Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Ben Stein offers ways to ruin your life

University of Wisconsin students and the community were treated to a lecture on how to ruin their life at the Orpheum Theater Monday night.

“Don’t learn any useful skills,” said Ben Stein, the latest speaker in The Wisconsin Union Directorate Distinguished Lecture Series. “Just sit around and watch “The Simpsons” all the time.”

“Never accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong,” Stein continued. “The other kids that passed the test? They were ass-kissers.


“Have a romantic relationship with someone with a lot of problems and believe you can change them.”

“Use drugs and alcohol frequently. They can wreck the lives of superstars, millionaires and politicians, but you’re different. You deserve a break today.”

For any student looking for a tutorial on any subject, Stein’s speech was the place to be.

As a former professor, lawyer, speechwriter, actor, author and columnist, Ben Stein has been published and quoted in everything from the New York Times to E! Online. He is indeed regarded as a consummate expert on everything.

Yet the line around the block prior to the speech also spoke of his unusual appeal.

“I think I represent an idealized father or grandfather,” said Stein, when asked how an intellectual could appeal to so many. “I’m known to be kind of a cool guy. I’m into economics and politics.”

However, Stein started and ended his presentation with comedy and tended to steer away from his favorite topics. Instead, the speech focused on rules for living and the importance of being grateful.

The roles of parents and teachers were particularly targeted. “Kids are often ungrateful creeps,” he said, as he urged the audience to call family members and thank them. “I guarantee your parents will faint.”

“The one thing I could do better than anyone else was I could be good to my parents,” Stein went on to say.

Stein spoke about diary entries his parents kept, which praised him for his caregiving efforts while they were terminally ill.

He kept these entries after his parents’ deaths and called them “the most valuable thing I own.”

In addition, Stein said the best compliment he ever received was being told, “You’re a very cool son and a very cool dad,” by his own son at Stein’s father’s funeral.

Peppered throughout the speech were plenty of drug references and jokes, as Stein made sure to keep the audience laughing as much as possible.

“I’ll keep this short, because I know you all have to go home and take drugs,” Stein said as he opened his speech. He referred often to drug use and even responded to one student asking a question with, “How many Percodine have you done today?”

At one point, when Stein was asked about the contents of his valise, he pulled out a pair of glasses, a motor fan, a small booklet and about a dozen pharmaceuticals.

When asked privately before the presentation about the city of Madison, Stein was as gracious as his audience. “Madison is a microcosm of America. People are really nice here,” he said.

Stein was also questioned about the actions of legislators in the recent Wisconsin Senate scandal and whether the actions relate to all politicians.

“It’s a tiny percentage,” Stein said. “Far fewer than 1 percent, although you get the impression it’s 90 percent. What it comes down to is that civil servants are poorly paid.”

Audience members were quick to call the speech funny and entertaining.

“I agree that students aren’t grateful enough,” said UW student Nancy Scibelli. “I already talked to my mother today.”

“I was hoping he’d focus on comedy. I think he might have overdone it with the drug thing,” Evan Weiden said.

Weiden also enjoyed Stein’s replication of his lines from the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

“[Stein] has a universal appeal because it reminds people of teachers they’ve had,” Weiden said. “He reminds us of what our worlds were like back then.”

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