Star of the cult hit comedy “Workaholics” and 2003 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate Anders Holm did not stray from his hallmark brand of getting-as-close-to-the-line-without-crossing-it humor as he delivered a pop culture-soaked and heartfelt commencement speech to UW-Madison’s class of 2013 at the Kohl Center Saturday.
Disappointed by the university declining his request for an entrance accompanied by music, a fog machine, pyrotechnics and “50 twerk babes twerking it for me,” Holm used his iPhone to supply background music when introducing himself to the graduates and their families.
He specifically welcomed the “Badger grandmas” and told them “it’s mind blowing to think that just 50, 60 years ago you guys were pioneering the walk of shame.”
Holm, the co-creator, writer and star of the Comedy Central sitcom “Workaholics” shared his post-graduate success story with the audience.
Armed with only a film script, which he finished during his junior year at UW-Madison, and aspirations to become the “next big ‘thang’ in screenwriting,” Holm said he packed his life into a green minivan following graduation and moved to Los Angeles despite not having any professional or personal connections.
After years of working part-time jobs and interning as a writer’s assistant, Holm said he found his big break when a Comedy Central executive sought out Holm and his sketch comedy group, Mail Order Comedy, consisting of colleagues Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine and Kyle Newacheck, for a new show after seeing the group’s home videos online.
Holm encouraged the 2013 graduates to pursue their own ambitions and provided them with the five pieces of wisdom he said he discovered throughout his career:
1.) “You have to be able to handle rejection, just get used to it. In fact, love rejection.”
2.) “Be prepared to work harder than anybody else for what you want, but always take time to watch cartoons.”
3.) “If your boss asks you if you can do something, always say ‘Yes,’ even if you can’t. Especially if you can’t.”
4.) “If you’re not curious, practice being curious. Want to know things, ask questions.”
5.) “Consider what other people think of you, but don’t be afraid of what they think of you.”
Holm, a self-described “dumb-dumb,” told both the “smart kids” and those who shared his lack of academic prowess not to worry their futures. He emphasized the need to build self-worth through defining oneself and occupying a unique space in the world.
“To get what you want out of life, all you can really do is find out who you are and do that,” he said. “You are you and no one else is, that’s your potential value, you just need to figure out how to apply it.”
Holm added that “writing fart jokes” to make people laugh is his passion, but he encouraged graduates to reflect on their own experiences to find what makes them happy.
“Thinking about who you are, it’s going to help you find out where you fit in and also what you’re worth,” Holm said. “I’m not only talking about money, I’m talking about time. How do you guys want to spend your time on this Earth?”
The soon-to-be 32-year-old acknowledged the inherent discomfort in discovering one’s shortcomings when “actively thinking about who you are” but said “self-reflection also helps you discover your strengths.”
Holm, who also spoke at graduation ceremonies Friday and Sunday, took a moment of silence during his speech for the Mifflin Street Block Party.
“Time marches on, things change,” he said. “One thing remains the same; this school is the best. If you don’t realize that now, you will realize it later.”