After pot shots, Jimmy Kimmel invited to be commencement speaker


LOS ANGELES — Proving that academics at the highest level can have a sense of humor, campus leaders at Humboldt State have invited Jimmy Kimmel to speak at this year’s commencement after a monologue in which the comedian skewered a campus center devoted to studying marijuana.

During a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” episode that aired on Nov. 27, Kimmel joked about the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research, saying that to get into the school “you have to fail a lot of very rigorous drug tests.”

The institute, Kimmel deadpans, plans lectures and research on how marijuana relates to economics, geography, politics, psychology and sociology, but “they’ll probably just end up playing Ultimate Frisbee.”

The three-minute segment also includes a mock promotional video in which prospective students are invited to prepare themselves for a”low-pressure career in such exciting fields” as dog walking, snow board rental,pizza delivery, dressing up as Chewbacca, and “living in a van and selling friendship bracelets and patchouli oil.”

The broadcast created a buzz that went viral on YouTube and on social media sites.

Humboldt County is known for its marijuana farms that proliferate in the rural, densely-forested North Coast region.

Campus leaders took note and not to be outdone, invited Kimmel to address students at commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 18 or if his schedule doesn’t permit, to visit the Arcata campus next fall for a lecture or performance.

“We thought some of your lines were actually pretty funny, as did many on campus,” wrote college President Rollin C. Richmond and student government President Ellyn Henderson, in a Dec. 17 letter to Kimmel. “However, like many students and alumni we also felt you shortchanged Humboldt State University, portraying all of our students as pot-obsessed slackers. That is not fair and this invitation offers you a chance to grow a little and make up for it.”

“Besides,” the letter continues, “we figure you owe us. Humboldt State provided you with just over 3 minutes of pretty good material.”

The college has yet to receive a reply from the late night talk-show host, said spokesman Jarad Petroske.

“We figured we’d turn up the fire by putting it out there this week not only to the campus but to local media to see if could get viral action going on a response,” Petroske said.

Petroske acknowledged that despite topics such as regulatory reform, Dutch drug policies and the impact of marijuana toxicants on forest wildlife, reaction to the institute has been less than sober.

But the goal is rigorous scholarship and improving the dialogue of the public policy debate.

“The important thing is that the institute continues to do important work … in all facets of ways marijuana is impacting society,” he said. “It may provide low-hanging fruit for comedians but this is serious work that needs to be done.”

The institute, which began operation in April, doesn’t offer classes, training programs or advocacy but acts as an information clearinghouse for lawmakers, health professionals, business and media. It began a speaker’s series this fall and conducts research on such issues as the impact of marijuana production on the local economy and the long-term effects on fetuses in utero or children early in life who are exposed to marijuana.