Before I get started I want to thank Chancellor DiStefano for that introduction and for the 40 years of service to the University of Colorado. I want to shout out to all the proud parents as well, Big weekend coming up for Moms! Without you, well, we wouldn't be here in the freezing cold. Good morning to the Grandparents. And to the Dignified faculty, I thank-you for your gracious hospitality. I'm sure if Matt or Trey were speaking today you would have put them up at the new St. Julien but for me, the Marriott was just fine. And for those who couldn't make it, you chose wisely, it's cold out here and you're in our thoughts.
But most of all thank-you to the Senior Class Council and Good
Morning Class of 2014!
As Mr. Hankey the Christmas poo would say “Howdy Ho! and he'd go on about how you all look swell and smell "an awful lot like flowers”. I promised the faculty that being from South Park I would keep my speech short, clean and that I'd only talk about poo three times - When referring to Mr. Hankey, The CSU football team and the horrid smell they get from Greeley with those Western Winds. (Thank-you and good luck in the real world)
I was completely surprised and honored to be asked by the University to do this and I'm a bit nervous, in fact if there was only something that could relax me – hmm... what's legal here in Colorado that could relax me?
It's scary giving a commencement speech to a distinguished University that's over 130 years old. CU's first commencement speech was back in 1882 and it was given to only six graduates. The others must have froze to death or were chopped up and eaten by a famous prospector named Al... But it's really great to be back in Boulder on such an occasion as this. Boulder Colorado! - The health food Mecca of the world! Since I’ve been gone Boulder has been labeled Forbes 2008 Smartest City in America. Probably by someone from Boulder who was either an author or a triathlete but most likely both. Other towns in the area have to name themselves “Superior” just to compete.
The University of Colorado has been affiliated with a total of Eleven Noble laureates, Nine Mac Arthur fellows and 18 astronauts and you guys get me- a CU fine arts film graduate with the expertise of animating alien abductions, anal probes and explosive farts on cable T.V…wow what an honor.
But why me? Last year had Mary Poppins as their speaker - it was all “here's a spoonful of sugar” and the Class of 2013 was on their way with the Sound of Music. Maybe I'm that Future Self and Me messenger from South Park to tell you that 20 years goes by quickly. Honestly, I rarely give people advice because it's way too much responsibility and I've only been given ten minutes to reach all of you. Matt and Trey are obviously too scared to be here and Trey hasn't even graduated yet! So I thought about it some more and realized in the past year CU has witnessed a 1,000 year rainfall that turned into a 50-year flood, the state legalized Marijuana, a sociology Professor reinstated by the appeal of her students and her strong leadership, and a local coffee shop on the Hill has been replaced by Starbucks. So you bring in the South Park producer, because he's dealt with all sorts of crazy things like nazi zombie invasions, Global Warming, Terrorism, Chinese take overs, and Big time celebrities who refuse to come out of a young boy's closet. And with all the 20 years experience I've had I have to honestly say there's nothing I can do about Starbucks. It's that darn Seattle, Washington. And now THEY'RE the number one smartest city in America. They too have legalized marijuana and to be truthful I heard the Seattle Seahawk's weed is a little stronger than the Bronco Mile High weed…
But I digress.
Sometimes you're ahead and many times you're behind. Be present and feel those high and lows.You have to keep them balanced.
So for those of you who don’t know, I grew up in “The quiet mountain town” of Evergreen, Colorado. During my childhood I was raised well rounded, sheltered and I did what I was told. After all my very first concert at Red Rocks was John Denver. It was 20 years ago that I was sitting where you are all sitting today except I didn't have a cell phone and there was no Facebook or Tinder to past the time. I'm sure Tinder is off the hook right now. Everyone concentrated together on the field. You have the whole senior class to swipe through.
In those 20 years I have worked on all 246 episodes of South Park as Animation Director and Producer. Right over there in a building now torn down, South Park was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone or as you may know them here in Colorado as “Matt Parker and Trey Stone”.
I was a film major here at CU, lived in Will Vill, was an RA for three years and ultimately I wanted to work for Disney. Most of you will have nightmares about a final you haven't studied for. I have nightmares that its a Blizzard and the Buff Bus never comes. In College I was overtaken by the passion of animation. Animation is the study of motion. Bringing inanimate objects to life one frame at a time fascinated me. Trey asked me to help with the first Spirit of Christmas film but the “Disney” dream I had didn't involve Frosty the Snowman going around killing kids. But I got a chance to work on the second one, Jesus vs. Santa and when the show got picked up, I was the first one hired on and it was the beginning of a great career. Animators live in a world of slow motion. They break down time to twenty- four frames a second for film. It's a tedious process and for South Park each character had to be cut out of construction paper and then filmed one frame at a time. Imagine breaking down your life to twenty-four frames a second and now imagine that every one of those frames is equally important. That's what we do every week to make a beautiful show. I guess if you're disgusted by South Park you say “ugh! You do all that to make that crappy show”. Yes we do, every week we're in Production..
Throughout the 17 seasons of South Park I have remained focused, driven and yes, grounded. By season three the character Butters was introduced roughly based on my upbringing and personality with Matt doing the voice. The nickname “Butters” stems from little brother, little buddy and innocent wholesome person.
And if you've seen our show - you know that everybody loves Butters!
But that's enough about me, today is about the graduates.
Hopefully this experience at CU has opened your mind, brought awareness to your heart, and maybe has questioned some preconceived ideas from your youth. Because of South Park, I know some of mine have been stripped. You have taken these years to build a foundation to prepare you for the future. It represents your character, it's your ethics, values and beliefs. In Animation you need to have a great foundation. A locked off table, a registration system, a secure tripod, anything so your work doesn't get bumped or your camera doesn't get jiggled. Otherwise your animation is ruined and you have to start all over. When things don't turn out the way you want them to you fall back to your established foundation. For some of you your foundation is malleable like silly putty. As it solidifies you can start building on it with your own experiences. And one day, I say around 30, you can win that Emmy and naturally find someone who too has a strong foundation with similar traits as yours. But take your time.
One of my favorite Butters moments in South Park is when he gets dumped by a girl named Lexus and experiences what he calls a “Beautiful sadness”. How could sadness be beautiful? It's beautiful that in order to feel something really sad he had to experience something as equally happy. You can learn from Butters that the key to a great life isn't just happiness. It would be a boring life if it were. A great life is fulfilled. It's a soaked sponge that has been present for all sorts of emotions. From fear to laughter, sadness to happiness and one must be open and present to have all these. Don't look to Friday to hope they pass instead take them on, learn from them in the moment and balance them over your foundation. Not to say you won't get blindsided and knocked off balance by something like love or passion. But when that thrill wears off and your daily routine kicks back in where will you find your balance?
So I've related animation as a way to look at life. Breaking it down, being present of every frame. But animation is done in a controlled environment. It has scripts and storyboards and voice tracks you have to follow. And perhaps up to this point your life has been a little controlled. Your youthful years have been supervised by your parents and you we're told to go from Kindergarten to College and unless you're Eric Cartman and you've frozen yourself, then College Graduation is where you are now, here at Folsom Field, Congratulations you have arrived. Take a moment to soak it in.
In less than two hours you'll walk through those gates with your hard earned diploma and it's time to think about work, getting a job, climbing the corporate ladder, looking forward to raises, maybe buying a house with a partner and having a baby or two, and for Earth's sake keep it to two.
I warn you though life is always in motion, life beyond those gates can be as chaotic as a pinball machine. I'm talking about a physical real pinball machine like the ones in the UMC, not the app on your phone. And Pinball is really tricky the first time you play it. Your ball is always rolling, gravity trying pull it down. You play trying to get it to go in certain nooks and crannies to score without tilting the machine. You have to be present everywhere your ball goes or you'll lose it. When your pinball game is done and you look back at your life are you going to look up and say “whoa what just happened”? or will you be present, taking everything in and say “wow look at the places I went and I was aware for every moment of it”.
Philosopher Alan Watts says it best- “You can't live at all- unless you can live fully now”.
Well I guess we all learned a little something today, It doesn’t matter if you're rich or poor, live in Boulder or Seattle, Graduation is about one thing – Presents. Wait I read that wrong – Graduation is about BEING present. Grads of 2014 stay in balance and keep your foundation strong. Your diploma is an inanimate object. So be the animator and bring it to life. Remember we can learn a lot from Butters, respect one another's differences, experience leads to knowledge. Be responsible. Oh yeah and being crass is just rude and it poisons the soul. Swearing can be fun but doing it all the time can cause a lot of problems. At South Park we've learned that curse words should be for rare and extreme circumstances besides- Wait, did I go over the ten minutes?
Good luck 2014 grads and Thank-you so much! Have a super fun time- be good!