Rocca pleases an overwhelming crowd, for the most part

Published: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 12:03 a.m.

For more than 40 years, UF students have been given the opportunity to listen to the voices of many prominent societal figures, such as former presidents Bill Clinton and George H. Bush, Bob Dole, Steve Forbes, Magic Johnson, Ellen Degeneres, and Spike Lee, thanks to UF’s ACCENT Speaker’s Bureau, the largest student-run speaker’s bureau in the nation. ACCENT tries to offer these free presentations approximately once a month.

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Mo Rocca

Carly Blustein

On Thursday night, ACCENT kept with its trend of influential speakers by bringing Mo Rocca to the University of Florida.

This Harvard alumnus is a successful author and a political satirist. Above all, though, he is a comedian. His presentation vastly differed from that of former ACCENT speakers in a variety of ways. For starters, the turnout was like no other for an ACCENT speaker. The doors officially opened at 7:15 p.m., but a massive line had started to form as early as 5 p.m., which eventually stretched the diameter of the Reitz Union.

The Reitz Union Grand Ballroom was filled to the brink with students standing against the walls and even sitting on the floor in the front. There was a team of security guards stationed at each of the back doors whose sole job was to shoo away incoming, free loaders trying to enter without waiting in line.

“It was a lot more crowded than other ACCENT presentations,” said sophomore Matt Cook. “I think it’s because college students can relate more to the entertainment industry than to speakers like political figures.”

Rocca was an anticipated crowd pleaser, a role he fulfilled for the most part, until it came time for the question and answer session immediately following the presentation.

Amid a sling of comical inquiries ranging from the story behind his first name to the capital of Honduras, a daring, young man with a heavy accent asked a question that Rocca simply could not answer: “Why aren’t you funny?”

Rocca pretended not to understand the question because of the student’s thick accent, but he could not conceal his shock.

“It ruined the vibe of the show,” said Cook. “I don’t know why anyone would do that to a guest of our school.”

After the brief interruption, Rocca quickly resumed his question and answer sessions as he began firing off the names of dozens of world capitals. It seemed as if things were back to normal until a student had another eyebrow-raising question. He challenged Rocca on his “artificial expertise” talent, which enables Rocca to talk endlessly and sound knowledgeable on a subject he actually knows nothing about. He wanted to know how Rocca felt about the “Antiguan grey squirrel crisis” and their search for a safe habitat. Again, Rocca pretended not to understand the question until he could think of a way to brush it off with a joke.

While this ACCENT performance clearly did not please all, it certainly did please the vast majority of students who were willing to stand or sit on the floor for over an hour to hear the comedy of Rocca. Anyone interested in seeing some heckling or learning a quick geography lesson was guaranteed to be satisfied.

The next ACCENT presentation will be Martin Luther King, III on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The show starts at 8 p.m., but the doors will open at 7:15 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

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