More than two decades after their own graduations from NC State, LA-based comedy duo Rhett McLaughlin (BSCE 2000) and Link Neal returned to their old stomping grounds to send off the latest class of engineering students as commencement speakers for the CCEE and Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Spring 2023 Graduation ceremonies on May 5.
After McLaughlin and Neal earned a civil engineering degree in 2000 and an industrial engineering degree in 2001, respectively, 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 delivered the baccalaureate address for the CCEE graduation, speaking 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.”
He said that he and Neal purposely avoided attending each other’s commencement speeches and plan on listening to the other’s address on a later episode of their Ear Biscuits podcast.
Before the CCEE graduation ceremony, McLaughlin sat down with CCEE to discuss his experience as a civil engineering student, his fond memories of NC State, and how his degree plays his entertainment career.
“On the surface, it doesn’t seem like things translate, right? When you have a very technical degree and then you move into a very creative career. But the way we think about — not just the way we build teams and build systems to create the content that we have — but even in the way we think about writing and comedy and a lot of the time, a setup and a punchline are like an equation and an answer. … The main way that it applies is that we’ve always been about efficiency, because we are running a business.”
Listen to more of the interview in the videos below.
After the graduation ceremonies, McLaughlin and Neal toured Fitts-Woolard Hall, the new home to the CCEE and ISE departments. They finished the day with a small social gathering of engineering students and faculty at Raleigh Founded on NC State’s Centennial Campus.