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Q&A: Comedian Mo Rocca chats about comedy, career

Mo Rocca, best known for his sharp political commentary during his four years with The Daily Show and his cultural commentary on VH1's I Love The... series, will bring his wit and opinions to Ohio University's Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium tonight.

Rocca is a regular panelist on NPR's Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! and is working on a TV show for the newly launched Cooking Channel. He has appeared in a Broadway musical, is a video blogger for AOL and is on CBS News Sunday Morning.

The Post's Bridget Mallon spoke with Rocca about his comedy, meaningful career moments and appearance at OU.

THE POST: Why did you decide to pursue a career that infuses comedy with political commentary?

MO ROCCA: It all goes back to The Killing Fields - it was a movie with Sam Waterston about the American involvement in Southeast Asia in the War on Cambodia in the '60s and '70s, and I remember seeing it and thinking that I can't tell if I want to be the person that Sam Waterston is playing or Sam Waterston. I can't tell if I want to be in entertainment or actual journalism, so I have tried to have it both ways.

POST: Is there an aspect of your career that stands out as being very meaningful for you?

ROCCA: Yes, a few different things. I wrote a book in 2004 called All the Presidents' Pets, which was historical fiction. I know everything about all the animals that have lived in the White House, so I wrote this book where I played a reporter covered to the beat of the White House dog, and what I realized is that the animals that live in the White House have actually been running the show the whole time. It was satirical. Not a lot of people bought it ... but I had a great time writing it. ... Another thing that I did that really stood out was when I went on Broadway and did the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and that was one of those things where I suddenly was having so much fun ... and then I had that thing where I remembered, 'Oh my God, you're supposed to be having fun at work.' ... It was a really important reminder that if you can have fun with your job, have fun with it. Doing The Daily Show was also totally exciting and exhilarating; I did it for four years, and that's something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. So I would say that those three experiences were the most important to me.

POST: You mentioned that you've worked in several different media. Do you have a favorite way to connect with people or transmit your opinions?

ROCCA: I like any kind of media where I can interact directly with people. ... I'm not really interested in celebrities - I don't say that in a snide way. But I do a lot of man on the street stuff. ... To me, if I can ambush someone in a city park and instantly create a relationship with them on camera, I find that totally exhilarating and really, really fun. If you can make comedy with somebody, connect with somebody and have a delightful experience with somebody you didn't know seconds before, that's really cool.

POST: What can people expect from your appearance at OU?

ROCCA: I'm going to talk about myself; I'm going to talk about politics; I'm going to talk about presidential grave sites because I've visited all of them all over the country; I'm going to give my perspective on things; and I'm going to give away prizes.

3 Culture

Bridget Mallon

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