Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, two of America’s most well-respected veteran comedians, won’t perform on college campuses. Their reasoning centers around the usual complaints about political correctness, assuming that today’s young people don’t appreciate, or maybe can’t even handle, the types of humor they tend to use in their sets. High-profile examples of clashes between college audiences and comedians are ripe for cherry-picking. Last December Nimesh Patel, a writer for SNL, was pulled off stage in the middle of a set at Columbia University after one of his jokes was deemed too offensive for the event: an example that fits snuggly into the idea that college students can’t take a joke. But in an op-ed in The New York Times that followed the incident, Patel himself acknowledged a complexity that this stereotype doesn’t completely capture, writing, “I do not think we should let the actions of a small group — actions that get blown out of proportion because they feed a narrative many people want to hear — paint college campuses as bad places to perform and paint this next generation as doomed.”
I talked to students who perform comedy at Cornell, at other universities and in cities across the United States.
On the surface, it might appear that Beau Mahadev ’18 spends their time wearing two pretty different hats: that of an engineering student on the one hand, and that of an active member of Ithaca’s sprawling DIY scene on the other. On the former front, Beau studies computer science here at Cornell; on the latter, they’ve immersed themself in the music of Ithaca on multiple levels. As an active volunteer for Ithaca Underground, as the Vice President of Fanclub Collective and as a burgeoning local musician and performer in their own right, Beau has carved out what might seem like a respectable side project apart from their engineering studies. But Beau doesn’t use guitars, drums, keyboards or anything else most people would associate with traditional instrumentation; Beau uses the tools of their trade. Crafting experimental noise music with synths, circuits and gadgets galore, Beau is part of a larger Ithaca community — itself a subset of an international experimental movement stretching back to at least Varese’s work of the 1920s — of noise-makers and barrier-breakers.
Of Semi Chellas’ numerous accolades, the one by which I was most impressed was that she was the writer of the first and only screenplay to ever be published by Cornell’s reputed Epoch magazine — and it was the first screenplay she had ever written. Perhaps this is an indication of someone who truly has an instantly-recognizable talent, a talent that, in Chellas’ case, propelled her towards becoming co-producer and writer for the brilliant, Emmy-winning Mad Men in its fifth season. Chellas talked about this experience in her Thursday talk, “Telling Secrets: Notes from the Writers’ Room.”
That’s what we — the die hard fans, the aspiring writers — wanted to know: what is the secret to a show like Mad Men? Mentioning the high level of secrecy surrounding the show, Chellas joked how strange it was for her to be revealing these secrets to us. Her informal, engaging talk was punctuated by short clips, mostly from Mad Men, which she used to illustrate larger creative processes or to explain what went into a particular scene.
Hey music lovers! Swine flu got you down? Never fear! We’ve got just the thing for you: Indie dance-rock maestros Ra Ra Riot, in concert at Castaways tonight at 9 p.m.! (Side effects may include head-bobbing, foot-tapping, uncontrollable laughing and crazy dancing. In some cases, these side effects may be severe. Please contact a medical professional for a foot-tap lasting more than four hours.) (Swine flu not included.)
Any Cornellian who watches the show Greek has probably noticed a few similarities to life on the hill that seem like more than just coincidences. From an alma mater that begins with “Far above … ”, to mention of a historic clock tower, it turns out these references are very much intentional thanks to Jessica O’Toole ’94. O’Toole is a writer and co-producer of ABC Family’s Greek. The Sun spoke with the former Daily Sun writer about her time at Cornell, the ties between Greek and the Big Red and what viewers can look forward to in the upcoming season.
The third season of Greek premieres next Monday, Aug. 31 at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.
In the aftermath of the great Uncle Tupelo schism of ’94, I’ve always been a Wilco partisan. From A.M. to Sky Blue Sky, the band – in all of its various iterations and lineups – has produced some of the best music of the past 15 years (or of any years, for that matter). From traditional alt-country – if that isn’t a contradiction in terms – to the “sculpted soundscapes” of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born, the band manages to stay true to its roots while reaching far beyond them.
Cornell may not always seem like the hottest place for up-and-coming rappers, but it has plenty of hip-hop history to boast of — not the least of which is True2Life, the trio composed of k. Words ’05, Concise ’05 and Slangston Hughes ’05. The Sun sat down with the crew — who make their own beats — and talked about hawking LPs at RPU, plans for the future and The Pussycat Dolls.
The Sun: How did hip-hop and music play a role in your lives as undergraduates here at Cornell?
This week Cornell Cinema will be screening Medicine for Melancholy, a film by relative newcomer Barry Jenkins. An IFC production, the movie follows Micah and Jo — two 20-somethings in San Francisco — after their one night stand (which by the end of the movie is more like a one-night-and-one day-stand). As they day goes on, they explore the city together, debating and discussing issues of race, gender, identity, gentrification and art.
Barton Hall got rocked on Sunday night as first GZA and then Girl Talk graced the stage for the Cornell masses. The former, a Wu-Tang Clan legend, was affable and loose, freestyling about our fair alma mater and wading through the crowd — though he did botch his encore, yelling “Fuck it” and tossing his mic back onstage.
A founding member of the legendary hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA — also known as the Genius and famous for his laid-back drawl; his complex, multi-layered lyrics rife with metaphor and literary illusions; and his now seminal 1995 hip-hop album Liquid Swords, which features samples from classic Samurai films — dropped us a line this week to chat about his creative process, kung fu films and his absolutely favorite past-time: chess.
The Sun: What do you expect from Cornell? In terms of the student body, are you excited?
GZA: Yeah, I’m looking forward to the show.
Sun: What do you think of Girl Talk?
GZA: I don’t really know much about him. I just started learning. He’s the DJ, correct?