Many Hollywood celebrities you hadn’t thought about in a while will deliver a commencement address -- the way stars back in the 80s used to do a guest spot on “The Love Boat” or “Fantasy Island.” It was quick, fun, and showed your fans some range they didn’t always associate with that celebrity. Plus it’s a lot easier than joining a Reality TV show.
So I wrote an article that satirizes the trend of celebrity commencement addresses in part because they follow a general pattern: after talking about what an honor it is to be speaking to the graduating class, they almost always offer a humblebrag joke about their careers -- in case some parents and grandparents aren't familiar with the celeberty's oeuvre. Next comes a section about being a mediocre student -- especially for those speaking at their alma maters. The "meat" of the speech is an inspirational lesson focused on their struggles to make it to the top of the Hollywood food chain. In between there are the requisite jokes about hungover seniors moving back home to their parents' homes.
If you haven't seen them, colleges these days post these speeches onto YouTube. Jim Carrey gave one last year. Ed Helms and Amy Pohler each gave one. But then so did Snooki from "Jersey Shore." They can usually be very funny because these are (Snooki aside) great performers. But their speeches can seem a bit canned and formulaic.
After watching a number of celeb commencement addresses, I wrote the piece that appeared in the Boston Herald. And very nicely some people shared it among their social media peeps.
That's where the negative comments comes in. One friend posted it to our alumni page, and one person (who graduated before I arrived at the school so there's no history here) wrote: "What a waste of time." Another person (also no connection) wrote that she had never heard a celeb commencement address but the one given by Marion Wright Edelman at true college today was excellent.
In the history of negative comments, these don't even rank -- I realize that. But the first comment was somewhat annoying. If you don't like it and don't want to support the efforts of a fellow alum, don't write anything, I felt like posting. (Which I didn't over there but am doing over here.) As to the second commenter, Ms. Edelman is an accomplished activist, and while well known, is not a Hollywood celebrity -- so it's not a fair comparison. Ms. Edelman has a real point to make whereas a lot of the celeb addresses are meant to be entertainment. Which is why some speakers actually change hefty fees to "give" a commencement address.
Snooki charged Rutgers $32,000 to speak, more than it paid Toni Morrison. This year, the University of Houston admitted this week that it is paying Matthew McConaughey $135,000 -- plus travel and a fee to a booking agent.
But back to the mildly negative comments. I could respond with the idea that any controversy would be helpful in generating attention to the article or to me.
On the other hand, I've experienced little negative feedback until now. And I can't expect for everyone to be aware of the trends I try to satirize or to laugh at my jokes.
I also don't want to be thought of as thin skinned or as having no sense of humor about these things. (I laughed hard when a writer I don't know said he hated that one article of mine that got published that he wanted to quit the business. I actually took it as a compliment.). So I'm probably not going to respond.
But I reserve the right to change my mind.