Jill Sobule first found her place in music history with the controversial 1995 hit "I Kissed a Girl." The song's silly sweetness masked its significance: It broke new ground as the first Top 40 hit to deal with overtly gay themes.
This approach -- packaging hard-hitting social commentary in a wrapper of whimsy -- has defined Sobule's career. Her endearing story-songs veer from fanciful storytelling to forceful satire and back again, covering a wide range of political and social issues from climate change to prostitution; anorexia to anti-semitism. Her winning combination of memorable characters, clever lyrics and catchy tunes has inspired comparisons that range from Burt Bacharach to Gertrude Stein. It also makes her performances and recordings a delight.
Sobule's candy-coated commentary can be found on her Huffington Post blog, as well as in her steady stream of stand-out albums, including Jill Sobule (1995), Happy Town (1997), Pink Pearl (2000) and Underdog Victorious (2004). Lately, Sobule has performed regularly with comedian Julia Sweeney (the two met at TED2006). They put on the "Jill and Julia Show," an utterly endearing evening of stories and songs. She's also recording an album with the string quartet Ethel (another TED2006 match).
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.