What 'Brilliant Jerks' can teach us about Travis Kalanick's rise and fall
As the net closes in on Tyler Janowski, the CEO of the unnamed ridehailing app at the heart of the new play "Brilliant Jerks", he faces two board members trying to convince him to leave, as reports of harassment and sexism converge on the company he founded.
Unrelenting, he launches into a tirade defending his business, its culture and himself. "We have 1,500 first-time managers," spits Janowski. "I can’t be responsible for 1,500 people!"
The show, written by journalist Joseph Charlton and playing at the VAULT Festival in London, takes its name from a 2017 speech by Uber board member Arianna Huffington, in which she said the company would no longer tolerate "brilliant jerks." But the play isn't just a fictionalised take on the fantastical up-and-down journey of Uber and its former CEO, Travis Kalanick. It is about the responsibility—and on occasion the lack of it—of three main characters: Mia, one of the app's drivers, who works in the North of England and has a troubled past; Sean, a savvy if sometimes naïve coder with his own secret; and, of course, Tyler, the all-powerful serial entrepreneur who watches as the empire he has built slowly comes to consume him.
The trio of actors who play these characters, as well as various other parts, keep the action moving with short, sharp dialogue interspersed with their own inner monologues. The play is mainly narrated by the three main characters, with telling the story directly to the audience prioritized above conversation. The effect is to heighten the sense of legend in the rise and fall of the company, mimicking Uber itself.
The show doesn't pull punches when it comes to highlighting the toxicity and sexism rife among the app's offices. Although the play does not mention Uber by name, there are scenes dedicated to several infamous episodes in the company's history, such as the alleged work trip to a karaoke-escort bar in Seoul and, as Susan Fowler described, the leather jacket fiasco. Elsewhere, an odious line manager encourages Sean's female boss to wear high heels, while Mia deals with drunk, leering men whom she is charged with driving home.
....MORE"Brilliant Jerks" shows that, for things to change, it must begin from the very top.
Back in a bit with the PitchBook story I was actually going for but for now a couple more in what appears to be becoming a series:
I am coming to accept it's a race with no winners, hell I even got beaten to "Enron, the Musical" by one Lucy Prebble who took it to the West End.
As the young people say: bitch.
Oh well, here's some background on the Enron zeitgeist from Generic Theater who did the southern-U.S. premier of the show:...