Eric Schmidt And Stephen Colbert Talk Politics, Google Play (‘What Happens There?’), And The Strange Allure Of Failure [Video]


Stephen Colbert has been promoting his new book recently, and as part of this he stopped by Google’s New York office to sit down with chairman Eric Schmidt and participate in the company’s Authors@Google speaker series. The event apparently happened on December 7th, but Eric Schmidt just posted about it today on his Google+ page along with a full video and a highlight reel, the second of which is embedded above.

If you like Colbert you’ll probably like the whole thing — he spends time both in and out of the Colbert Report character, and he talks politics, current events, and lots more. But there are two bits that I think give it enough of a tech and business angle to post about here on TechCrunch.

One is how he clearly has no idea what Google Play is and how, upon learning that it’s essentially an Amazon competitor, makes a joke about it (in which he slips up and calls it Google Plus.) That starts at about 2:26 in the video embedded above.

The second (and the best part overall, in my opinion) is when he talks about why he made the risky decision years ago to pursue comedy as a career.

Starting at about 7:40 in the video above, Colbert shares an anecdote from when he stumbled into performing in the improv comedy troupe Second City. In those early days working in comedy, Colbert says, he quit the scene four times thinking that it just wasn’t the right thing for him to do. But he decided that this was the place for him when one night during a Second City performance, a colleague completely bombed onstage while telling a joke.

“We burst into laughter backstage, and we thew our arms around each other in the agony of her failure. …And she could hear it happening, the audience could see our feet, and then she started laughing at how wonderfully she had just failed.

And I thought at that moment, this is what I want. If failure of this scale can cause this much joy for anyone, then this is the healthiest thing I could do for the rest of my life, and I will do nothing else. And I have never looked back from that moment.”

Of course, there are big differences between the world of comedy and the world of technology startups, but there is something in this story to which I think a lot of entrepreneurs could relate. It’s an incredibly unique experience to be in a world where failure is not completely shunned — a world where often, it’s even celebrated. It is indeed a strangely alluring thing.

Please see the disclosure about Google in my author bio.