352nd Harvard Commencement
Class Day speech
June 4, 2003
This is not the Worcester, Mass Boat Show, is it? I am sorry. I have made a terrible mistake. Ever since I left “Saturday Night Live,” I mostly do public speaking now. And I must have made an error in the little Palm Pilot. Boy. Don’t worry. I got it on me. I got the speech on me. Let’s see. Ah, yes. Here we go.
You know, when Bill Gates first called me to speak to you today, I was honored. But when he wanted me to be one of the Roxbury guys, I — Sorry, that’s Microsoft. I’m sorry about that. Star Trek Convention. No. NRA. NAACP. Dow Chemical. No. But that is a good one. That is a good speech. The University of Michigan Law. Johns Hopkins Medical School. I’m sorry. Are you sure this is not the boat show? No, I have it. I do have it on me. I do. It’s here. Thank you.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Faculty, Administrators, Friends and Family and, of course, the graduating Class of 2003, I wish to say hello and thank you for bestowing this honor upon me as your Class Day speaker. After months of secret negotiations, several hundred secret ballots, and a weekend retreat with Vice President Dick Cheney in his secret mountain bunker, a Class Day speaker was chosen, and it was me. You obviously have made a grave error. But it’s too late now. So let’s just go with it.
Today’s speech is going to be a little different, a little unorthodox. Some of you may find it to be shocking. I’m not going to stand up here and try to be funny. Because even though I am a professional comedian of the highest caliber, I’ve decided to do one thing that a lot of people are probably afraid to do, and that’s give it to you straight.
As most of you are probably aware, I didn’t graduate from Harvard. In fact, I never even got a call back from Admissions. Damn you, Harvard! Damn you! I told myself I would not get emotional today. But damn it, I’m here, and sometimes it’s just good to cry.
I’m not one of you. Okay? I can’t relate to who you are and what you’ve been through. I graduated from the University of Life. All right? I received a degree from the School of Hard Knocks. And our colors were black and blue, baby. I had office hours with the Dean of Bloody Noses. All right? I borrowed my class notes from Professor Knuckle Sandwich and his Teaching Assistant, Ms. Fat Lip Thon Nyun. That’s the kind of school I went to for real, okay?
So my gift to you, Class of 2003, is to tell you about the real world through my eyes, through my experiences. And I’m sorry, but I refuse to sugarcoat it. I ain’t gonna do it. And I probably shouldn’t use the word “ain’t” during this day in which we celebrate education. But that’s just the way I play it, Homes.
Graduates, if you will indulge me for a moment, let me paint a picture of what it’s like out there. The last four or, for some of you, five years you’ve been living in a fantasyland, running around, talking about Hemingway, or Clancy, or, I don’t know, I mean whatever you read here at Harvard. The Novelization of the Matrix, I don’t know. I don’t know what you do here.
But I do know this. You’re about to enter into a world filled with hypocrisy and doublespeak, a world in which your limo to the airport is often a half-hour late. In addition to not even being a limo at all; often times it’s a Lincoln Towncar. You’re about to enter a world where you ask your new assistant, Jamie, to bring you a tall, non-fat latte. And he comes back with a short soy cappuccino. Guess what, Jamie? You’re fired. Not too hard to get right, my friend.
A world where your acting coach, Bob Leslie-Duncan — yes, the Bob Leslie-Duncan — tells you time and time again that you will never, ever be considered as a dramatic actor because you don’t play things real, and are too over the top. Amazing! Simply amazing!
I’m sorry, graduates. But this is a world where you aren’t allowed to use your cell phone in airplanes, during live theater, at the movies, at funerals, or even during your own elective surgery. Apparently, the Berlin Wall went back up because we now live in Russia. I mean just try lighting up a cigar in a movie theater or paying for a dinner for 20 friends with an autograph. It ain’t that easy. Strong words, I know. Tough talk. But more like tough love. Because this is where my faith in you guys comes into play, Harvard University’s graduating Class of 2003, without a doubt, the finest…