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Friday, January 15, 2021

Comedian Rob Riggle tells students to learn from mistakes Wednesday night

“Step Brothers” and “SNL” star spoke over Zoom in Fall’s last Accent event

<p>Screenshot from Facebook event page</p>

Screenshot from Facebook event page

Comedian Rob Riggle reminisced on his start in comedy and encouraged UF students to run toward their dream and make mistakes along the way.

Accent Speakers Bureau, a UF Student Government agency, hosted Riggle over Zoom Wednesday night in its final Fall event.

Riggle was paid $35,000 in student fees, according to his event contract. UF journalism professor Andrew Selepak moderated the 45-minute conversation. It ended with a 15 minute Q&A with students. 

It’s unclear how many students attended, but 3,000 could register.

Accent hosted four other speaker events this semester, including women's rights activist and professor Anita Hill and international girls education advocate Malala Yousafzai. Hill was paid $30,000 in student fees for her appearance and Yousafzai $100,000.

Riggle has appeared as a correspondent on “The Daily Show,” a cop in “The Hangover,” a drug-dealing physical education teacher in “21 Jump Street” and an expert helicopter salesman in “Step Brothers.”

Selepak said he struggled to touch on all the parts of Riggle’s vast career, from improv comedy, appearances on TV shows like “The Office,” comedy and drama roles in movies, voice overs for animated characters and even predictions for Fox NFL.

Riggle said he wants to expand his IMDb list by taking on more drama roles, but the COVID-19 pandemic has limited available work.

"Things have grinded to a halt here in Tinseltown," he said. 

COVID-19 fears dissuaded producers from starting new TV shows or movies, even though people are still excited about joining projects, Riggle said. Masks and sanitization added extra costs to production and actors catching COVID-19 threatened to derail production.

Riggle said many are waiting to see how the COVID-19 pandemic improves in 2021 before taking on large projects. In the meantime, he's been making it through the COVID-19 crisis by cracking jokes.

“I’ve been trying to laugh as best I can,” he said. “Trying to spend time with positive people.”

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Along with tickling audiences for decades, Riggle served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 23 years before pursuing comedy, according to an interview in U.S. Veteran’s Magazine.

"What the Marines gave me in show business is tenacity, a thick skin, a never-say-die attitude," he said. "You learn in the Marine Corp, there's not a thing you can be challenged with that you feel you can't handle or overcome."

Riggle said he needed that tenacity to endure to the constant rejection and scrutiny in comedy.

"In show business, it's brutal," he said. "You get rejected every day."

Riggle didn’t always have the courage to go for his comedy dream, though. He loved comedy from a young age. His first gig was playing pranks on his high school radio station. After fading in 80’s pop hits, he and his co-host would “accidentally” leave the mic on and start dropping obscenities.

“The lunch lady would run down the hall screaming 'the microphone's on! The microphone's on!'" Riggle said.

Even after Riggle ventured to New York City to pursue comedy, he struggled to find his niche.

"The first thing I did in New York was stand-up and I hated it. “It was a miserable experience.”

Riggle eventually found improv comedy and learned to tell stories with his jokes. He advised aspiring comedy writers to expand their craft by writing sketches for other people.

“Write a comedy sketch for Nicole Kidman,” he said, referring to the Oscar-winning actress. “What’s the setting? What’s the character? Make it funny, obviously. If you can do that and do it well you might have a shot at being a writer at SNL.”

Riggle advised UF students struggling to reach for their dream and to go for it while they are young.

"Go big, because this is not dress rehearsal. You’ve got one shot,” he said. “If you’re going to make mistakes, make them young, because that’s the best teacher.”

Contact Lianna at lhubbard@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @HubbardLianna.

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