The Brandeis Questionnaire
Myq Kaplan ’00
Sometimes, it seems stand-up comic Myq Kaplan doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
Hopping from one subject to another, he deftly works his way through Buddhism, feminism and math in a couple of minutes, or snaps off a series of puns and stream-of-consciousness riffs.
As a young comic, Kaplan cut his teeth at the Comedy Studio, on the third floor of a Chinese restaurant in Harvard Square. He started out performing satirical songs on an acoustic guitar, telling jokes in between. Eventually, he put down the guitar in favor of intricately crafted stand-up sets.
In 2010, Kaplan vaulted to the funny-bone firmament as a finalist on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” competition, performing before an audience of millions week after week. His most recent work is a Netflix special and comedy album titled “Small, Dork and Handsome,” released last year.
A comedy-scene regular in New York City, where he lives, he’s appeared on late-night talk shows including “The Tonight Show,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Comedy Central Presents” and “Conan.” He’s also logged more than 1,000 performances around the country, appearing with acts like Louis C.K. and Patton Oswalt. He’s appeared in a Comedy Central special and performed at Montreal’s Just for Laughs comedy festival. And then there’s his weekly podcast, “Hang Out With Me.”
Wordplay is Kaplan’s comedic trademark, and his intellectual interest: He earned a master’s in linguistics from Boston University. As he reminds us, “Words are pretty important. Words are really all that separate us — from the mimes.”
— Jarret Bencks
Who was your favorite Brandeis professor?
I liked so many. I loved my semantics class, taught by Ray Jackendoff, and several philosophy classes with Andreas Teuber. Joan Maling got me into linguistics, which I’ve loved ever since. They’re all my favorites. Like on Twitter. Today, you can have as many favorites as you want!
Where did you usually spend Saturday night?
Oh, I was a wild man. A different place every Saturday. Some Saturdays, it was studying in my room. Some Saturdays, it was studying at the library. Some Saturdays, it was studying at the movies or bowling. I think that’s the real answer: movies, or bowling, or dinner with friends.
When or where were you most miserable at Brandeis?
I do my best not to think about misery too much, because I’ve been very fortunate. But maybe parking real far away from my dorm as a freshman when it was cold? But, also, I’m just grateful I had a car.
If you could be any other Brandeisian, who would it be?
Ollie the Owl? Is that allowed? I hope so. And not just because the letters in “allowed” also spell out “Owl? Deal!”
What is the most important value you learned at Brandeis?
I learned that some dreams I had that might have seemed far-fetched were actually nearer-fetched than I thought, if I just took actions to head toward them. That was pretty important.
Which talent did Brandeis help you develop most?
Good question. Maybe a talent for asking and answering questions. How am I doing? (This answer has an answer AND a question in it.)
What do you wish you had studied harder?
If you could go back to college, what would you do differently?
Not much. I had a good time. Good work, college!
What was the most important shortcut you learned in college?
That there are no shortcuts. Also, if you want a shortcut for writing “shortcut,” try using “sh’cut.” So, turns out there ARE some shortcuts.
What three words of advice would you give to current Brandeis students?
Don’t worry. Ever. (That’s also advice for everyone. I once read a Taoist quote that said something like, “Don’t worry about things you can’t change, because you can’t change them. And don’t worry about things you CAN change, because you can change them. So there’s never anything to worry about.” I know that’s more than three words, but hopefully the subtext is there in the short version.)
What would your friends say is your greatest strength?
Some might say my almost obsessive focus. Others might say my capacity to love so simply and strongly. Still others might say my ability to pick great friends — they would probably be joking, but, also, they’re right.
Whom would you like to sing a duet with?
A Tuvan throat-singing monk, so the duet could be in THREE-part harmony. Or Joss Whedon. ESPECIALLY if Joss Whedon learned to sing like a monk. Or I did.
Which bad break was your biggest blessing?
I don’t believe that any break is bad or any blessing is big. So every break is every blessing. (Sorry this one’s not full of jokes. But at least it doesn’t make any sense.)
If you could climb into a time machine, whom would you like to hang out with?
The inventor of the time machine, to ask why there wasn’t an easier way to get in than “climbing.”
On your deathbed, what will you be most grateful for?
Getting to die in a bed.