Hooray! My interview series is back by underwhelming demand! This first interview* is actually the last interview from the previous series. I, uh, couldn’t manage to gather my thoughts enough to post it last time, and Jeff was so gracious about helping me wrap it up to post this time! So thanks Jeff!
Jeff Moriarty and I originally met through The Internet. I think. He’s pretty famous on the Phoenix scene because he constantly works to make the metro area a more creative place built on community. He’s been a founder or an organizer for several really cool events like Ignite Phoenix, Social Media Club, and ImprovAZ. If you heard about all those people riding the light rail here in Phoenix in their knickers or the flash mob dressed like Where’s Waldo at Tempe Marketplace , you can blame Jeff.
Jamie: Tell us a little about yourself.
Jeff: I have two knees that work well. I have a back and neck that don’t, due to car crash when I was younger. My hair has never killed a man. I believe in change, in motion, in exploration. Savor the world around you, but don’t take it too seriously. Find something new, for as much as you know there is infinitely more about which you have not a clue.
Jamie: “Not taking your world too seriously,” why did you develop that philosophy?
Jeff: Not taking the world seriously isn’t a philosophy I cultivated with intent. I got a dose of reality when I was very young, and it made me very sullen, quiet, and bitter. I kept chasing that darkness until I finally started to laugh. Laughter is about pain. It is a primal noise we make to each other, like monkeys hooting in the treetops, when we find a shared element of the human condition. Look at any joke, any funny story, and you will find at its heart a story of someone being embarrassed, hurt, confused, mocked, or otherwise suffering. Laughter is how we release that fear, for ourselves and others. Once I saw that, it became hard to take the world seriously. It’s not like any of us are going to get out of it alive.
Jamie: For someone with so public a presence, you are very private. Why?
Jeff: I just don’t think there is that much interesting about me worth sharing. Plus, because very little offends me I have a tendency to upset people with some things I say and do if I’m not careful. So I’d much rather explore and share with other people. And make them laugh, of course.
Jamie: Tell us an imaginary story about how you met your wife.
Jeff: It was my last assignment. The Sensei had promised me. Few Ninja were allowed to walk away freely, so I suspected a trap. The assassinations went well, as did the bank robbery, the government overthrow, the cooking of dinner, and the counting of all the grains of sand on the beach. For others, perhaps difficult, but such is the value of training. When the clowns finally came, I was ready. Their noses and flowers, the honking and squirting, it was a sordid affair. But at the end, covered in meringue though I was, I stood triumphant. The woman who was to be my wife saw it all. An innocent bystander to the carnage of the Big Top Smack Down, and she did not flinch. I knew then I would marry her as the first act of my newfound freedom. She ran fast and far, but I am tireless and I know mind control.
Jamie: Which do you like better: Ignite Phoenix or Improv AZ? (And you have to pick one so we can start a controversy.)
Jeff: I like Ignite Phoenix better than ImprovAZ because it allows people to showcase their passions, but I also love ImprovAZ more than Ignite Phoenix because it pushes people out of their comfort zone and makes them someone new. I like recursion, because it is recursion, and also recursion.
(photo credit: Ruth Carter)
Jamie: What has been your favorite Ignite Phoenix presentation ever. (And they are not like children-you can have a favorite!)
Jeff: Not trying to be evasive, but “favorite” is tough with Ignite presentations. There are funny ones, insightful ones, powerful ones, brave ones, well-presented ones, creative ones, influential ones, etc. One might be Luz Galusha-Luna’s “Typography as Personality” that she gave at the PodCamp Ignite we did. Wish the sound was better, because she did SUCH a good job conveying her passion outside her field.
Another favorite is Michael Wasserman’s talk about The Humanities in the 21st Century. Many people didn’t think this sounded like a very compelling topic, but Michael’s articulate, insightful view about the neglected role of the Humanities in modern education completely captured the audience and is one of the best Ignite Phoenix talks we’ve had. But if I had to make my Favorite Playlist, it would probably be about 16 or so in there.
Jamie: Batman or Superman?
Jeff: I’m heterosexual, so I would not date either one.
Jamie: please share an internet link (or two…)
I sat with Jeff this afternoon to get a couple of shots for this interview, and it was a beautiful conversation. I was reminded why I started these interviews in the first place. Jeff is a special person. He has these intense eyes, and he doesn’t flinch. And incredibly expressive hands. I like Jeff even more than I did this morning. I hope after reading this interview, you know what I mean. And feel free, as before, to ask Jeff your own questions in the comments.
Also, follow him on Twitter.
(*One thing you may notice about this next series is that I decided to use capitalization because it is fancier. And I am nothing if not fancy.)