Review: Adult Swim’s Commencement Speaker Series 2020 – Jena Friedman

adult swim commencement jena friedmanAnyone who is graduating university right now won’t be getting their standard Commencement Speech, which for those outside of the US is a talk at a graduation ceremony often given by a famous alumni that’s filled with cliched advice. But Adult Swim have stepped in to help out by recruiting some of the funniest people out there to give a replacement speech, and over the next week or so I’ll be reviewing the best of them, and you can check out my thoughts about Xavier Renegade Angel and Eric Andre’s speeches here, while a review of the one from Maria Bamford is here.

Jena Friedman

Most famous for Adult Swim’s Soft Focus specials where she interviewed idiotic types, gently allowing them to dig their own graves, Jena Friedman’s long proven herself to be one of the funniest people on the channel. And as with Maria Bamford’s Commencement Speech this a mostly straight affair as Friedman gives her thoughts on how to cope in this strange new world, it’s not quite as funny as Maria’s but then Bamford set an exceedingly high bar, and Friedman’s effort is still packed with impressively amusing moments.

A large segment of the speech is her mocking the future the new graduates have to look forward to as they’ve returned home to live with their parents, bar those who ignored the lockdown and went on Spring Break and may have killed Grandma. Well known for her political beliefs throughout the speech there’s some great digs at Donald Trump too, the first coming when she talks about how the students might wish they were drunk, doing unspeakable things that may come back to haunt them, “unless you’re a Trump appointee to the supreme court”.

There are some plus points to the lockdown according to Friedman however, as at least they’re not part of her generation who don’t even have a pandemic as an excuse to why things haven’t worked out, and there’s also no pressure for them to succeed as we’re heading in to an economic depression which will give them time to work out what they want to do. It’s a bleakly funny section for sure, and which ends on the grimmest note as she comments on how they could do anything apart work which involves performing in front of 10 or more people.

A few more well time jibes at Trump follow as she talks about how the myth of the American Dream is dead and that “A draft dodging, criminal, alleged – for the lawyers – sex offender in the oval office” before she finishes with some life hacks including “Learn how to grow your own food”, “Be kind to each other” and”Invest in cruise stocks” all of which come with some funny commentary, the latter especially amusing as stocks are at an all time low right now, but people will be back to “those floating diarrhoea prisons in no time”.

A final pointed attack on Trump ends the short, even if she for once refuses to name name she begs them to “Please vote. Vote in every election you have… Vote against fascism”, and sure, it may not sound funny but the way she delivers the speech and her glances to the camera as she makes it clear who she despises are great stuff, and before ending with the first hint of hope any of these shorts have offered up, as she suggests that the world might not be completely fucked if they do so. It will of course, even if Trump doesn’t get back in to office the world faces so many challenges that we’re going to have a miserable time of it, but as long as we’ve comedians like Friedman along for the ride it might not be quite so bleak a time.


Alex Finch.
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Related Link:
You can watch Jena’s speech here.


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