Celebrate International Joke Day with some of the funniest and smartest comedians on the planet
A few years ago, successful actor and comedian Zack Galifianakis spoke before a crowd of aspiring young comedians at the University of Southern California’s coveted School of Dramatic Arts. His honest, but somewhat sobering message to his riveted audience being that comedians pursue the hardest dramatic art of all.
“Comedy is so much harder than drama. Comedians can play dramatic roles better than leading men and women can do comedy.”
Perhaps then it is no surprise that some of the world’s most successful comedians backed their profession with a high calibre education - both in acting and other areas of study - at some of the best universities in the world.
Want to know where some of the funniest people on the planet started on their comedic and academic journeys towards international acclaim? See the university history of some of our most famous comedians below:
COMEDIAN: BEN STILLER
Stiller, the star of an endless number of box office comedy hits, including the ‘Meet the Parents’ and ‘Zoolander’ films, attended UCLA’s highly respected school of theatre, film and television. The director, writer and comedian is also proactive when it comes to advancing the lives of others through education - his Ben Stiller Foundation, dedicated to promoting the well-being of children through world-wide initiatives in education.
COMEDIAN: ROWAN ATKINSON
UNIVERSITY: QUEEN'S COLLEGE, OXFORD
Believe it or not, the British actor who entertained the world as ‘Mr Bean’, has a masters degree in electrical engineering from Oxford! While working towards this degree, Atkinson also pursued acting, performing at a variety of clubs, including the Oxford University Dramatic Society, the Oxford Revue, and the Experimental Theatre Club.
COMEDIAN: SACHA BARON COHEN
UNIVERSITY: CHRIST’S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
This versatile and sometimes controversial comedian graduated with a degree in history from Christ’s College, Cambridge. While at university he joined the famous Footlights Theatre and acted in productions such as Fiddler on the Roof and Cyrano de Bergerac.
COMEDIAN: CONAN O’BRIEN
UNIVERSITY: HARVARD UNIVERSITY
This famous American late night TV host and comedian majored in history and literature at Harvard University - graduating in 1985. O’Brien credits his experience writing comedy for the university’s storied humour magazine, 'The Harvard Lampoon', as being responsible for sharpening his skills as a comedian.
COMEDIAN: ELLIE KEMPER
UNIVERSITY: PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
Kemper, best known for her roles as both receptionist, Erin in the US version of The Office, and as the lead in the award winning comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, paid tribute to her days at Princeton when she was invited to be the Class Day speaker at this year’s graduation ceremony. At Princeton, where she majored in English, Kemper was not only a member of the university’s improv comedy troupe, Quipfire, but also their national championship winning field hockey team!
COMEDIAN: GREG GIRALDO
UNIVERSITY: COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY AND HARVARD LAW SCHOOL
This Comedy Central sensation not only graduated with a degree in English from New York’s Columbia University, but was also admitted to Harvard Law School after achieving a near perfect score on his Law School Admissions Test! When the talented comedian sadly passed away in 2010, the Columbia University Alumni Association staged two benefit shows at the Gotham Comedy Club in his memory.
COMEDIAN: WHITNEY CUMMINGS
UNIVERSITY: UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
Cummings - co-creator of the Emmy nominated comedy 2 Broke Girls - graduated magna cum laude from UPenn’s Annenberg School for Communications with a Degree in Communications in 2003. The talented student also completed her four year undergraduate degree in only 3 years!
COMEDIAN: BILL MAHER
UNIVERSITY: CORNELL UNIVERSITY
This American comedian, political commentator and television host - who has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - attended Cornell University where he graduated in 2010 with a double major in English and history.
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