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TED2010

Julia Sweeney: It's time for "The Talk"

February 12, 2010

Despite her best efforts, comedian Julia Sweeney is forced to tell a little white lie when her 8-year-old begins learning about frog reproduction -- and starts to ask some very smart questions.

Julia Sweeney - Actor, comedian, playwright
Julia Sweeney creates comedic works that tackle deep issues: cancer, family, faith. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I have a daughter, Mulan.
00:15
And when she was eight, last year,
00:17
she was doing a report for school
00:20
or she had some homework about frogs.
00:22
And we were at this restaurant,
00:24
and she said, "So, basically,
00:26
frogs lay eggs
00:28
and the eggs turn into tadpoles,
00:30
and tadpoles turn into frogs."
00:32
And I said, "Yeah. You know, I'm not really up on my frog reproduction that much.
00:34
It's the females, I think, that lay the eggs,
00:37
and then the males fertilize them.
00:39
And then they become tadpoles and frogs."
00:41
And she says, "What? Only the females have eggs?"
00:43
And I said, "Yeah."
00:45
And she goes, "And what's this fertilizing?"
00:47
So I kind of said, "Oh, it's this extra ingredient,
00:49
you know, that you need
00:51
to create a new frog
00:53
from the mom and dad frog." (Laughter)
00:55
And she said, "Oh, so is that true for humans too?"
00:57
And I thought, "Okay, here we go."
01:00
I didn't know it would happen so quick, at eight.
01:03
I was trying to remember all the guidebooks,
01:05
and all I could remember was,
01:07
"Only answer the question they're asking.
01:09
Don't give any more information." (Laughter)
01:11
So I said, "Yes."
01:14
And she said, "And where do, um,
01:16
where do human women,
01:19
like, where do women lay their eggs?"
01:21
And I said, "Well,
01:23
funny you should ask. (Laughter)
01:25
We have evolved to have our own pond.
01:28
We have our very own pond inside our bodies.
01:31
And we lay our eggs there,
01:34
we don't have to worry about other eggs or anything like that.
01:36
It's our own pond. And that's how it happens."
01:39
And she goes, "Then how do they get fertilized?"
01:42
And I said, "Well,
01:44
Men, through their penis,
01:46
they fertilize the eggs by the sperm coming out.
01:49
And you go through the woman's vagina."
01:52
And so we're just eating, and her jaw just drops,
01:55
and she goes, "Mom!
01:57
Like, where you go to the bathroom?"
01:59
And I said, "I know.
02:02
I know."
02:04
(Laughter)
02:06
That's how we evolved. It does seem odd.
02:12
It is a little bit like having a waste treatment plant
02:14
right next to an amusement park ...
02:17
Bad zoning, but ..." (Laughter)
02:20
She's like, "What?" And she goes, "But Mom,
02:22
but men and women can't ever see each other naked, Mom.
02:25
So how could that ever happen?"
02:28
And then I go, "Well," and then I put my Margaret Mead hat on.
02:30
"Human males and females
02:34
develop a special bond,
02:36
and when they're much older, much, much older than you,
02:39
and they have a very special feeling,
02:42
then they can be naked together."
02:44
And she said, "Mom,
02:46
have you done this before?"
02:48
And I said, "Yes."
02:50
And she said, "But Mom, you can't have kids."
02:53
Because she knows that I adopted her and that I can't have kids.
02:55
And I said, "Yes."
02:57
And she said, "Well, you don't have to do that again."
02:59
And I said, "..."
03:01
And then she said, "But how does it happen when a man and woman are together?
03:04
Like, how do they know that's the time?
03:07
Mom, does the man just say,
03:09
'Is now the time to take off my pants?'"
03:11
(Laughter)
03:13
And I said, "Yes."
03:15
(Laughter)
03:17
"That is exactly right.
03:19
That's exactly how it happens."
03:22
So we're driving home and she's looking out the window, and she goes,
03:24
"Mom. What if two just people saw each other on the street,
03:27
like a man and a woman, they just started doing it. Would that ever happen?"
03:29
And I said, "Oh, no. Humans are so private.
03:32
Oh ..."
03:35
And then she goes, "What if there was like a party,
03:37
and there was just like a whole bunch of girls and a whole bunch of boys,
03:39
and there was a bunch of men and women and they just started doing it, Mom?
03:41
Would that ever happen?"
03:44
And I said, "Oh, no, no.
03:46
That's not how we do it."
03:49
Then we got home and we see the cat. And she goes,
03:52
"Mom, how do cats do it?"
03:54
And I go, "Oh, it's the same. It's basically the same."
03:56
And then she got all caught up in the legs. "But how would the legs go, Mom?
03:58
I don't understand the legs."
04:00
She goes, "Mom, everyone can't do the splits."
04:02
And I go, "I know, but the legs ..."
04:04
and I'm probably like, "The legs get worked out."
04:06
And she goes, "But I just can't understand it."
04:08
So I go, "You know, why don't we go on the Internet,
04:09
and maybe we can see ... like on Wikipedia." (Laughter)
04:11
So we go online, and we put in "cats mating."
04:15
And, unfortunately, on YouTube, there's many cats mating videos.
04:17
And we watched them and I'm so thankful,
04:20
because she's just like, "Wow! This is so amazing."
04:22
She goes, "What about dogs?"
04:24
So we put in dogs mating, and,
04:27
you know, we're watching it, and she's totally absorbed.
04:29
And then she goes, "Mom,
04:31
do you think they would have, on the Internet,
04:33
any humans mating?"
04:36
(Laughter)
04:39
And then I realized that
04:41
I had taken my little eight year old's hand,
04:43
and taken her right into Internet porn. (Laughter)
04:45
And I looked into this
04:47
trusting, loving face,
04:49
and I said,
04:51
"Oh, no.
04:53
That would never happen."
04:55
Thank you.
04:57
(Applause)
04:59
Thank you.
05:01
(Applause)
05:03
Thank you. I'm so happy to be here.
05:06

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Julia Sweeney - Actor, comedian, playwright
Julia Sweeney creates comedic works that tackle deep issues: cancer, family, faith.

Why you should listen

Known for her stint on Saturday Night Live and her powerful solo shows, Julia Sweeney has carved out her own territory in entertainment, one that moves between the personal and the political, the controversial and the comical. Her piece Letting Go of God traces a spiritual journey that takes an unexpected turn toward science (a turn that, incidentally, also led her to TED) and ends with atheism. Her latest book is If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother, on parenting and being parented.

In this, as in all her performances, Sweeney projects a warmth and sincerity on stage that's unmatched in today's theater; you immediately feel you're chatting with an old friend. And this gift of intimacy allows her to achieve the impossible: an utterly disarming show that honestly confronts the most controversial topic of our times. Her earlier shows God Said “Ha!” and In the Family Way also garnered praise and prizes for their pairings of humor and poignant truth.

The original video is available on TED.com
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