Local graphic designer and comedian presents an ‘awesome’ TED Talk

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Orlando – Call her “funny.” Call her “hilarious.” But one thing you do not want to call Jill Shargaa is “awesome.”

A local graphic designer and illustrator for Shargaa Illustration and Design, Shargaa is a woman of many talents and accomplishments—and presenting a TED Talk can be added to that list.

“It was like being in dream,” Shargaa said of her trip to New York as one of 26 chosen presenters out of more than 500 applicants.
Shargaa presented a Ted Talk titled “The ‘Awe’ in ‘Awesome.””

“It’s mostly comedy, but there is an underlying truth to how the word is now being said instead of the words ‘thank you’ or ‘great,'” Shargaa said. “Not everything can be awesome. I got so tired of hearing it all the time that the impact, or the value of the word, is lost now with so many people.”

In September 2013, Shargaa presented at an event called PechaKucha (PK). In Japanese, the word means “chit-chat,” and it’s a PowerPoint that is limited to 20 slides that run for only 20 seconds each, giving the presenter a total of six minutes and 40 seconds for their presentation. They’re held in select cities around the world and they sell out fast.

“We [Shargaa and her friend] went to [a PK], and I thought ‘Man, how can I do this,'” Shargaa said.

Shargaa submitted a comedic essay, which originally ran in the Orlando Sentinel,to the producer of the Orlando PK. Shargaa’s entry was accepted, and she received a positive response from the Orlando PK audience, so Shargaa wanted to find a way to use her PK presentation again.

“I’ve heard of TED and watched many of their shows, and I thought ‘This is very similar to PK,'” Shargaa said. “They recorded it [the PK], so I sent that recording as my audition tape up to TEDTalk up in New York. There was an open call for like a talent search in New York.”

Shargaa was chosen as one of the presenters for their July 8 event at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater in New York City. Upon arrival to the venue, Shargaa recalled the entire experience in detail and how awe-stricken she was during the rehearsal, the night prior to the TED Talk.

“I got a tremendous response here in Orlando [at the PK], so then I thought ‘Maybe I can do this again,'” Shargaa said. “That’s why I applied to TED, and TED said ‘yes.'”
Shargaa, an Orlando native, grew up surrounded by funny people, including her parents.

“I wrote a fan letter to Joan Rivers when I was just out of college and she wrote back with a contract inside essentially saying ‘If you’d like to write for me, here’s a contract,” said Shargaa. “So right there I’m about 23 years old and one of my idols is asking if I would like to write for her. That was a game changer right there.”

Besides working for the Orlando Sentinel and WESH 2, she also was one-half of a comic duo with Mike Brennan, performing for The Funny Farm—the only sketch comedy group of its kind in Orlando in the early 1980s.

She said presenting at TED was just like performing at any other event.

In New York, she presented to past TED speakers, TED staff, TED Content Director Kelly Stoetzel and TED Curator Chris Anderson.

“At the very end, Kelly said ‘Wow that was real strong.’ And Chris said, ‘That’s great.’ It was just terrific feedback,” Shargaa said.

Shargaa’s Ted Talk was featured on the main Ted.com website Aug. 29. The video of her talk hit the half a million views mark just 10 days later, but the winner of the New York TED Talk will not be announced until 2015.

“If nothing else happens from this, I can still say ‘I gave a TED Talk.'”

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