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Mikel Jollett      

Musician Known As the Frontman for Indie-Rock Band "The Airborne Toxic Event" & Best-Selling Author of "Hollywood Park"

Mikel Jollett is a musician and writer. His band, the Airborne Toxic Event (named for the section in Don Delillo’s White Noise) has drawn widespread critical acclaim, (from the BBC: “a crushing classic,” Spin: “The rock and roll equivalent of a tear-soaked novella,” as well the LA Times, Boston Globe, Q, the Guardian and others) and enjoys a worldwide following for its combination of Clash-like rock and roll and literary storytelling.

The certified Gold song “Sometime Around Midnight,” widely considered a modern classic of rock and roll, was named the iTunes Alternative song of the year in 2008. Three other singles have reached the top-20 on the American Alternative charts and the band had made major appearances at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Riotfest as well as sold-out tours throughout the United States, headlining such venues as the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, Summer Stage in Central Park New York and Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado The band is known for it’s live-show culture, the onstage antics of its charismatic frontman, and songwriting, which was praised by the LA Times as, “Poetry you can dance to. Nothing short of amazing.”

Jollett and the band have appeared on The Tonight Show, Late Night and other network late night television dozens of times. A longtime fan, David Letterman invited the band to perform on his 30th anniversary show. Jollett and the band also had featured appearance on Gossip Girl as well as featured music on HBO, Showtime, as well as many major box office films and network TV shows.

Before starting the Airborne Toxic Event, Jollett was a frequent contributor to All Things Considered on National Public Radio. An on-air essayist discussing culture and music, his radio essay “My Dad, the Ex-Con,” was selected by NPR for it’s year-end compilation of most popular stories entitled Driveway Moments. At this time Jollett was also an Editor-at-Large for Men’s Health magazine, and the managing editor of Filter Magazine. His first short story, The Crack, was featured in issue 27 of McSweeney’s Quarterly. For this story, he was admitted into the Yaddo writer’s colony. Jollett’s memoir Hollywood Park was published in May 2020. It debuted its first week at #8 on The New York Times Best Seller list.

Born in Santa Monica in 1974 in the utopian drug-rehab cult, Synanon, Jollett escaped with his mother and brother in 1978. After witnessing acts of violence and threats of kidnapping the three moved to Oregon in secrecy. There, the family lived on food stamps and supplemented their diet by raising and slaughtering rabbits under the guidance of Jollett’s alcoholic step-father who disappeared and was later believed dead. Jollett moved to Los Angeles in 1985 to live with his ex-con, ex-heroin addict father and step mother (also a Synanon survivor) where they grew close and dealt with his brother’s worsening addiction. Jollett became as standout student and athlete. He was eventually admitted to Stanford University in 1992. He graduated with honors in 1996. Mikel Jollett is an outspoken advocate and political activist who has earned a large and influential Twitter following (217,000) with a online imprint averaging 80 million impressions per month Jollett’s Twitter account is followed by countless influencers from celebrities such as Chrissy Tiegan, Rob Reiner, Ben Stiller, Alyssa Milano, Seth Rogan and Patton Oswald to national political figures such as Cory Booker, Bill de Blasio, and Chelsea Clinton, writers such as Cheryl Strayed, Danny Zuker, Brad Meltzer, Harlan Coben to journalists Joy Reid, Frank Rich, Charles Blow, David Farenthold, Van Jones and Dan Savage as well as countless other members of the online, print, film and television media. Overall in 2018, Jollett’s Twitter feed earned roughly 16 million engagements (likes, retweets or replies) and over half a billion impressions. In addition to Jollett’s Twitter feed, the Airborne Toxic Event has roughly 250,000 followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

In conjunction with his NYT best-selling memoir, Hollywood Park, the Airborne Toxic Event has completed an album by the same name, a fourteen-song concept record which draws from scenes and themes in the book and functions as a soundtrack to the book. The record deals with Jollett’s father’s life in prison and heroin addiction before his birth, the poverty and abuse of his childhood and the surprising relationship with his father which he believes changed his life. It also deals with his father’s death from cirrhosis and the grief which followed. Incorporating real audio from his family, gospel singers, symphonic players from violins to timpani to horns, the record is Jollett’s attempt to capture the high hopes of his parents, the dashed dreams and hard times which followed, the confusion of an adult romantic life spent nursing the wounds of childhood and the ultimate redemption which came from looking inward and finding an acceptance of self and love of family.

Jollett currently lives with his family in the Silver Lake hills area of Los Angeles. He is available in partnership with Collective Speakers.

Speech Topics


Despite our successes, we all carry trauma. Even if we haven’t used that word to describe our experiences, we each bear the burden of shame and guilt. And by simply being human, we all endure grief over those we’ve lost. Inside the highly-curated personas we’ve built, we have constructed monuments to this grief. These monuments lurk in our hearts and minds, unseen by our co-workers, friends, family and community. They may not even be apparent to ourselves. Yet these monuments make us into the people we are today. 90% of the art in the world is an external manifestation of these internal monuments. And our stories, even the ones we don’t want to tell – especially the ones we don’t want to tell – are a gift. Healing from these scars, while harnessing their power, enables us to offer our true value to the world: as artists, as creators, as leaders, and as people. With his sharp wit and extraordinary vulnerability, Mikel constructs a road map that allows listeners to transform even the most challenging life experiences into opportunities for growth. Audiences will emerge with a greater capacity for creativity and productivity.


Narcissistic Personality Disorder affects 1-2% of the population worldwide and is often overrepresented at the leadership level of government and business. NPD hews to predictable patterns, yet we do not have a common language for it, as we do with other mental illnesses like depression, addiction, or schizophrenia. In this highly engaging talk, Mikel Jollett recounts his life raised by a deeply narcissistic mother, who as a result of her mental illness, subjected him to violence, severe neglect, malnutrition, and a childhood without empathy. It is the goal of the narcissist to turn others into mirrors which reflect their fabricated worlds back on themselves. Jollett understood from an early age that was his role. After several of her mental breakdowns, Jollett finally begins to understand his mother’s emotional disorder and how to protect himself from it. Armed with the knowledge of therapy and deep research, he takes an entertaining scalpel to the narcissist as parent, the horrible choices they make, and the predictable roles they force their children into.

By examining his personal narrative, he is able to pull the lens back on the global impact; examining the narcissist as political leader who gains the power to drag an entire society into his madness. In doing so, Mikel arms listeners with tools to name narcissistic tendencies; to understand them; and ultimately to resist them so that we might as a society find a better way to live our lives.


Grieving is art. It exists outside the bounds of our waking world. Somewhere, in a parallel dimension, it reveals a place both stranger and larger than the place we live in on a day to day basis. Our daily existence is a space too small for the enormity of the loss we feel. It’s not that grieving is an art to be mastered, rather, it is best understood as portal through which we walk to become the new people we must become having suffered the loss we’ve suffered. The process makes us new people who can accept the loss, because we changed forever the day we lost the one we loved. In this touching and funny talk, based on Mikel Jollett’s viral piece on NPR’s All Things Considered, he recounts his unusual relationship with his heroine-addicted, ex-con father, who despite his many flaws, is steadfast in his love for his son. It is that very love that ends up saving Jollett’s life.

Upon his father’s death, Jollett realizes his entire world has been set aflame and he wanders the dreamscape of deep depression and grief. In his striving to become the person who can grasp the enormity of the loss, he discovers the gift his father gave him: the love of family and a steadfast commitment to his newborn children.


It’s popular to think of the world of cults as a strange outpost of human civilization, a kind of carnival freak show of human behavior that we watch with rapt attention. But the truth is that cult psychology — that of total devotion to a leader, information control and violence — exists on a spectrum. Not limited to the fringes of society, the organizations and ideologies we interact wtih every day can all have these cult-like elements. These are alway bad, always toxic and counterproductive, whether it is a religious organization, a family, a political movement, or even a Fortune 500 company.

In this riveting and hilarious talk, Mikel Jollett tells the story of escaping the Church of Synanon Cult as a child, how he and his family lived on the run from its violence for years, and eventually came to understand its devastating consequences. As a student at Stanford University, Jollett discovers the scholarship of mind control and cults and begins a lifelong journey to understand and ultimately deconstruct the forces at work on his parents and their peers. Through empathy and curiosity, he is able to recognize how they came to be so devoted to an abusive ideology, how that devotion hurt their children, and how they ultimately were able to become free from its grasp. He then applies these ideas to the cults of the mind and heart all around us. From destructive organizations, relationships, and political movements (including the rise of fascism in the United States), the goal is to understand, identify and equip ourselves to resist and dismantle these toxic forces at every level.


Nonfiction Book Review: Hollywood Park: A Memoir by Mikel Jollett ...
In this arresting debut memoir, Jollett, frontman of the indie band Airborne Toxic Event, writes of escaping a California cult named Synanon—where he lived in ...
Airborne Toxic Event leader Mikel Jollett writing memoir - Baltimore ...
Airborne Toxic Event frontman Mikel Jollett is writing a memoir.

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