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Comedian Matthew Broussard (Jones ’10) had his homecoming in front of a packed house in the Wiess commons Thursday night. Raised in Georgia, Broussard spent most of his time at Rice focusing on his computational and applied mathematics major and filling in electives with mechanical engineering courses. He started doing comedy in clubs when he was in his early twenties, committing to it full-time a little while later when he was forced to resign from his analyst position after burglars stole his work computer from his car. Since then, he has performed on Conan and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and finished as the runner-up on season two of Jeff Ross Presents: Roast Battle. Broussard was invited back on campus by Wiess College seniors Tim Skaras and Abbey Perez in coordination with Wiess college coordinator Ewart Jones and Andrew Schaefer, Wiess Magister and administrator of the Dr. Bill Wilson Student Initiative Grant.
What can fantasy tell us about reality? We are often told that fantasy is the opposite of reality, an imagined, idealized world existing solely in one’s dreams. What is often lost in that analysis is the opportunity for us to uncover the circumstances of one’s reality that inform and create their fantasies. What battles are we losing that we can win only in our imaginations?
In performance art, passion projects are rarely successful. With so much creative authority consolidated in one person, the final product is generally too much of one thing – too cerebral, too eccentric, too preachy, etc. – to the point of either hindering or debilitating the performance. However, “Eighth Grade,” written and directed by stand-up comedian Bo Burnham, is an incredible exception. The most obvious proof that the movie is a passion project is that it flouts the norms about coming-of-age movies and has an R rating slapped on top of it. For a movie ostensibly about eighth graders and technology’s effects on present-day adolescence, an R rating would seem to literally keep its target audience out of the theater. But adding dark, R-rated scenes into a teen comedy feels perfectly in line with Burnham’s stand-up acts, which regularly see him couching discussions about his crippling anxiety and self-doubt in fun-loving, upbeat comedic songs. (For a taste of what I mean, look up his Kanye rant at the end of his “Make Happy” special. Better yet, watch the whole special.)
The story of “The Greatest Showman” follows P.T. Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman) as he chases his ambition of creating — you guessed it — the greatest show on Earth. Along the way, Barnum incorporates some of New York’s “human oddities” (including a bearded lady and an incredibly short man) into his act, partners with upper-class businessman Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), and struggles against the entertainment snobs and outright prejudiced people of the turn of the 20th century to create the first instance of the modern circus.