Memetic Dinner Parties

The Set Table by romanboed, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  romanboed 

There’s this memetic question that people ask from time to time, and it’s a fun exercise. The question: “What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?” One assumes, here, that any dead people you invite would be alive, again, for said party. Because otherwise that would kind of be a party killer, whether they remain corpses or become zombies. So, I picture it as more of the kind of thing as in that Babylon 5 episode “Day of the Dead,” where the dead come back, but only briefly, and without all the rotting or brain-eating. But I digress.

I don’t know why it’s always six, and I don’t know why it has to be a dinner party. Let’s assume that bonding over food is a thing all humans share, and that seven (because I’m the seventh person) is the largest group of people who can have any sort of meaningful conversation without it splintering into sub-conversations. Yeah, let’s assume those facts (that I just made up).

My answer to these memes is usually something along the lines of “my current friends,” because it’s an easy answer that is also very flattering to the person asking, because they’re in that group. It’s also true. I mean, that’s why they’re my friends. But it’s also beside the point.

The most recent time I saw the meme was on Facebook. Thanks to a conjunction of that appearance of the meme along with some videos I’d watched over the last few days, I realized I actually had an actual answer! But I will not be artificially constrained to just one party. Because . . . well, because reasons, that’s why.

. . .

Oh, fine. I think it’s important with any dinner party that your guests get along with one another, have things in common, and get along with one another (it bears repeating). I mean, you wouldn’t invite your loudmouth, racist uncle Bob to dinner with your Jewish or African-American friends, right? That would be inviting disaster. And we’re dealing not with just friends and family, we’re dealing with people throughout history.

(This is what is called “setting up the premise of the post.” See how seamlessly I did it? You’re welcome!)

I’m always kind of amused by people’s answers to this question. “Jeanne d’Arc, Jesus, Cleopatra, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Madonna” would be a typical, ridiculous answer. It’s asking for trouble. It would be the worst dinner party ever. I mean, come on. Cleopatra and Madonna would get in a sexy-off contest (possibly involving underwear and snakes) while Einstein and Newton argued physics in at least three languages and Jesus tries to convince Jeanne not to slay everyone else for being heretics. Talk about a party buzz-kill. But it would make an awesome YouTube video. Guaranteed for millions of hits. But I digress once more.

So I decided that I’d have to have four parties. Because I immediately thought of four people in vastly different categories, and was fairly sure they would not get along, in the very unlikely event of a Day-of-the-Dead-style resurrection just to come to a dinner party thrown by a total stranger. So even though I had to have them, it would be kinder to them to have them in related groups. </premise set-up>

Also, these are for me to selfishly sit and bask in the inevitably wonderful conversation(s) that would grow organically. Or I’d toss a few leading statements out there to see how they’d react.

Party the First: Teh Science

These guys are not only scientists, they are all excellent at communicating complex ideas in science to the lay public. That’s me! I’m so lay, I might as well rhyme! I have just enough understanding of physics that I could probably follow them if they remembered to speak down to on my level. All of them have books or podcasts or TV shows or some combination of the three. The reason I put Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan on the same line is that they were married until Sagan’s death in 1996. They’re kind of a package deal. :)

Also, one of the tracks that is on the Voyager space probe’s golden record is a representation of Ann’s EEG while she’s thinking about how much she loves Dr. Sagan. I literally tear up every time I hear or read the story. So even without Dr. Sagan, she’d be on my list.

Party the Second: Teh Funny

Do I even need to justify or explain this list? I didn’t think so. Also, I’ll add that if you’ve never experienced the comedy of Adam Hills, you owe it to yourself to look him up on YouTube and/or NetFlix and just . . . enjoy. He definitely fits (as far as I’m concerned) with the other luminaries on the list.

I could add so, so many more people to that list.

I would, of course, have a supply of oxygen on hand, and some medication to ease my aching jaw and abdominal muscles from all the laughter.

Party the Third: Teh Fanboy/Squeebait

I would challenge the last three to collaborate on a project and hire the first three to star in it. I might also suggest that it wouldn’t suck if the project also included Drew Barrymore and Neil Patrick Harris. Just saying. And I would sit and squee with (barely suppressed inner) glee while the six of them tossed around ideas and then probably die of happy with a smile on my face that no mortician could ever eradicate. Just the thought of it makes me hyperventilate a little. Maybe I’d need the oxygen from the previous party.

Party the Fourth: Teh World-Changers

Malala Yousafzai impresses the absolute hell out of me, and her cause (making education available for all girls/women) is arguably one of the most important causes in the world. The Gateses, Musk, and Carter are accomplishing amazing good in the world. You may or may not agree with any of their politics (or religious views), but it’s hard to argue against their collective net positive effect on the world.

And, frankly, any group of world-changers without Fred Rogers would be woefully incomplete. He may not have literally saved the lives of millions of people or negotiated with world leaders or used his billions of dollars helping humanity, but his simple message of “You are worthy just as you are” goes very quietly right along with what the others are doing. Teresa Heinz Kerry (wife of John Kerry) said of Mr. Rogers, “He never condescended, just invited us into his conversation. He spoke to us as the people we were, not as the people others wished we were.” And that was his magic.


So these are my “dream teams” as it were. I only included seven people, total, who are not living, and those all died relatively recently. The rest are contemporaries. No historical people like Shakespeare or Leonardo da Vinci or Billie Holiday. Don’t get me wrong: those people are great. I just want people who could relate to the current state of the world.

People who know me won’t be at all surprised by the first three, but might raise an eyebrow at the last one. Good. I like surprising people who think they know me. :)

I could easily add several more themed parties.

A lot of people who know me might be surprised that there is no ‘authors’ group in there. There’s a simple reason for that: I literally have a plethora of interesting, intelligent, talented authors around me so often, there is no way I could limit it to merely six.

Who’s on your dream team(s)? What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party/-ies?


  1. Disaster is one guest that’s never on my list.
  2. It’s a pun! On two very different meanings of the word ‘lay’! . . . Trust me, it’s extremely funny.
  3. The story is here. It’s worth reading. Search for “I had this idea” and read. Or, you can listen to NPR’s Radio Lab’s interview with Ann Druyan about the EEG here. About seven and a half minutes.
  4. He has so many oars in the water, I couldn’t find just one website for him, so I linked his Wiki page with links to all his endeavors.
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4 Responses to “Memetic Dinner Parties”
  1. Gary, I’m pretty sure I’d invite YOU. Just sayin’.
    Carol Cassara recently posted…When someone hurts youMy Profile

  2. D'Ann Renner says:

    First, I love your digressions. I do that a lot. Adult ADD, I think it’s called, but almost always fun. Second, can I come to your second party, the funny one? I won’t talk or eat, I’ll just be your waitress or something. Third- who would I invite? Hmm. That requires a lot of thought. i can’t wait to talk to Jesus Christ, but I’ll get him all of eternity, so a dinner party would just be a tease. Maybe Judas Iscariot, because I’ve always wondered about him. I’d love to ask him–why did you do it? I’m convinced it wasn’t for the 30 pieces of silver. And Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers- got along ok while living, I believe, and I think they’d both love to plumb Judas’ motives. Maybe Jim Croce to croon some background music? No, we’d be too busy talking to listen to him which would be a shame. Oh, and Mother Theresa, she’s an awesome person and I’m sure she’d forgive Judas. I’d like C.S. Lewis, but he;s probably too deep for this dinner party. How about PD James and John Grisham? So I’d have 4 excellent writers from two different centuries, a puzzling criminal/betrayer, and the one of the modern world’s most saintly women. Wow. It;s going to be a Roman dinner party, and last a couple of days. At the end, I’ll have enough writing material for two lifetimes.

    • If I had the second party, I’d set up live webcams and charge $1.99/minute for people to watch it unfold. I’d make a mint. I’m sure we’d need a server, a sommelier, maybe a couple of others… I’d hold those for my friends. :)

      Sounds like an interesting party at your place. :) I think in retrospect, I’ll make all four of mine Roman as well. ;)
      Gary Henderson recently posted…Memetic Dinner PartiesMy Profile

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