tri-lingual comedian writes farcical plays and translates operas from French and German into English. He recently "wit-synced"at The Big Brecht Fest at London's Young Vic Theatre.
The original video is available on TED.com