Jessica Williams combined lessons, laughs at lecture Monday


Tyler Mead, Associate Arcade Editor

“The Daily Show” correspondent and comedian Jessica Williams graced the stage of the Kendall Cram Lecture Hall on Monday, and brought her A-game. She gave a lecture that delicately balanced jokes about her poop with a very raw personal account of her rise to prominence, and it could not have been better.

Williams made a name for herself on “The Daily Show” by boldly addressing issues of racial profiling, sexism, and on-campus sexual assault in a way that both highlighted the seriousness of the issues while still delivering hilarious punchlines. In an impressive performance at Tulane, Williams touched on all of these subjects, and why she feels so strongly about all of them.

“I think when I’m more relaxed and OK with things kind of being the way they are, without being complacent you know you can still effect change, I can rest easier,” Williams said after her lecture.

She said the trope of “the angry black woman” has followed her throughout her life. She said she did feel angry about the way the world currently is, and how that has helped her in her career. Williams’ comedic inspiration is clearly drawn from passion for these issues and genuine interest about the future.

Williams discussed her upbringing in a conservative Christian family, and made a point to explain that, though there may be rifts in opinion, the bonds of a family are more important than any political issue. In fact, she said her grandmother was her first comedic influence. She reminisced about watching “Saturday Night Live” together and gaining inspiration from the show’s women comedians.

“It’s the way everyone there is working towards the same thing,” Williams said. “There’s not really a question of what we sound like or the way we want to present ourselves. We already know in general everyone is working toward the common good, and [‘The Daily Show’ host] Jon [Stewart] is amazing. It’s a mix of all those things.”

Williams spoke very highly of her co-workers on “The Daily Show,” and charted her track to getting the job: from the initial tape she submitted, to her first interview with Stewart. Williams played two clips from her tenure at “The Daily Show,” one on racial profiling and one on-campus sexual assault. She spoke about how thankful she was to be able to address these issues that, and how “The Daily Show” was trying to affect change with satire.

“I think I am a voice, like amongst a lot of millennials, but I think I’m just one,” Williams said. 

Williams was very humble in regard to her place in the comedy world. She talked about how comedy was a very open field and gave her own words of wisdom to those seeking a career like hers.

“Be the most you that you can, and know that your point of view and opinion are valid and you are unlike anyone else on this planet,” Williams said. “Allow that to be your fuel when you bomb or when nobody necessarily picks up in the beginning, but allow it to be OK because you are the only person that can tell jokes and stories the way you can.”