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'Serious' comedian Hannah Gadsby and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt highlight 2019 TED conference

The week-long event, hosted in Vancouver since 2014, is ground zero for the TED Talks that are then broadcast free on YouTube and other digital platforms.

Other noteworthy speakers include the president of Sierra Leone and the head of Twitter

Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, speaks onstage at the 2018 TED conference with lead curator Chris Anderson. The 2019 conference includes a mix of up-and-coming researchers and celebrities. (Jason Redmond/TED)

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, blockbuster director Jon M. Chu and "serious comedian" Hannah Gadsby are some of the celebrities highlighting this week's TED conference. 

The week-long event, hosted in Vancouver since 2014, is ground zero for the TED Talks, which are then broadcast free on YouTube and other digital platforms. It's also where about 2,000 creators, industry leaders and intellectuals pay $10,000 US to seek investors and collaborators and rub elbows.

The theme for this year's conference is "bigger than us." At a media briefing last Monday, TED curator Chris Anderson says the talks are centred around political and technological disruption and the search for deeper meaning to drive those changes. 

The conference, which stands for technology, entertainment and design, showcases speakers sharing the latest research on subjects as varied as climate change, quantum information theory and happiness.

There are about 70 speakers scheduled for the conference, at themed sessions throughout the week.

As always, this year's speaker lineup includes a sprinkling of celebrity speakers.

The conference will include a talk from actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt of Inception and Third Rock from the Sun fame. Gordon-Levitt is also the creator of HITRECORD, an online collaboration tool to help people find collaborators for unfinished projects. 

Self-described "serious comedian" Hannah Gadsby, fresh off the success of her hit Netflix comedy special Nanette, will also be giving a talk. Her latest stand-up show, Douglas, explores her recent autism diagnosis.

Her previous shows have dealt with weighty topics, including homophobia, trauma and mysogyny.

Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu is also scheduled to speak at the conference. Chu's upcoming project is a feature adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical In the Heights, which won four Tony Awards.

Other noteworthy speakers include Julius Maada Bio, the president of Sierra Leone, and Jack Dorsey, the head of Twitter. 

The conference also includes talks from the TED fellows — emerging researchers and innovators from around the world.

Some of this year's fellows include investigative journalist Ali Al-Ibrahim, who reports from the frontlines of Syria, and alternative meat entrepreneur Bruce Friedrich. 


Maryse Zeidler


Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at


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