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Friday, November 3, 2006

Mo Rocca offers up the amusing side of politics

By Hannah Simpson

“I’m an expert at sounding like an expert,” said Mo Rocca on November 2 in the second of five Distinguished Speaker Series programs, held in Givens Performing Arts Center at The University North Carolina at Pembroke. Rocca, a political pundit and humorist, spoke on the role of “experts” in politics and the media.

Rocca is best known as a contributor to NBC’s The Tonight Show and as a former correspondent to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.
           
LIGHTER SIDE OF POLITICS

Mo RoccaRocca began his presentation by showing a video clip of his work as a reporter. Laughter rippled from the audience as Rocca’s onscreen counterpart shoved his microphone closer and closer into the face of a bewildered interviewee.

The self-proclaimed “fake reporter” posed the question, “What are the issues that are going to bring people to the polls?”
 
He revealed a chart in the form of a basketball bracket that depicted the different political debates that will be most important to voters in the elections. Imitating a sports commentator, he predicted that immigration would be the largest issue for voters in the 2008 election.

Rocca said that speculation is the key to being a political expert.

“Talk about what happens in 2008,” Rocca said. “By the time 2008 comes around, no one will remember what you said in 2006.”

We need to know something about past politics to predict future politics, Rocca said.

The pundit said that he did not have time to read about history, so he visited the graves of past presidents instead.  He presented photos of his journey along with several stories of his experiences.

“After collecting all these stories, I think it was inevitable that I become a fake reporter,” Rocca said.

A graduate of Harvard, Rocca said that he did not come from a comic background. He was previously a screenwriter for the popular children’s show “Wishbone” and consulting editor for a magazine.
 
He advised aspiring “experts” to practice by speaking on something familiar, such as themselves. He explained by launching into a story about his life: “Like the vast majority of human beings born, I was born of woman.”

POLITICS ON THE ROCKS

Despite the humor of his presentation, Rocca did discuss the seriousness of fake experts in the media.

Mo Rocca“The media needs experts,” Rocca said. “But as any cable network viewer knows, you don’t have to know much.”

Rocca listed various facts about North Carolina, including the state flower, bee, tree, and beverage and launched into the history of the Town of Pembroke, before stating that he knew very little about the state itself.

“For people watching (the news), take it with a grain of salt,” Rocca urged. “Or at least ask yourselves, do they (experts) really know what they’re saying?”

Rocca said that with so many news stations, it is possible to find one that reports on serious news.

“A lot of people are going around forcing opinion down other people’s throats; People who don’t really have any credentials,” Rocca said.

UNCP’s Distinguished Speaker Series continues February 15 with poet and activist Nikki Giovanni; March 20 with political commentator Pat Buchanan and April 19 with sports analyst James Brown. All shows are at 7 p.m. and admission is $10 to the general public.

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 A journalism and political science major, Hannah Simpson is member of the Esther G. Maynor Honors College and senior staff writer for The Pine Needle.

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