Approximately 100 attendees gathered in Hanszen College commons on Thursday to hear Adam Lowitt, writer and executive producer of the Daily Show, talk about everything from Rice University’s residential college system to President Donald Trump.
He spoke by invitation of the Hanszen Academic Fellows Society, which maintains a tradition of asking speakers to the college.
Lowitt spent half of the hour-long speaking engagement doing stand-up comedy and the other half answering questions from the audience.
In his set, he incorporated what he had learned of Rice’s residential college system.
“What is Lovett’s deal?” Lowitt said. “No windows? So it’s a prison? We have Hanszen, Will Rice, and that is Guantanamo Bay over there. Is there anyone from Lovett in the audience? So you’re not on parole, is that what you’re saying? How is the sunlight affecting you, is it okay?”
During the event, Lowitt joked about an unexpected Amber Alert that occurred during his set.
“I have never seen this many people so ambivalent about a missing child,” Lowitt said.
Lowitt also covered being Jewish, shushing a cop and parenting a toddler, among other topics.
“When your kid is crying in public, it’s kind of like hanging out with your drunk girlfriend,” Lowitt said. “You’re just like, please don’t do this, everyone is watching. Look, I’ll get you some water if you just stop touching people’s hair.”
The Hanszen Fellows Planning Committee, which consisted of seniors Tahir Malik and Hanszen College President Kenny Groszman as well as juniors Joey McGlone and Yuna Choi, selected Lowitt as the speaker specifically because he was a comedian.
“We chose Adam Lowitt because he represents a side of academics that doesn’t get focused on enough: public speaking and the humanities,” Malik said. “We also thought that with a comedian, the event would be both entertaining but also enriching, as we learned about how he got to where he is today.”
Lowitt spoke for approximately 30 minutes about his comedy career. He said that he aspired to work for the Daily Show as early as his freshman year of college in 1998, but did not become an intern until 2001.
“I would go onto the Daily Show’s website [in 1998] and there was a number there to call if you were interested in an internship and I would just stare,” Lowitt said. “I wouldn’t call, I would just look at the number every once in awhile, like it was some girl I was afraid to ask out.”
According to Lowitt, he began as a post-production intern and was hired four days after his college graduation. He has been working at the Daily Show for 14 years.
One audience member asked Lowitt to comment on the production of the Daily Show on days when the news cycle is dominated by tragedies such when white supremacist Dylann Roof shot nine church worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015.
“Charleston was one of the darkest days there,” Lowitt said. “Comedy just happens to be the way that we at the Daily Show and comedians in general process sadness.”
Lowitt also discussed the working environment at the Daily Show, which he described as both fast-paced and open. Lowitt said any employee can pitch an idea and see it on the show.
“The great part about the Daily Show is that on your best day it ends and you get to do it all over again, and on your worst day, you’re like, thank God, we can just do this tomorrow and forget that this ever happened,” Lowitt said.
Lowitt said that the Daily Show had a special responsibility in the Trump administration.
“It feels there is a microscope that needs to be put on politicians and the administration and we would be abdicating our responsibility if we didn’t,” Lowitt said. “Not relenting is the mission. We’re trying to be silly, but also keep focus on, like, crazy guy.”
He follows a long line of Hanszen speakers including Ronald Reagan and Ken Jennings, according to Malik.
McGlone said they were pleased with the event and that fellows from other colleges helped make it a success.
Groszman said Lowitt was a good choice.
“As a comedian, Adam was able to talk about controversial subjects like religion and politics in a way that encourages conversation,” Groszman said. “Also, especially at Rice where we don’t have a media or communications school, we don’t often get to hear from someone in the television industry. Hearing his career story was interesting.”
Michael McDowell, a Wiess College freshman, said he enjoyed the event, although he objected to some of Lowitt’s humor.
“I thought the best part of the night was when he fielded questions from the audience, and specifically when he talked about how the show works on the day of a tragedy,” McDowell said. “I might have avoided some of the jokes he made, but overall I thought he was fantastic.”
Lowitt ended the event with life advice.
“The thing that I’ve noticed over my years is to work really hard and don’t be an asshole,” he said.
Joey McGlone edits the Backpage for the Thresher.