CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that Bryan Tucker spoke at Back Bar at Top of the Hill. Tucker spoke in the Great Room at Top of the Hill. The story has been changed to reflect this.
UNC’s journalism school has been the starting point for many dignified professionals, but alumnus Bryan Tucker, who writes for “Saturday Night Live,” said he is far from dignified.
“While my peers wanted to delve deep into the issues, I wanted to tell jokes about my ding-a-ling,” he said.
Tucker came to the Great Room at Top of the Hill Tuesday night to give the inaugural Jeff MacNelly lecture to a sold-out crowd about how comedic writers use politics for material.
Tucker is a writing supervisor for the late-night show SNL, and he has also written sketches for the likes of Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle.
Susan King, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the school wanted to bring someone who would give a different but equally important message as the school’s last sponsored speaker, Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief Matthew Winkler.
“We had a strategy,” King said. “It’s a political year: How can we do two major lectures that would emphasize critical issues in election year?”
Even though Tucker said a career in journalism was not for him, he emphasized that he learned many skills in the school that helped him in his career as a comedy writer.
He said brevity and clarity — fundamentals of journalism — are crucial to comedy.
Tucker also said the two careers are similar because they benefit from “gifts” that can turn into stories or jokes.
He said this year writers had to work harder because they were provided with fewer gifts than in the last election. But he did give examples of some of the things the writers of SNL latched on to.
“Thank goodness for Joe Biden, he would probably hug you while crying if you gave him a Twizzler,” Tucker said.
Tucker’s brand of political satire resonated with the crowd as attendees laughed at the many one-liners he delivered during the speech, as well as at the clips of SNL that he played.
Tucker also raised legitimate concerns about the number of people who get their information from satirical sources.
“If you’re getting your news from late-night comedy shows, you’re not doing yourself any favors,” he said.
But senior Mary Dickson, on the other hand, thinks there is an important aspect to having news delivered in a satirical form.
“I don’t think it influences people’s decisions, but it definitely gets the point out there to young people,” she said.
Dickson, a management and society major, said she watches SNL with her roommates every week.
King said she hoped students took away an important message about the value of a journalism degree.
“You walk away and say, ‘There are many different routes I can take with this kind of foundational experience of understanding.’”
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