Comedian Adam Conover, creator and star of truTV’s Adam Ruins Everything, shared his perception of Cornell and the philosophy behind his show at Statler Auditorium, Friday evening.
Conover, who called Ithaca the “Hard Rock Cafe of college towns” because he saw many people across the country wearing the “Ithaca is Gorges” t-shirt, kicked off his show by roasting Cornell as the outcast of the Ivy League.
“This is an Ivy League School? I always forget,” Conover said jokingly, but then expressed shock after learning the cost of going to Cornell.
“70K,” he sighed. “Man, you guys are lucky this show is free.”
Conover, who graduated in 2004 with a philosophy degree from Bard College, joked that, as the only person in his immediate family without a Ph.D. degree, Conover often inspired bemusement from his parents when he shared his comedy set ideas with them.
“[My parents would say] ‘Oh, that’s nice … Your sister just turned matter into energy. It’s not going to make the Christmas Card,’” Conover said jovially.
Conover said that one of the reasons he loves comedy is because it allows him to combine his interest in both comedy acts and philosophy, a discipline which “constantly [undermines] your beliefs … [with] the idea of questioning everything.”
The show Adam Ruins Everything — which aims to debunk the misconceptions on topics that most Americans may not be particularly aware of — is the product of this philosophically informed skepticism that is not satisfied by merely stating the truth, according to Conover.
“It’s not enough to just prove that you’re right, you have to speak to the other person’s emotional truth. You have to respect the other person’s feeling and speak to that feeling,” he explained.
Some past topics that Conover has “ruined” include dog breeding, racial segregation in American housing and trophy hunting.
Conover said the purpose of the show was not to prove “really hardcore people” wrong or to make them feel bad, but to get ordinary citizens to think about the nature of what they believed to be true.
“We never talk down to the audience,” Conover said. “I’m not trying to go for the crazy weirdos like Scientologists … Most people are normal people who you can have a conversation with.”
As for the comedy industry in general, Conover complained that comedians publishing content on sites like Youtube and Facebook struggle because they do not receive fair compensation from the web giants. For example, the YouTube channel CollegeHumor, where Adam Ruins Everything ran before truTV picked it up, “has gotten smaller,” according to Conover.
“Youtube and Facebook have destroyed independent publishing on the internet … [by forcing creators to] figure out how to be rewarded by FaceBook’s complex algorithms,” Conover lamented.