Dikkers looking to connect with students in Omnibus lecture
In many ways, Scott Dikkers’ career has been about finding and bringing out the kid in everyone. As a comedy writer and founding editor of the satire/social commentary website The Onion, he’s trying to get you to at least give up a giggle once in a while by pointing out the oddities in popular culture.
Dikkers’ next audience comes as part of Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Omnibus Speaker Series on Feb. 16 in the 1,500-seat Auer Performance Hall. Ticket availability will be announced Thursday.
“I love talking to college students,” Dikkers said last week from his home in Minneapolis. “They are the best audiences because society still hasn’t beaten the life and the spirit out of them yet. I find them to be very engaging and receptive.”
That can also make students a fun, challenging audience, requiring his best material.
“I am going to tell them the story about how I pursued my passions at their age and had a lot of crazy ups and downs, and I’m going to hopefully inspire them to do the same thing,” Dikkers said. “The way I frame that is you need to live your mission. Figure out what you need to do in life, and we all have something and it’s something that’s going to make the world a better place. Commit yourself to it and do it in the most outrageous possible way.”
Then, Dikkers said, he’ll tell funny stories about how he got into trouble doing that, but that it was fine in the end and all worked out.
“Failure is the best teacher,” he said. “You have to fall down a few times and learn and keep on going and have fun doing it.”
With The Onion, Dikkers created the original “fake news” platform and grew it into one of today’s most recognized comedy brands. He shares his experiences in how being committed to a unique vision—and standing firm in the face of seemingly impossible challenges and threats—can translate into genuine differentiation and robust brand equity for any organization.
As co-founder and longest-serving editor-in-chief of The Onion, Dikkers has deep appreciation of the improbable. It’s a quality that describes not only how he created a celebrated comedy institution, but how he escaped dire childhood circumstances.
Though not affiliated currently with The Onion, Dikkers said he’s building programs and writing books to train the next generation of comedic writers.
“Comedy is the hardest thing to write because in every other genre you kind of know what the tricks are,” Dikkers said. “If you want to make people cry, write a story about a dog that dies. Two people fall in love and then they can’t be together. In comedy, if you try to pick from your toolbox the tried and true things, you can’t use them because they’ve already been done, and everybody knows the jokes.
“Every time you write it, it has to be original, and there’s no real playbook, which is why I wrote one a few years ago—the formula for how you come up with original jokes.”
But he’s found a successful way to appeal to a broad audience. He said the current generation of students is very discerning because of what it has gone through during the pandemic.
“These kids were in their formative years during that, so this is a really interesting time,” Dikkers said. “For one, they are really receptive to comedy. They are accustomed to being served up any kind of comedy they could possibly want at any moment. That coupled with the fact they’ve been shut in is really an interesting, polarizing dynamic, I find.”
That’s also why comedy writers are challenged to continue evolving, experimenting, and growing to connect with younger audiences.
“You do have to do that because humor styles and trends kind of change like fashion,” Dikkers said. “Different generations find different things funny.”
“It’s going to be fun and amazing and unless every single last student shows up, I’m going to boycott the talk,” he said with a laugh. “I will not go on unless every single one of them is there. They have to bring their friends, everyone in their dorm, and we need to pack the house.”