Steve Carell Tells Princeton Seniors: 'Don't Take Yourselves Too Seriously'

I'm sorry, Senator Menendez, but you have been outshone.

When comedian Steve Carell went to college, girls rejected him in person.

Library books were filled with the history, dead skin cells and Doritos-dust fingerprints of the readers before him—physical reminders of other people, which he says are missing from the electronic way we keep in contact today.

“As human beings, we should naturally crave contact with one another,” Carell told the Princeton University Class of 2012 at its Monday Class Day.

“But sadly, as the world grows more and more technologically advanced, we lose our ability to connect as human beings," Carell said.

"We have lost touch with our simpler selves—and by 'we,' I mean you," he said. "You are young...and because of that, you are wrong."

Carell, a comic actor who rose from Daily Show correspondent to portraying the lead in the wildly successful NBC adaptation of Ricky Gervais' The Office, was the keynote speaker of an event that award prestations and the inductions of honorary class members.

His niece, Maggie, is a member the school's 2012 class.

Carell was once on track to attend law school. But the 1984 Denison University graduate became stumped while filling out his application to Stanford Law School. The essay question read: "Why do you want to be an attorney?”

“I really had no idea,” Carell told Princeton’s graduating seniors. “It sounded good. My parents had worked extraordinarily hard to give me a great education, and I felt that I owed them some sort of valid career choice.

"So I sat down with my folks, and asked them what they thought, and they proceeded to give me the best advice that I had ever received, or would ever receive. Their words were profound, wise and they completely altered the rest of my life.

“They said something like ‘blah, blah, blah, follow your dreams, blah, blah, blah.’ I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I didn’t go to law school.”

His advice? Find your passion and pursue it. It's worked for Carell, who has entertained millions first on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and later, The Office. He also has a successful movie career, starring in Evan Almighty, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine. 

But the funnyman also wanted to impart some practical advice.

Show up on time; being late is disrespectful. The words "regime" and "regimen" are not interchangeable. Get a dog; cats are lame. Try to avoid “that’s what she said” jokes, and whatever you do, don’t try to explain those jokes to your parents. Tip on the entire check, don’t subtract the tax first.

“And every once in a while, put something positive into the world,” Carell said. “We have become so cynical these days. And by 'we' I mean 'us.' So do something kind, make someone laugh, and don’t take yourself too seriously.”


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