- Photographs courtesy of Andy Samberg and Barney Frank
There will be not one but two speakers for Harvard College Class Day this year: U.S. representative Barney Frank ’61, G ’68, IOP ’71, J.D. ’77, Democrat of Massachusetts, a key lawmaker in the recent sweeping overhaul of banking and financial-industry regulations and a champion of gay rights, and comedic actor Andy Samberg, best known for his absurdist-style humor in online videos and on Saturday Night Live. Both men will address graduating seniors and their guests on May 23.
Frank, the Commonwealth’s highest-profile congressman and one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States, made national headlines in November when he announced he would retire at the end of 2012, citing his redrawn district boundaries—which will add more conservative voters and drop the heavily Democratic city of New Bedford—and his desire to write as the main factors in his decision. A driving force behind 2010’s Dodd-Frank financial overhaul (which bears his name), he spent much of last year defending the law against criticism from Republicans.
Known as one of the nation’s leading liberal voices, Frank, who was closeted for his first seven years in the House but has been open about his sexual orientation for the last 25 (and plans to marry his longtime partner Jim Ready in July), has been vocal in his support of openly gay politicians; he recently condemned Republican comments on the House floor that expressed concerns about gay military members showering together as a reason to maintain the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, saying it behooved Republicans “to not be so bigoted.” “I’ve had members of the House showering with me for 25 years,” Frank said, according to The Daily Beast. He was born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersery before arriving at Harvard College in 1957.
With his tousled hair and mischievous grin, Samberg has succeeded actor Jimmy Fallon as the resident heartthrob on SNL, using a new medium to win over his audience: short online videos, or “digital shorts,” produced with his comedy troupe/band The Lonely Island. His wildly popular comedic music videos, such as “Threw It on The Ground,” “Lazy Sunday,” “Mother Lover,” and “I’m on a Boat” (a surprise Grammy nominee for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2010), have turned him into one of the show’s biggest stars. In 2007, Samberg teamed up with Justin Timberlake to film a racy music video that won an Emmy Award for outstanding original music and lyrics (watch his hilarious acceptance speech). Interviewed about the Emmy nomination, Samberg called it “about as surprising as it gets.” He said he didn’t know what was more exciting: the nomination itself, “or the idea that someone’s gonna have to do that engraving”—explicit title and all—“if we win.”
He has since starred in movies such as Hot Rod and I Love You, Man, and released the album Incredibad with his Lonely Island bandmates. In 2011 he teamed up with pop music icons Timberlake, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna for the 2011 comedy album “Turtleneck and Chain,” which was nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award. Born in 1978, Samberg attended NYU film school and UC Santa Cruz. “If it never gets better than this, I’ll be happy,” he said an interview with MTV news in 2007. “Making this movie [Hot Rod] with my buddies, and working on SNL, those were my dreams. Those two things are all I ever wanted out of my career, and now they’ve happened. So everything from this point on is icing.”