Patton Oswalt to William & Mary’s Graduating Class: “You Poor Bastards,” “You Do Not Have a Choice But to Be Anything But Extraordinary”

Patton Oswalt, William & Mary, Class of 1991, graduated with a 2.8 GPA “into a world full of trivia and silliness and fun.”

The Class of 2023, he observed in a recent keynote address at his alma mater, is poised to enter a “hellscape where you will have to fight for every scrap of your humanity and dignity.”

The comedian seasoned his speech with jokes, but its “hard truth” is one that could find favor with activist Greta Thunberg – namely that the inattention, apathy, and blithe wastefulness of his generation, and all generations that came before have saddled today’s young people with a seriously messed up planet:

Your concerns as you stumble out into reality tomorrow are massive. Democracy is crumbling. Truth is up for grabs. The planet’s trying to kill us and loneliness is driving everyone insane.

The good news?

Your generation has rebelled against every bad habit of mine and every generation that came before it. Everything that we let calcify, you have kicked against and demolished.

He sees a student body willing to battle apathy, alienation, and cruelty, who insist on inclusion and openness about mental health.

(By contrast he was a “little daffodil” who angrily took his Physics for Poets prof to task for having committed an inaccuracy involving Star Trek’s chain of command on the final exam.)

The former English major mangles a quote from author Gerald Kirsch’s 1938 short story Busto is a Ghost, Too Mean to Give Us a Fright!

The real quote is:

…there are men whom one hates until a certain moment when one sees, through a chink in their armour, the writhing of something nailed down and in torment.

The paraphrased sentiment retains its power, however, and his sloppy fact checking squares with his portrayal of himself as a lackadaisical B- student.

Returning to campus 32 years later as a successful writer, actor and comedian, he exhorts the most academic members of the Class of 2023 to take a cue from their peers whose GPAs were less than stellar, “the daydreamers, the confused, and the seekers:”

There are people out there who want to manage every moment. They want to divvy up every dream, and they want to commodify every crazy creative caprice that springs out of your cranium. Don’t let them. Be human in all of its bedlam and beauty and madness and mercy for as long as you can and in any way you can.

He may have dashed off his address in his hotel room the night before the ceremony, but he drives his point home with an ingenious Hollywood insider reference that may send the entire class of 2023, their families, professors, and you, dear reader, rushing to view (or revisit) the 1982 sci fi classic, Blade Runner.

As to why Oswalt merits the honorary degree William & Mary conferred on him, fellow alum and Ted Lasso showrunner Bill Lawrence has a theory:

I guess it’s because he didn’t really deserve the degree he got when he was here.

via BoingBoing

Related Content 

John Waters’ RISD Graduation Speech: Real Wealth Is Life Without A*Holes

‘This Is Water’: Complete Audio of David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon Graduation Speech (2005)

“Wear Sunscreen”: The Story Behind the Commencement Speech That Kurt Vonnegut Never Gave

– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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Comments (35)
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  • Dummy says:

    Why is everything nuclear with Hollywood and the media?? “The world’s a horrible place for us millionaires” “the world’s gonna burn” gtfo

  • Mike says:

    There’s never been an easier time in history to be “extraordinary “.

  • Obi Wan Solo says:

    How G-Damn depressing, to have your $70,000 per year school, pick this worthless, moronic slob, as your graduation speaker!

  • Rosary DeMello says:

    You must be very proud of yourself. You hide behind a keyboard and have the audacity to call an invitee speaker worthless. Brave. The power you think you possess! You must imagine YOU are above somehow. And yet you haven’t been asked to speak!

  • OC says:

    Hey there,

    We’re getting a lot of visitors to this post today. Just curious, where are you all coming from? Google News or something else?


  • Mike Walker says:

    Just another clown. Hard-working, decent people who still remember the difference between right and wrong, do not agree with hardly anything you say.

  • OC Reader says:

    Answering OC question: speaking for myself, I came in from my android device’s news aggregator. (I.e. Swipe right on home screen). Thanks for the content.

  • OC Reader says:

    …think it’s called “Google Feed” or some such. Thanks again!!

  • Lightning1 says:

    So my generation messed up the world and Greta Thundberg’s is going to fix it. My generation drank from a fountain, hers drinks from a small plastic bottle. Mine put food in a biodegradable paper bag, her’s orders food packed in 6 pounds of plastic materials. Mine made one trip to the store a week, her’s demands convenience and makes several per day. Mine realized that not everyone is a superstar, her’s has everyone being SPECIAL and a superstar. So who is messing up this world?

  • Jeff says:

    Everything you said her generation does was created by previous generations, not hers.

  • C5pilot says:

    Her’s hasn’t really created anything yet. Except angst over something that was always changing for millenia. The only thing they don’t understand is its not man-made, oops….

  • Lightning1 says:

    Mine also accepted responsibility for mistakes, her’s blames everyone else!

  • STFu I am right says:

    People like you wouldn’t let him speak of you had the power to stop him.

  • OC says:

    Thanks for letting us know!

  • Cobra says:

    I cant decide of this was supposed to be inspirational or depressing. When I graduated in 2005 the commencement speaker went on for 20 minutes about how we all need to figure out how to do business in China. I thought it was stupid at the time… but by 2012 I was doing just that to my enormous financial benefit.

    What does Oswald give them? False solutions to real problems and a bunch of smoke blown up thier butts. This generation may not have the luxury to follow such vapid fools. Previous generations may have had thier quirks but at least the leaders were serious people.

  • Edward says:

    Unclench dude…….

  • Evan says:

    Exactly. A moron. But they picked him. These once prestigious Universities are fast becoming moral and intellectual wastelands, most notably in the social sciences.

  • Al says:

    He’s right though, a 2.8 gpa , he is a moron!

  • Rondo Drinker says:

    Who picked this ding dong to be a keynote speaker? Can you imagine the conversation? They’re all sitting around a table spitballing names … Nikki Haley, Elena Kagan, Warren Buffett, when someone goes hey I know, Patton Oswalt! HAHAHAHAHAHA what a pathetic joke!

  • Flabbergasted123 says:

    Wow all you alt right trolls clinging to the worsening fascist dystopia you created with that horrible excuse for a fake president drumpf.

    You do know that pulling yourself up by your bootstraps was meant as a derogatory statement right? Oh wait half of you can’t read so what’s the point of me explaining it. Adding insult to injury is the fact he doesn’t care about any of you because you are too poor to be any part of his master plan to enrich himself and his cronies.

    I always get a chuckle when I hear all you magatards whine about antifa like they are the bad people. Let’s just pretend you traitors did not try to take over the country after a failed vote by tiny hands drumpf. If minorities tried the same thing they would have been shot or arrested for treason, and summarily executed after a sham trial. But hey white privilege isn’t a thing.

    Solar bad, oil good! CO2 keeps us warm! Trickle down economics works because billionaires know best. 150 years till the planet dies? I won’t be around that long so who cares amiright?

    NobOdY wAnTs tO wORk! Ya no thanks to crap and stagnant wages. I don’t want 10 roommates in a house owned by a hedge fund with 15% rate increases every year. It’s funny because all you trailer park magatards pay the very people you put in office to exploit you. All it took for them to steal your freedom was a scapegoat that they invented. Oh wait I keep forgetting you guys are not educated enough to read a book that doesn’t have pictures in it.

    You wanna know why we have illegal immigration? Because we need illegal labor to sustain our food production. We will never have a path to legal workers because then they get rights and can’t be exploited. Your idiot commander in queef wants you angry so you won’t notice that he is the one stealing your jobs and your taxes. God knows you won’t pick strawberries for $1 a bushel. You would rather be welfare kings and queens and then blame immigrants for stealing jobs you know you would never do in the first place. Oh and here is the kicker, republicans stole your jobs with NAFTA (signed by Bush).

    It’s hilarious that you keep voting in the very people that keep stealing from you every election cycle. And you happily accept your own exploitation in exchange for some made up crisis against *insert minority of choice here*.

    Your generation has done and continues to do incalculable damage to the only home we all have, but we are the problem somehow for pointing it out.

  • greatbiglib says:

    Amen to your commentary on immigrant labor. Anyone who thinks that they are not reliant upon it better start training for the abatoir. And very few will have the stomach for it. Close the borders and starve, you morons.

  • Flabbergasted123 says:

    I don’t want to do that kind of labor for sure. But that’s the whole point though.

  • Lightning1 says:

    Flabbergasted, be happy. You won the last 2 elections. The house doesn’t count because RINOs dilute true republican control. So tell me, how are things now versus 4 years ago?

  • Flabbergasted123 says:

    I’m guessing you are also a victim of the American education system since you think our current president is a victory. Rampant inflation (republicans did that), low pay (republicans systematically destroy labor protections), absurd student loan circus (republicans can steal PPP money and get it wiped away no problem though), the travesty of roe v wade getting repealed (republitards strike again), clarence thomas (guess who), taylor greene, boebert, kennedy, desantis, rand paul, mcconnell. Yes I’m real happy for more inept political gridlock while crony capitalism drains our nation. At least the US and Mexico have one thing in common… Corruption is alive and well. The old PRI party delegates from Mexico wish they could have gotten away with what is happening in the home of the brave.

    I’m sure our founding fathers totally wanted us to recreate the very conditions that we are now living in that they themselves sailed across the sea to escape. They were no saints either, but believe me when I say slavery is alive and well. They just put a neat little flavoring on it called non inflation adjusted minimum wage. You think home prices sky rocketing is a coincidence? Nope they want to bury you in inescapable debt so they can continue fleecing you with rent, high interest debt, and every commodity the average sheep in America needs to live their sedentary lifestyle. But you idiots happily eat from the trough because you don’t know or care about the consequences of inaction.

    We are most definitely taxed without representation since those clowns don’t give a flying fiddle about their actual constituents. If they had to get patches for every corporate donor they took money from, Nascar would be jealous.

    Don’t tread on me became please tread on me, but tell me who to hate.

    In the infamous words of drumpf “SAD!”

  • As the World Turns says:

    Dear Flabbergasted, please make an appointment with your psychiatrist to discuss your anger issues ASAP before you have a stroke or heart attack. I was going to address your diatribe point by point but decided to put my time to better use. In summary, this college grad is a productive member of society who pays her bills, owns her home, put her daughter through college and hasn’t asked once for Joe Biden to pay off a student loan. I am smart enough to know that the climate has been changing on Earth since the beginning. Every climate study ever done was sponsored by someone who had a monetary interest. Do your research. Also, maybe you can go live on Mars when Elon Musk figures it all out since you think the world is coming to an end.

    Make better choices; your friends, if you have any will thank you for it.

  • As the World Turns says:

    Do you mean just like how Liberal Institutions of Higher Learning shut down Conservative speakers? A recent event at the University of Pittsburg comes to mind.

  • As the World Turns says:

    We did not starve before the Biden Administration opened the borders to make sure there were enough people to keep Democrats in charge for the rest of eternity. We have had legal migrants here forever doing the labor that some of you candy asses won’t do because it is hard work and you get dirty. I know this because a friend of mine owned a farm. I picked peaches, okra, squash, spring onions, and tomatoes. I also processed and packed those products. I worked like a dog all summer and college break so I could pay my tuition. Legal migrants are always welcome. All others can go home.

  • Mr Maverick says:

    A C level celebrity…
    ….at a B level college…
    …delivering a D level speech.

  • dk says:

    Most comedians are pretty smart. This one is not.

  • Cwize says:

    Brilliant take on Oswald’s speech.
    I hope you make up with whoever peed in your Cheerios.

  • Oscar says:

    I used to feel sorry for Patton, after his wife passed.
    Now I realize he’s another virtue signaling woke celebrity out of touch with reality.

  • Flabbergasted123 says:

    So Republican of you to assume I don’t have assets,friends, or went to school on my own dime.

    I’d love to see your “research”. Throwing your own under the bus too? You are all over the place. Elon can go die in a fire for all I care.

    Maybe ask any resident of the marshall island about climate change? How about the head of the UN? Oh wait, I forgot you guys don’t read actual news

    Did you receive a PPP loan that you embezzled? Congress sure took advantage.

    Another valid question, does your daughter speak to you or did she abandon you like a used tampon for your quacky views?

    Also please address my “diatribe” word for word. I’d honestly love that. From my experience all you republitards just parrot fox news snippets and worship ben shapiro or rush limbaugh may be rest in hell.

  • Flabbergasted123 says:

    So Republican of you to assume I don’t have assets,friends, or went to school on my own dime.

    I’d love to see your “research”. Throwing your own under the bus too? You are all over the place. Elon can go die in a fire for all I care.

    Maybe ask any resident of the marshall island about climate change? How about the head of the UN? Oh wait, I forgot you guys don’t read actual news

    Did you receive a PPP loan that you embezzled? Congress sure took advantage.

    Another valid question, does your daughter speak to you or did she abandon you like a used tampon for your quacky views?

    Also please address my “diatribe” word for word. I’d honestly love that. From my experience all you republitards just parrot fox news snippets and worship ben shapiro or rush limbaugh may be rest in hell.

  • Flabbergasted123 says:

    How’s Florida doing with their legal migrant labor? Oranges rotting on the branch?

  • Anthony a vote says:

    The reason our college students don’t want to work is because they’re over-educated they do not know what it’s like to earn a possession in the society so therefore they want to sit around with their hand out after Mom and Daddy pay for their education their car their housing and their food and expect to be top of the food chain in the work industry when they have not earned a position in the labor industry now post

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