California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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Alumnus JR Havlan of the “Daily Show” Inspires Students

“Daily Show” writer and former CSU Hayward student J.R. Havlan encourages present day students to do their best.

The Daily Show writer and CSU East Bay alumnus J.R. Havlan entertained a crowd Friday morning to discuss his career and politics.

Although Havlan said he believed everyone came simply for the free breakfast, the room full of students, teachers and community members said they were excited to see the Danville native and success story speak at his alma mater.

“It’s an honor to be here and visit my old school,” said Havlan. “I’m just glad you guys haven’t knocked down all of the buildings yet.”

Havlan, who graduated from Cal State Hayward in 1987 with a Business degree and Communications minor, currently serves as one of the comedic writers on late night Comedy Central program The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

While beginning with a short comedic routine and a description of how he ended up on The Daily Show, Havlan made it a point to emphasize the importance of motivation and hard work for CSUEB students.

“Negativity comes up every once in a while, but you get past that and you move on with your creative process.” said Havlan.

“No matter what circumstances you’re in, just do the best you can. That’s the process for an artist.”

Havlan credits his success with The Daily Show to both hard work and perfect timing.  He had difficulty finding a job in finance straight out of college because of the stagnant economic conditions that year.

After moving to New York and working at restaurants to get by, Havlan began performing stand-up comedy, which opened the door to doing crowd warm-up for Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.This then led to writing jokes for the show’s monologue.

He then applied for one of the few writing spots for what is now The Daily Show and was among the lucky few to beat out some 100 applicants, he said.

Havlan now works as a writer for the show, serving as one of CSUEB’s most notable alumni.

J.R. Havlan engages students during “Breakfast with J.R.”

Students were able to engage in a question and answer session with Havlan, with many students wanting to see how the comedic writer got his start in such a demanding industry.

Never missing an opportunity to crack a joke, Havlan spoke about his constant drive for success, offering real-world advice to students who admired his work.

“After a while it becomes likes a muscle,” he said. “You just keep going.”

Havlan addressed the necessity for programs such as The Daily Show, as he said they teach people how to interpret the news instead of just accepting them without question.

The Daily Show, Havlan said, produces material that exposes viewers to question the information being thrown at them by conventional media, a tool he said is necessary for anyone who truly wishes to be aware of what is happening around them.

As a political satire show, The Daily Show serves as a nightly satirical newscast that not only pokes fun at politics, but also nails the media’s impulse to rationalize conventional wisdom and sensationalize the news, Havlan says.

“Our show is a place where young people and people of all ages go to realize that news doesn’t tell you everything that you need to know about a story,” said Havlan. “It teaches people how to watch the news.”

Organizations such as the Pew Research Center say that The Daily Show has become a primary source of news for many young people, with young adults turning to the show for their news highlights, particularly during election years.

A more recent survey, released by the Pew Research Center in 2007, indicates that regular viewers of The Daily Show tend to be more knowledgeable about news than audiences of other news sources.

Havlan hopes that the show creates a cynicism when it comes to information from traditional media outlets, as he says the aim of news should be for balance. So far, it has not been represented that way.

“It’s important to point out those really stark absurdities,” said Havlan. “The news has become different; some of them are so partisan.”

“Basically, if I didn’t have this job, I would live in a cave,” he said.

Broadcasting major Crescencio Liasos, thought hearing from someone who was once in the same position as himself, made the event a valuable experience.

“Hearing from a former CSUEB student that is now so successful makes me feel optimistic about my chances,” said Liasos. “It is always useful to get real-world advice from someone who knows what I’m going through as a student.”

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California State University East Bay
Alumnus JR Havlan of the “Daily Show” Inspires Students