Telling members of the graduating class at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois that they are the smartest they will ever be, actor-comedian Vir Das advised them to embrace stupidity.
“That’s all life really is,” he told the 329 members of the class of 2018, “the journey from knowing ‘what’s what’ to asking ‘what?’
Das, a 2002 Knox graduate, was speaking at its 173rd commencement on June 3. The address, streamed live around the world on YouTube, was a Das performance complete with quips on sex and drugs, as reported in the Galesburg Register-Mail.
“You are the smartest you will ever be,” Das, 38, told the graduates. “You already know how to handle this world. You are ready.”
His advice? “Be stupid. That’s my message to you today,” he said. “Because when you embrace the stupidity in your life, you really live... Common sense is overrated and much worse than that, it’s common….Life is not realistic, he reminded the students, it’s bold and painful and ecstatic and overwhelming…Why are you trying to cope with that with tepid emotions in your pocket? You’re a beast,” he said.
“Jump for no reason, dance badly, never underestimate the power of a pelvic thrust in a public place. Play with your body. It will save your heart when you’re losing your mind,” he said.
He said people regret the puddles they didn’t jump in, the lifts they didn’t fart in, the trees they didn’t fall out of, the beds they didn’t dive into. “There’s wisdom in your mind and truth in your heart, there’s beats in your ass and fun in your crotch and magic in your hands and I say find it every day,” he said. “Show yourself and the universe that this moment does not own you, you own this moment.”
A 2011 article in The New York Times included Das among a new set of emerging comedians in India, known for bringing an American style to topics rooted in contemporary Indian culture. Through international tours and appearances, as well as his Netflix special, Das is now bringing his Indian perspective to countries worldwide.
In the opening of “Abroad Understanding,” he addresses this cultural perspective head-on: "I have an Indian accent. . . . I'm not doing a bit. I'm not impersonating a hilarious relative. . . . Today, for the first time in your life, maybe the Indian accent can be a perspective, not a punchline."
Das has also climbed the ranks of the Bollywood elite in various films, including “BadMaash Company,” “Delhi Belly,” “Go, Goa, Gone” and “Revolver Rani” gaining a reputation as a leading man with impeccable comedic chops. In addition to stand-up and acting, Das leads his own multimedia consulting and production company, Weirdass Comedy.
After completing schooling in both India and Africa, Das attended college in the United States, graduating from Knox College in 2002 with a degree in theater and economics. He also studied acting at the Stanislavsky School at Harvard University before returning to his home country to pursue his career in comedy.