LA-based comedy duo Rhett McLaughlin (BSCE 2000) and Link Neal discussed the daunting task of giving commencement speeches for their alma maters, NC State’s CCEE and Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) departments, respectively, on the latest edition of their Ear Biscuits podcast.
After McLaughlin earned a civil engineering degree in 2000 and Neal an industrial engineering degree in 2001, they launched their careers as YouTube entertainers. The two are known for hosting one of the most-watched daily talk shows on the Internet, Good Mythical Morning, their narrative series Rhett & Link’s Buddy System, the award-winning weekly podcast Ear Biscuits, as well as their comedic songs, sketches, and viral low-budget local commercials. McLaughlin and Neal’s YouTube channels have a combined subscriber base of more than 25 million people with more than 7 billion total views, and the two have been featured on and in The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Conan O’Brien Show, Vanity Fair, Wired, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal.
McLaughlin and Neal purposely avoided attending each other’s commencement speeches so they could reveal the full recordings to each other on Ear Biscuits.
“We decided not to [listen to each other’s speeches ahead of time] to preserve this moment,” McLaughlin said on the podcast to Neal. “And also because I just thought it would be better if you weren’t there. I don’t know how you felt about me being there for you, but I didn’t want to be a distraction to the crowd and I didn’t wanna be a distraction to you.”
For McLaughlin’s baccalaureate address for the CCEE graduation, he spoke on the importance of living in the moment and finding gratitude in lived experiences, even in the face of disappointment.
“You are going to experience disappointment at various stages in your life,” McLaughlin said. “You’re going to get to something — whether it goes right or whether it goes wrong — you’re going to get there and you’re going to be disappointed. And when you feel that disappointment, realize that it’s a gift. The disappointment is a gift that you can take and use to chip away at your very human attachment to specific desired outcomes. Never stop chipping away at that attachment. You’ll probably never completely sever it, but you’ve got to keep trying.”
McLaughlin and Neal agreed they went into their speeches with the same goal: giving the graduates and the attendees something to think about and contemplate as they approach future uncertainties.
“Obviously … we’re trying to do it to be entertaining. … But ultimately, the most important thing is do they walk away with something … they understand and motivates them in some way.”
Listen to the full episode here.