Plenty of great comedians have delivered graduation speeches to the college graduates of the class of 2011, and Stephen Colbert was no exception to the exceptional this week. Although Colbert, unlike say, Amy Poehler or Conan O’Brien, was talking to seniors at a college he had attended himself — Northwestern University — 25 years after he had graduated. Well, sort of.
Colbert explains his own unique graduation moment, shows off his theater student abilities, finds a way to use the terms “brothel,” “prostitute” and “pimp” multiple times for the students, and reminds both himself and them how different things are for these kids today than when he was a college student.
The second half of the speech includes the more predictable parts, as even he confesses, in which he dares to inspire them with advice. “You have been told to follow your dreams, but what if it’s a stupid dream?” Colbert asked. The dreams of a 21- or 22-year-old might not always be the right ones, or even the best ones. And so failing to live out that dream doesn’t make you a loser, Colbert says. “Fortunately dreams can change.”
Colbert also draws upon his own background in improv comedy to talk about how as an actor, just as a person in real life, you should act as if everyone else in the scene is more important than you. Serve them. And since they’re following similar advice, they’ll be serving you.
Colbert added: “You cannot win at improv. And life is an improvisation.”
Roll the full clip.