Vir Das, 2018 Commencement speaker and 2002 Knox graduate, has a new Netflix special out today called "Losing...
Office of Communications
2 East South Street
Galesburg, IL 61401-4999
Comedian and Advocate
Major in Psychology
What drew you to this career path?
I have two passions: comedy and advocacy. They are both equal parts of my identity, and choosing one would be like choosing a favorite child.
Growing up with a severe case of Tourette Syndrome, I was able to see first hand what a great advocate looked like. Through those advocates, I learned that I can define Tourettes, instead of it defining me.
Describe your path since graduating from Knox.
After leaving Knox, I was hired as a director of youth engagement in New Jersey. While in that position, I received a master's degree in child advocacy in policy. My graduate school thesis was on using improvisational theater as a tool for self-advocacy.
Last year I gave a talk about inclusion that went "Jewish viral," and shortly after that, Mayim Bialik from The Big Bang Theory gave me the opportunity to write a secular piece for her website. Those opportunities have allowed me to travel the world doing comedy and working with schools and camps to create inclusive communities. In addition to comedy and speaking about inclusion, I also run a Jewish Teen mental health initiative called Here.Now. which promotes mental health, well-being, and resilience for Metro New York area teens.
You completed an Honors project and participated in Repertory Term while at Knox. How did these experiences influence your path?
My honors project is one of the most transformative experiences of my life. The project had two components: working with local high school students to create a movie on suicide ideation, and creating a documentary while I worked as the theater director and inclusion specialist at a summer camp. The documentary is titled "Come and Get Me, I Hate it Here." The project was the first time I started combining improv with inclusion.
During Rep Term, I had a blast and learned so much, it was my relationships with the theater department faculty that were most transformative to me. They were the first people who validated that yes, I have Tourettes, but that doesn't stop me from playing a role on stage, and it certainly doesn't stop me from being funny and creative.
How did your Knox experience change your life?
I loved my time at Knox. How incredible to be in a space where I could have some strange idea and have five professors immediately say, "Yes, let's make it happen!"
Knox is where my passions first started to meld together. I think I would still be doing comedy and inclusion work, but it was the creative way of thinking I learned at Knox and the chorus of "yeses" I heard that allowed me to think that my passions of comedy, advocacy, improv, and inclusion could fit together.
To learn more about Pamela Schuller's work, visit her website.