c/o Chad White

c/o Chad White

As a member of comedy groups Gag Reflex and Awkward Silence, a dancer in WesBurlesque, an employee at the Star & Crescent, a castaway in Wesleyan Survivor Season 2, and a participant in a seemingly endless list of other student groups, Chad White ’23 is always booked and busy. Despite his hectic schedule, White made time to sit down with The Argus and discuss the comedy scene at Wesleyan, working in the Office of Admission, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone.

The Argus: Why do you think you were nominated to be a WesCeleb?

Chad White: I think I know a large range of people. Also, the things I do are more performance-based and very visible. When I do stand-up in front of 100 people, those people might know my face. And I do improv, then I do Burlesque and then I’m giving tours—with blonde hair now. I’ve become a visible-ish person on campus. Definitely not freshman year, but I think as time has gone on, I’ve become more of a vocal person. I think I’ve built confidence. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but I think I just have become a louder person. Especially senior year.

A: What drew you to the psychology and African American Studies (AFAM) majors?

CW: When I came [to Wesleyan], I wasn’t like, “I’m gonna be a psych major. That’s what I want to do.” I took [PSYC105: “Foundations of Contemporary Psychology”], and I was like, “Yeah, that’s nice.” Then I took [SOC151: “Introductory Sociology”]. I was like, “This is the shit. I’m so into this.” I love sitting down and discussing for hours and hours about race and class and social issues. And then I took [SOC212: “Social Theory”], and it just flew over my head. I was like, “This is way too much,” and I went back to psych. I looked over the course listings, and I was like, “There’s more psych classes that I want to take than sociology classes.” It’s funny, ’cause I did a paper yesterday for psych, and I referenced all these studies and was talking about theory. I was like, “Man, maybe I should have been a sociology major, but there weren’t enough classes.” 

And then for AFAM, I was not going to be an AFAM major. I was like, “I’m not gonna be the Black kid who comes in and is an AFAM major. That’s not gonna be me.” Then I just started taking classes that sounded interesting, and at a certain point, I realized I could have an AFAM minor easily. I looked more into the major and found out there’s a concentration option. I found out that I could have a concentration in film, so I could still take film classes and have them all count towards my AFAM major. So really, it was just like, “What classes can I take that sound most interesting?” That’s how I ended up here.

A: Are there any particular classes and/or professors that significantly influenced your time at Wesleyan?

CW: I think my first semester, I didn’t feel super challenged, which was weird for me. The only class that challenged me was my computer science class, which I took because my mom made me. And I was like, “Well, obviously, I’m ass at this. It’s fucking computer science.” But I felt like I wasn’t being pushed intellectually.

And then I took [AFAM211:] “Critical Philosophy of Race” with [former Assistant Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies] Axelle Karera. And that opened a whole new lens for me. That’s kind of why I got into African American Studies, just because those were the classes that were pushing me intellectually. And then I took [HIST241: “From Romanus Pontifex (1454) to Black Lives Matter: Race and the Formation of the Modern World”]. It’s a long title. But it’s [taught by Professor of History] Demetrius Eudell, and it was incredibly fascinating. Those professors were two that really pushed me to have an interest in those kinds of things and get back into my academic groove at Wesleyan. 

I think one person who has always been really nice is [Professor of Psychology Steven] Stemler. I learned well from him. [Assistant Professor of Sociology Courtney] Patterson-Faye was absolutely amazing, [I was] learning how to balance this idea of academia but also casualness and being able to dissect intellectual methods in a casual way. And being able to talk about real-life experiences in class, but also relating to the reading and going in depth, but also laughing in class. She had a nickname for me: she called me Shod, which was fun because Chad is just such a white name.

I’ll give a shout-out to [Professor of Film Studies] Scott Higgins. I really like him. I think he’s super engaging. I like engaging professors. I took a three-hour, twice-a-week horror film course with him, and I would look forward to class. I wasn’t a horror movie person before, and now I am. I give all credit to him. It was just a phenomenal course. 

A: You’re very involved in the comedy scene at Wes. Can you talk a little bit about your experiences doing stand-up and improv here?

CW: I started doing improv when I was in first grade, at Second City back in Chicago. So I came here and I knew one thing I wanted to do was improv. I had just been doing it for years and years and years. I joined [an improv] group, and it was really amazing. One thing about improv is that everyone knows it’s improv. So if you mess up or something isn’t funny or something doesn’t land, it’s okay. When something is funny, it’s impressive. But no one thinks about the 15 things that you said that weren’t funny because it’s like, “It’s improv, they have to do this off the rip.”

I tried stand-up once, back in freshman or sophomore year of high school, and it went horrible, so coming here and doing it, I was extremely nervous. I didn’t want to do it. I think a big part of stand-up is that you’re preparing what you think people will laugh at. You’ve thought about this. You’ve rehearsed it to see if the people find it funny. I think stand-up is much more pressure because you have so much freedom to craft a script.

When I started doing stand-up, I was really nervous. I blacked out during my first set—not from alcohol. I did it, and the next thing I knew, it was over and people were like, “That was such a great job, you seemed really comfortable on stage, that was your first time doing it?” I was like, “I don’t remember it, to be honest. It just happened.” Now, I’m much more casual about it. I’ll have my phone on stage and just kind of hope that I remember my jokes. I started to enjoy it more once I built confidence. I kind of knew it was funny, and I knew how the crowd worked. 

I think a big part of comedy at Wesleyan that I’ve adjusted to is that a lot of my comedy, comedy I enjoy and comedy I perform, is sometimes race-related. Especially going to a [predominantly white institution] for middle school, elementary school, high school, and college. There’s a lot of jokes to be made there. But I realized quickly that some of those jokes don’t get laughs from predominantly white audiences because they either don’t get the joke or are too afraid to laugh. I’ve had to adjust my comedy over time to kind of fit the Wesleyan crowd, which has been a challenge, but one that I welcome because it puts limitations which offer room for creativity in the sense that I would have never thought of.

A: Your presence is also definitely a staple on WesTwitter. How does it feel to be such a prominent WesInfluencer?

CW: My freshman year, I was on Twitter but I didn’t follow anyone from Wesleyan. It was me, my friends Claudia Kunney [’24] and Alex Trufinescu [’23]—we thought we were Wesleyan Twitter, the three of us. We thought the three of us were the only people at Wesleyan and on Twitter. And then, there was one tweet I had that all of a sudden got Wesleyan likes. It wasn’t even Wesleyan-related. I just kind of started accumulating Wesleyan [followers]. It’s such a niche group of people, which is really fun to have. We don’t really know each other that much outside of the sphere of Wesleyan Twitter, but it’s still fun to have that interaction. It’s kind of like a secret community in a sense. 

I think during COVID it was much more of a big thing because people spent a lot more time on their phones. The first semester we were starting to go out again after restrictions [were lifted], people were like, “You’re from Twitter!” and it was so weird. You get like 10, 12 likes, and you’re just like, “Oh, that’s cool.” And then you see 10 people in person who are like “I’ve seen that,” and it’s like “What?”

I think it’s fun to be able to tweet about Wesleyan and have people understand what I mean. There’s some freedom in having a little WesTwitter bubble where I can talk about Wesleyan in a funny, more casual way. 

A: You’re also a tour guide and a senior interviewer. What drew you to working in the Office of Admission? 

CW: I was such a little nerd my freshman year. I knew I wanted to be a tour guide before I came to college. I think part of it is that for me, tour guiding is performance. It’s like a big stand-up set, honestly. And it’s one that I’ve grown to, I think, be good at. 

After you’ve done over 250 tours—I’m guessing, I don’t know how many I’ve done over the years—it just has to get repetitive, I will admit. So you have to shake it up sometimes and do random things. It’s always fun. I like doing random questions. Honestly, I love working in Admissions. I love hot topic panels where students or parents will ask the questions you’re not supposed to ask. I love those kinds of things. I’ve had questions like, “My daughter doesn’t like the smell of weed. Will she be okay at Wesleyan?” and “What’s the curfew at Wesleyan?” I was like, “Curfew?” 

I love being able to just be real with people. Because I feel like a lot of tour guides at other schools present the school a certain way. I’m like, “Let’s just be casual. Let’s be real. We’re a college, so there is drugs and drinking and also board game club.” I’ll be like, “I climbed that roof. I’m not supposed to, but I have.” Just being real with what the experience of college is. I’m not trying to sugarcoat it and make it seem like a super professional thing. I’ll say my script, but also if people come up to me afterwards, I’ll trash on a building, I’ll trash on whatever it is to make people [know] this isn’t a perfect place. But it’s a place that I’ve really grown to love through my experiences and my route here.

A: Working in Admissions, you talk to a lot of prospective students. If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself as a pre-frosh, what would you say?

CW: I would say nobody’s looking at you. I thought everybody was looking at me, everyone cared, and was noticing when I’m not there, when I’m there. I just cared way too damn much. I was so worried about what clubs I got involved in and which parties I went to. And now I’m just kind of like, “Fuck it, I’ll do what I want.” I’m gonna hang out with people who I want to hang out with. 

The reason I’m in 80,000 clubs is because I’ve started to say yes. My freshman year, I was like, “I’m gonna do improv and maybe stand-up, and that’s it.” And then, my friend was like, “Hey, join this thing.” And I was like, “Yeah, sure, I’ll try it out.” And then it kind of became “Yes, sure, I’ll try that too. Why not?” So now my plate is a little full. Maybe a little too full. But it’s been really fun.

I’d just tell my freshman-year self that no one’s looking at you that hard. Just say yes. Do it. You never know what that’s gonna lead you to. If you hate it, you hate it and you do it for that one time and then leave. And no one’s gonna look at you any different. Even though we are a small school of 3,000, that’s a lot of fucking people. If you piss off five, you’re gonna be just fine.

A: What legacy would you like to leave behind at Wesleyan?

CW: Oh, gosh, that is a scary thought. What I’ll say is that the reason I get involved in so many things is because I tend to show up. And I think that sometimes can be used more at Wesleyan. So yeah, maybe I’ll get four hours of sleep one night because I want to show up to this thing and that thing and that and just experience all I can, especially because it’s almost over. I’m always kind of booked and busy, which is, to me, a really fun aspect of Wesleyan. Why not show up to a party for 25 minutes and say hi? I think people really honor that. 

That’s my legacy. Show up, go to that thing, or that birthday party you get invited to. You get five invites? Go to all five. Spend 15 minutes there if you must, but you never know who you’re gonna meet at those things. You just never know what could happen. And so if you open your Wesleyan experience, embracing the unknown, more is gonna happen.

A: What are your plans beyond Wesleyan?

CW: My simple answer is that I’m going into executive search, which is headhunting. And if people don’t know what that is, it’s essentially hiring c-suite executives or above, kind of like VP of Finance, VP of marketing, CEOs, board members, stuff like that. Companies are like, “Hey, we need to hire a new CMO, can you find us one?” We go find them a head of marketing. We say “Hey, I think this person’d be great,” they interview them, they match, we get a percentage of the salary the person’s going to get paid. 

And I think I definitely do want to continue to do comedy. I might shift towards doing it professionally at one point, which I know is a crazy wild thing to say. And if you had asked me before I entered college if that would be my plan, I would have said no. But I’ve gotten so much feedback from people here. It was just crazy. 

Last semester when I got the job, someone asked me what I was doing after school and I said “I’m going into executive search.” And someone screamed, “Noooooo!” I was like, “Oh my God.” They’re like, “No, I’m sorry, I just thought you would definitely go into comedy.” It’s kind of cool, though, for someone to have a visceral reaction to you not going into something. It’s like, “Oh, shoot, maybe I should do this.” And so I think I’ll definitely keep it up on the side. So how I’m gonna make money is executive search. And past that, we’ll see.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Kat Struhar can be reached at kstruhar@wesleyan.edu

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