Ze Frank at TED

Via Boing Boing, here’s twenty minutes of the very talented Ze Frank at the TED Conference.


As I wrote on my play blog, I totally ripped off Ze Frank’s spam monologue for Bolloxed. I thought it was genius and hilarious. What’s that line from T.S. Eliot? “Mediocre writers borrow, great writers steal.”

Unfortunately (and it serves me right), it doesn’t really work in the production. It’s one of the sections which I think is funny that nobody in the audience digs. I feel that the idea is fundamentally funny, so it’s clearly an implementation problem. That is, I didn’t write it into the play correctly. Here are some possible explanations:

  • The section is too near the front of the play, and I haven’t given people permission to laugh yet. I went to last night’s show, and that wasn’t true, as there were laughs before this spam monologue section.
  • The spam monologue isn’t long enough. If you watch the above video, people don’t get it for a good minute or so, until Ze (can I call him Ze?) talks about being the son of a Sierra Leone minister and having “the sum of 23 million US dollars which he kept away from the rebel leaders during the course of the war”. Then there’s this nice laugh as it dawns on people about what’s going on.
  • The joke doesn’t have broad enough appeal.
  • Some other reason I haven’t figured out yet.

Here’s the section from the play:

AOIFE: Dear friend. My names are Alhaji Mamudu Waziri, a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. My colleagues and I request that you partner with us to lay claims for 600 million dollars, an excess from approved contract funds…

JACK: My company makes anti-spam software. We’re making the world a safer place for email. I work at an outsourced development office for a Very Large Company whose name you’d recognize. Dublin isn’t exactly New Delhi, but once the jobs leave American soil, it doesn’t matter where they go. So… (makes ‘Mum’s the word’ gesture) I’ve been here nine months since moving from Vancouver. I’m a Canadian working for an American company in Ireland, fighting Nigerian spam sent from Belarus. Welcome to the new world order.

AOIFE: …I will require from you a scanned copy of your international passport, as well as banking details to enable me to effect changes on the vital documents. Please expedite action…

I’m going to see the play a couple more times, so I’ll try to puzzle out a better solution.

On the other hand, there are sections that I think are lame which the audience totally loves, so it shows how much I know.


  1. Brem: Well, that’s up to the director’s interpretation. There are a bunch of ways this could be done (recorded voices, Aoife keeps talking but lowers her volume, Jack actually, I don’t know, puts tape over her mouth, and so forth).

  2. Without the context in which those two characters interact, I’m afraid I can’t help much. The way I see it, it’s two characters monologuing and not interacting. I somewhat fail to see any joke.

  3. For me at least, this was one of the more funny sections of the play and something I remembered when I wrote the review. It’s a spam that I get a lot at work so it was instantly recognizable.

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