Story by Ken Stone and video by Chris Stone
In his first ever commencement address, comedian Lewis Black urged UC San Diego graduates Saturday to relish and cultivate a sense of humor, which he called “your life preserver in what could definitely be a veil of tears.”
Humor, he told 1,200 graduates of Thurgood Marshall College, “will keep you sane in the midst of the madness you’ll encounter … every day of your life.”
Black was introduced by Provost Allan Havis, a friend and classmate of Black 35 years ago at Yale—where the comic earned a master of fine arts degree.
“Seriously, you’re the first school to have asked me” to speak at graduation, said Black, 64, clearly touched despite his jokes about it. “It is an honor that I will not forget.”
Black told Patch that UCSD first asked him to speak at least four years ago, but he had work conflicts.
Known for his finger-shaking profane riffs on politics and social issues as a stand-up comic and guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Black noted his background in theater.
Longer story, photos: Words of Wisdom from Comedian Black at UCSD: Beware of Idiots
Full speech on YouTube: Lewis Black at UCSD 2013 Commencement
Extra YouTube features: Patch interview with Lewis Black
Also see: Grant Burger-White delivers stirring senior address at UCSD
He never swore during his 13-minute talk—which was supposed to be five minutes—but his humor was as raw as ever.
Black said afterward that he went through five or six drafts of the speech, which he deemed too serious at one point during writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He told Patch he sent it to fellow comedian Kathleen Madigan for her review, suggesting it needed to be lightened up.
Black’s main point: “Pursue whatever it is that you want to do with your life. It’s the only secret to happiness that I know of—except for maybe true love and maybe the amazing health insurance plan that our congressmen have.”