It’s back to school time, you guys. And since for many students, this is a time of stress and panic, we’d like to help you through this time with a little inspiration. Below, we’ve listed 15 of our favorite funny people who were smart enough to gain entry into one (or more) of our country’s Ivy League institutions. Some graduated, some didn’t and in the case of our first subject, graduated in three years instead of the traditional four. Well, aren’t you smart and funny and successful, Ms. Whitney Cummings!
Whitney Cummings – University of Pennsylvania (’04 Communications)
Whitney Cummings has always been an overachiever, even before having two sitcoms picked up by networks in the same year. This hilarious stand-up comedienne graduated from the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania in just three years!
Conan O’Brien – Harvard (’85 US History, Literature)
Conan was a writer for the university’s humor magazine, The Harvard Lampoon. During his sophomore and junior years, he served as the magazine’s president. At the same time, his future boss at NBC, Jeff Zucker, served as the school’s rival newspaper, The Harvard Crimson.
Demetri Martin – Yale, (’95 History)
“Not that it’s all about getting laid. But I rode a unicycle around campus in college. A total asshole.”
Lisa Lampanelli – Harvard (Master’s in Journalism)
The Queen of Mean is also a Queen of the Library, having an impressive educational pedigree. After graduating from Syracuse University, she continued her journalism career at a Harvard graduate program. “Don’t even get me started on how much smarter I am than you,” she said during an interview with the Courier Press. She even began a short-lived bout of graduate schooling at Columbia University to become a teacher…until she realized that she hated kids!
Greg Giraldo – Columbia University (’87 English), Harvard Law (’90)
The immensely funny late Greg Giraldo was not only a brilliant stand-up but also a brilliant student. Growing up in Jackson Heights, Queens, he was accepted to the prestigious Regis High School before attending Columbia University. After scoring in the 99th percentile on the LSATs, he attended Harvard Law School. After about a year as a lawyer, he quit to pursue stand-up comedy. “Before I quit, I was dying. I mean, I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t like I was a functioning professional and I just made the choice to throw it all away to pursue this crazy dream.”
John Hodgman – Yale (’93, Literature)
Before becoming a Senior Anything Correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, John Hodgman was studying Shakespeare for hours in the Yale library on cold New England nights. But after a decade out of school, he landed a regular gig on the popular Comedy Central fake news show.
Ellie Kemper – Princeton (’02 English)
“I played field hockey [in college]. But I use the term “played” loosely. I sat on the bench for roughly 97 percent of my field hockey career at Princeton” She certainly didn’t sit on the bench much after college, landing a role on the hit NBC show, The Office, a few years after graduating.
Bill Maher – Cornell (’78 English, History)
Maher hates his alma mater. “Cold. Gangs of men…There was not nearly enough women,” he recalls on WTF with Marc Maron. “It was very competitive. Beautiful, physically, but cold and isolated. So socially, it was awful.”
Robert Klein – Yale (’67 MFA)
We can see where Klein’s musical theater portion of his stand-up came from. He had high end Ivy League theatre training at the prestigious Yale Drama School of Drama.
Lewis Black – Yale (’77 MFA)
Our favorite angry Daily Show correspondant and incredible stand-up comedian, Lewis Black, was an Ivy man at the Yale School of Drama where he earned a Master’s degree in Fine Arts. However, Black holds a lot of contempt for his higher education. “I went to Yale much the same way that the rest of my generation went to Vietnam,” he writes in his book, Nothing’s Sacred. “Every time I think about that place, I inevitably start to limp.”
Jordan Carlos – Brown (’01 Business)
It makes sense that Stephen Colbert’s “black friend” would be well-educated. “I studied business at Brown. So I know what to do with money…if I ever make any,” he says. Carlos, most recently seen on MTV’s Guy Code and Girl Code, was part of an on-campus improv troupe called Improvidence before moving to New York City to pursue stand-up.
Paul Provenza – University of Pennsylvania (’79, Theatre)
Provenza attended the University of Pennsylvania and wanted to study theatre, which the school did not have a program for. He took a year’s leave of absence to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, where he became one of few Americans to perform the role of Romeo on the London stage. When he returned to UPenn, they awarded him the University’s first ever Theatre Arts degree.
Rachel Dratch – Dartmouth (’88 Drama, Psychology)
Before gracing the Saturday Night Live stage at 30 Rock, Rachel Dratch was taking the stage at Dartmouth as a member of a school improv troupe, “Said and Done.”
Mindy Kaling – Dartmouth (’01 Playwriting)
The former comedy star, writer and producer of The Office and now The Mindy Project started off in the Ivy Leagues where she majored in playwriting. She jokes in her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, that she went to Dartmouth “to pursue [her] love of white people”.
Robert Smigel – Cornell (dropped out, Pre-Dental)
Simpsons writer and creator and voice of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Robert Smigel began college at Cornell University studying to become a dentist. When he realized he struggled with science courses, he transferred to a different school to study communications. “I sucked at it. I failed so badly at what I was doing that my parents felt sorry for me and let me transfer.”