Maybe the one time Cornellians really feel actually beneath the highlight of popular culture is thru Andy Bernard in The Workplace. The hit sitcom repeatedly pokes enjoyable at Cornell when mocking the alumni satisfaction of Bernard, performed by Ed Helms. So, when B.J. Novak — one other star from The Workplace — got here to campus for a Q&A, the occasion wouldn’t be full with out asking in regards to the present’s obsession with Cornell. Novak (jokingly) defined this side of Bernard’s character, saying, “We needed him to be very happy with his Ivy League schooling, however the faculty couldn’t be too good… we’re not saying this man is a genius, you perceive?”
Novak visited Barton Corridor on Sunday for this Q&A occasion, hosted by Cornell College’s Programming Board in collaboration with Cornell Hillel. Whereas most well-known for his function as Ryan Howard in The Workplace, Novak has acted in a large number of different reveals and films, and can also be a producer, director and author.
The occasion started with a Q&A moderated by Elliot Shapiro, a Cornell Senior Lecturer within the Knight Institute and Jewish Research, earlier than opening as much as questions from the viewers. Shapiro started by asking about Novak’s Jewish id. Novak described how he grew up with a Jewish neighborhood, and whereas he was typically recognized because the Jewish man, this didn’t come throughout pretty much as good or unhealthy however was as a substitute a “curious” factor. Novak described that Jewish individuals study as they develop up that being Jewish is “not simply you trying within the mirror on the exterior world… it’s the surface world seeing you a sure method.” It was fascinating to listen to how a lot Novak discovered his id outlined by what others thought and recognized him as. Numerous instances our identities — whether or not it’s your race, faith, sexuality or one thing else — are solely noticeable to us as youngsters when others place you in a field. Whereas I’m not Jewish, I nonetheless felt related to Novak right here, since his phrases spoke to a a lot bigger message on id.
I spoke with Rabbi Ari Weiss, Govt Director of Cornell Hillel, and he pressured the significance of bringing an inspirational Jewish determine to campus, saying, “It was a second of Jewish satisfaction.” Even when he was not answering direct questions on his Jewish id, Novak made a number of allusions to his id. When one viewers member far again within the bleachers, unseen within the darkness, requested a query, Novak joked he was listening to Hashem. Referencing this remark, Weiss remarked, “You might see his Jewish roots come out.”
Novak’s attraction not solely got here from the jokes he intertwined into his solutions, but in addition from his general relatability. Whereas the moderated Q&A was fascinating, I felt the viewers Q&A generated much more power. Novak even picked his microphone up off the stand when this portion began, signaling a extra informal and vibrant environment. When the viewers Q&A began, the lights momentarily blinded me as they targeted on the scholars, however it additionally made me really feel extra part of the dialog.
Whereas there have been clearly quite a lot of questions surrounding The Workplace, Novak spoke quite a bit on ambition and success. Novak pressured that though present enterprise typically depends on individuals getting forward and submitting to Hollywood’s cycle, it is vital for individuals to make “worthwhile” content material. He then gave a flattering nod to his viewers, “The pursuit of being glorious is far more durable to do however I feel everybody at a faculty like this is aware of how to do this too.” Nevertheless, reaching for excellence doesn’t imply that you should do all of it. Novak additionally acknowledged that his targets have modified over time, stating, “My ambitions have gone from ‘I need to do every thing’ to ‘[I want to do] the issues that I feel solely I can do.” I admired Novak’s reflection, since I consider tailor-made ambition is necessary to perform targets and be happy with your work. Whereas ambition is a good attribute, I’ve discovered that spreading your self skinny or not focusing in your true passions could be distracting.
All through the occasion, it grew to become clear that Novak’s largest ardour is writing. Novak described what writing meant to him when he stated, “I truly consider that writing is the unsuitable identify for writing. I feel that when persons are in class as a child you study that writing is actually handwriting, and spelling, and grammar… however [this] has virtually nothing to do with what nice writing is.” Novak gave his personal definition of writing: “Writing is basically ‘composing.’”
At Cornell, we could be so targeted on the grammar or tactical parts of assignments and tasks. Typically creativity and other people’s particular person expertise take a aspect seat, which could be particularly disappointing to see when our campus is filled with expertise. I need to see individuals step as much as showcase what they honestly need to present to the world about themselves and what they’ve found, as a substitute of the mechanical have to memorize for a prelim or write with right punctuation. Clearly these facets aren’t completely unimportant, however when others stress this an excessive amount of, I see individuals — together with myself — blinded to the inventive, distinctive expertise we may as a substitute deal with. After listening to Novak, I discovered myself questioning if I’m creating works I’m happy with, or if I’m merely finishing issues to get it “proper.”
Cornell college students related to Novak whether or not they have been Jewish, aspiring writers or just had impassioned ambition. Practically everybody within the many rows of seats felt some kind of bond. In his final phrases, Novak’s relatability once more shone by way of, advising that with every thing we do, we should always replicate on three issues: “What do I need to say, what do I need to talk, what do I need to make individuals really feel.” With these phrases, Novak gave a remaining reminder of the significance of composing content material that’s actually worthwhile, and in doing so, embracing your individual private aptitude.
Gillian Lee is a sophomore within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She could be reached at [email protected]