Unsafe Sexton

One might call it a brave move. Who knows what could have happened. Nonetheless, NYU President John Sexton appeared on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report on Wednesday. See the clips here.

Most of us love the show - but who knew John Sexton loves it too?

Reporter for the Washington Square News, Jenna Marotta discussed Sexton’s appearance on the show.

A few months ago, Sexton received an e-mail offering him a chance to appear on the popular program and discuss his spring semester course in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, "Baseball as a Road to God." The letter explained that although Colbert knows nothing about baseball, he is a personal friend of God. Yet show producers abandoned the interview's established agenda, as Sexton learned during a pre-interview phone call.

Instead, Colbert amusingly teased Sexton about his beard and the less than exciting academic textbook he co-authored. In retort to Sexton's declarations of "defending knowledge and wisdom" and urging Colbert to "be all you can be," Colbert asked, "Isn't learning things just a way of admitting you don't know something?"

Sexton debated the idea of appearing on the show with students - some expressed hesitation due to the nature of the show, but most thought it was a good idea, according to Marotta.

What did the faculty think? According to the Washington Square News:

"He tries to do things that make students feel good about NYU," said Lynne Brown, senior vice president for media relations at NYU. "If that means taking some chances and putting yourself out there, John's willing to do that." Joe Cutbirth, an adjunct professor in the NYU journalism department who taught "Media and Society: Fake News, Politics and Pop Culture” last summer, said that the worst thing Sexton could do would be to lecture him on scholarship. "If he plays it right, it's a real home run for the school," Cutbirth said.

Sexton’s appearance was a success based on one primary factor – it was funny. While Sexton certainly attempted to drone on, the segment was amusing. Score for NYU, we look uber-hip and progressive.

This certainly is evidence of the importance and pervasiveness of shows such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Under the guise of humor both are having a definite and relevant impact. For the NYU president to appear on the show, and risk a PR nightmare, the benefits of a successful appearance must have seemed to outweigh the risk.

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