Overlap between comedy and politics explored

EricThomasTalk_HeberGuerra-RecinosEDITEDBy Erin Jesionowski

Elm Staff Writer

On Thursday, Oct. 17, the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Department of Theatre and Dance welcomed R. Eric Thomas to speak about writing humor in current events.

Thomas works as a senior staff writer for Elle. His column, “Eric Reads the News,” portrays current political events in a satirical, sarcastic, and humorous light.

Literary House Director and Associate Professor of English, Dr. James Allen Hall introduced Thomas, referring to Trump’s recent Ukraine scandal.

“The first people I wanted to hear from were Rachel Maddow and R. Eric Thomas,” he said.

He listed Thomas’s extensive and prolific resume, which included prior endeavors such as working at Foundry Playwrights Lab in Philadelphia, hosting Moth Live Storytelling in both New York and Philadelphia, and his current position as a senior staff writer for Elle.

Thomas’s talk, paired with a PowerPoint for visual aid, was filled with sarcasm, humor, and seriousness — much like his articles.

He referenced internet sensation “Kombucha Girl,” Tik Tok, the children’s TV show “Arthur” and Mr. Ratburn’s gay wedding. Thomas then spoke about the 24-hour news cycle.

“We can never fix the news with it. What happened last week might of well as happened last year,” he said.

Thomas highlighted recently deceased Maryland Congressman, Elijah Cummings and recognized the path Congressman Cummings paved for people of color.

“I want to use my voice in a way that is ridiculous and piece together a narrative of now,” he said.

“I want to be a version of myself that is truer than true,” Thomas said at the conclusion of his talk.

“I would like to say I’m naturally funny,” Thomas said when asked by junior Megan Walsh if humor can be practiced or if it must come naturally.

After the audience finished laughing, Thomas provided a more serious answer, comparing humor to an equation.

“You have to learn the math of it,” he said.

When asked, “How did you get to be Eric Thomas?” he responded by highlighting three major things throughout his life: theatre, internet, and libraries — places filled with “endless possibilities,” he said.

“A lot of things going on here,” Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies Dr. Meghan Grosse said of Thomas’s talk. “The interplay of pop culture and politics is an engaging point to stick on.”

She said his tendency to find humor while reporting the news is “compelling” and an “interesting framework.”

Her biggest takeaway from Thomas’s talk was a line she wrote down, “he teases and teases out the news,” explaining that it was a “good catch-all for what he is doing ­— speaking to that humor and informative quality all at the same time.”

Professor Grosse is teaching a Media and Politics class in the spring and is thinking about adding some of Thomas’s work and theory into the class.

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