Former The Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams lectures at UMD

Jessica Williams, comedienne, actor and former The Daily Show Correspondent, gave a comedic lecture presented by Student Entertainment Events Thursday night. The presentation, titled, “And now for more we turn to Jessica Williams,” took place in the Stamp ballroom on the second floor.

Emma Weiss, a  studio art major who was in attendance said, “I loved Jessica Williams’ stuff on The Daily Show and I thought it would be really interesting to hear her speak.”

Williams made her first appearance on The Daily Show in 2012, after she had auditioned while still in college.

Christian Oddsund, a freshman government and politics major said, “I’ve been watching The Daily Show religiously since like 2012…and when I heard she was coming I just had to be there.”

Williams opened the show in a very traditional stand-up format. She began by telling jokes about the Sims, Jumanji and a humorous interaction with a hotel employee when she was traveling to perform. Over the course of the following hour and a half, though, her topics focused on more serious social issues.

Williams used her experience as a child of two Ministers to describe what her black and female identities mean to her. She bounced between a serious and comedic tone to describe issues she found with society, politics and religion.

She would periodically make more references to Jumanji or the Sims. Towards the end of the show, Williams began to talk about the process of auditioning and earning a spot on The Daily Show as a correspondent. She talked about auditioning while still in college, and the experience of meeting Jon Stewart.


Williams described how she struggled with her identity and what her “thing” was on the show, or what her brand of humor for the program would be. Stewart encouraged her to watch the news and find what truly frustrated her and to build on that.

Williams then shared a piece she was proud of from The Daily Show. The video focused on the New York stop and frisk policy, which allowed people to be searched for simply appearing suspicious and has been criticized for allowing police officers to racially profile people of color. Williams angrily, but with a comedic tone, argued in favor of stop and frisk for Wall Street, so that police could catch “white men in suits” who look like white collar criminals.

Williams described how she felt that the piece helped her form her style of comedy. She concluded her lecture by urging the audience to find that same thing in the news for them that gets their attention, and to research and find a way to say something about it.

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