Meet a Deac – Stephen Colbert!!!!!!

This news should go live on the WFU website by 4:30 pm today, but the powers that be gave me permission to put it in the Daily Deac a few minutes ahead of the official release so it could go out to you today.  Stephen Colbert, former host of the Colbert Report and now the Late Show (and more importantly the 2015 Commencement speaker!) is going to have an official role with Wake Forest this fall.  He’ll be teaching a mostly-distance learning class on comedy writing for television via our Communications department.

Our office has a connection to Mr. Colbert, and he was kind enough to do a phone interview with me for today’s Meet a Deac.  Let me just say, he is the nicest, most genuine guy in the world. I cannot believe my good fortune that he a) would talk to me for this, and b) was so gracious about it. He was as funny, as kind, and as authentic as they come.

Wake Forest University holds its 2015 Commencement ceremony on Hearn Plaza on Monday, May 18, 2015. Comedian Stephen Colbert gives the commencement address.

Wake Forest University holds its 2015 Commencement ceremony on Hearn Plaza on Monday, May 18, 2015. Comedian Stephen Colbert gives the commencement address.

So here we go – today’s Meet a Deac: Stephen Colbert.

Before we begin, I have to tell you this: in addition to me being an enormous fangirl, you and I share a history of wrist injuries. I have one of your Wrist Strong bracelets from when you broke your wrist on The Colbert Report.
I feel for you, sister.  The wrist struggle is real.

What is your official job title?
As of July 1, I will be Visiting Lecturer in Communications. This fall I will teach a course that will be a hybrid – most of it online (due to my work schedule), but I will be on campus for three face-to-face class meetings.  It is called “Smart Writing for Television” and it will be about how political wonks like me can take their passion for current events and politics and turn that into intelligent, thoughtful comedy.

You know the question everyone is going to have: how can students sign up for your class?
The Registrar’s office is still working that out.  It looks like it may go live around June 1.

How did you first come to know about Wake Forest?
Well, like most of America, I watch sports. Growing up in South Carolina, the ACC is not unfamiliar territory. I remember your glory days with Tim Duncan and later Chris Paul. Then a friend of mine had a child come to Wake, and I got to hear about the school through that family’s experiences.  I was impressed.  I have kids in the college range, so we are always keeping an eye on good schools.

Since you have kids in the right age range, how would you characterize college students of today?  How are they alike or different from your time in school at Northwestern?
Today’s college students are fierce, man. They have amazing minds and tons of energy – and they are involved in way more activities than my generation ever was. Doing internships, traveling abroad, running homeless shelters, and finding cures for cancer – all while maintaining a 3.5 GPA.  It’s mindblowing.  By comparison, when I was at Northwestern, you generally did one thing besides school.  I was a theatre guy and that’s all I did. My friends who wrote for the school paper did that one thing. In terms of how today’s students are alike with my generation: the answer was then and shall forever be, beer.

You must know your Commencement speech drew rave reviews from everyone around here. I have to ask this: at one point in your speech, you criticized our win-loss record and heard some rumblings from the crowd, then you leaned into the mic and whispered “Let me win you back…Duke sucks!”  Did you have any trouble deciding whether to say Duke or UNC for that bit?
Um, have you heard of Coach K?  That one was like shooting fish in a barrel.

What have you liked best about the time you’ve spent (so far) at Wake Forest?
Definitely the Graylyn.  You get to eat breakfast in that Persian Card room where the walls came from an old Persian castle.  It’s the marriage of culture and bacon, what’s not to like?

What advice do you have for students?
Read as much as you can and learn as much as you can, because those are the building blocks for successful people. Having said that, you need to work hard, yes,  but life is to be enjoyed. I can promise you that once you graduate, you are going to have 1,000x the obligations and responsibilities you have now. Enjoy these moments of freedom while you have them. And don’t play it safe every minute. Take a few risks.  Ask that girl or that guy you like on a date, take the road trip to see a friend. Live as well and as fully as you can. 

What advice do you have for parents?
Your kids are slowly siphoning away all your money, but they know that already. And never under any circumstances try to get on Snapchat or Vine or whatever else your kids are using.  You don’t want to know. 

colbert ftwWhat is your favorite place on campus?
I was pretty fond of that Commencement stage [big grin].

Will you indulge me in answering our bonus questions?
Of course.

Book you’re reading now: Trump: The Art of the Deal.  [affects Trump voice] It is a great book, I mean it is really great.  People love it! And it is a YUUUUUGE font of comedy gold for my show. Plus, I made Mexico pay for the book!

What music are you listening to these days:  I still love Ben Folds. He is from around here, yes?

Lord-of-the-Rings-SwordsFavorite movie:  I loved all of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies. I am a giant Tolkien nerd.

Website you frequent:  (You didn’t REALLY think Colbert would be teaching here, did you?)

— by Betsy Chapman

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