Stand-Up Comedian Baratunde Thurston on ‘How To Be Black’

BY Paul Solman and elizabeth shell  May 7, 2012 at 6:30 PM EST

Baratunde Thurston seemed like something of a wonder: a stand-up comedian via Sidwell Friends and Harvard. I note, however, that there is now something called The Harvard College Stand-Up Comic Society, so perhaps surprise is unwarranted. And when you read Thurston’s new book, “How to Be Black,” or note that he works for The Onion, you realize that he’s so gregarious and funny, a stand-up career appears not just apposite but almost unavoidable.

Making Sense

Despite a healthy number of reviews — 66 of them — which generally brings a book’s ratings down (or up) to Earth, Thurston’s book gets a dizzying 4.8 of a possible 5 stars on Amazon. By contrast, “The Hunger Games” gets a 4.3.

Face-to-face, Thurston is just as personable as in print or on stage: a totally unpretentious, candid young man who answers all questions and bridles at none.

One more word of introduction. Our interview of Thurston grew out of the closest encounter we’ve had with “going viral” — our interview with Charles Murray, author of “Coming Apart” and architect of the how-in-touch-are-you-with-white-America? quiz that more than 100,000 of you responded to. Murray and Thurston posed questions to each other — and answered them — in the New York Times a few months ago. It gave us the idea of interviewing Thurston about whether black America was also “coming apart.” When he visited Boston, we did. Here’s the result.

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions