Serve What You Love: Stephen Colbert’s Northwestern Commencement Speech 2011

Here’s another great commencement speech. I’m starting to think that only comedians should be allowed to do these things, but there probably aren’t enough of them who could really pull it off. Structurally, this one is a lot like Conan O’Brien’s Dartmouth speech— he starts with lots of jokes and eventually reaches what he calls the “meaningful part.” Colbert even builds on Conan’s talk when he reprises the “dreams change” theme from the Dartmouth commencement. “You have been told to follow your dreams,” he says. “But what if it’s a stupid dream?” Apparently he’d even been at the Dartmouth speech the week before because, while Colbert went to Northwestern, the character he plays on TV attended Dartmouth.

It’s nice to see Colbert being himself for a change rather than playing the character from his TV show. But I guess that he didn’t have much choice but to leave his regular character at home if he wanted to deliver a heartfelt message like “serve what you love.”  As he points out himself, the “Stephen Colbert” from the Colbert Report isn’t interested in serving anyone or anything– probably not an appropriate message for most commencement audiences.

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