Geek on wry: Mo Rocca at Vassar 2/5

Mo @Every year, Vassar College announces its annual Alex Krieger ’95 Memorial Lecture, and we have cause to wonder, “How did they get such an amazing speaker?” Years past have brought the likes of Tom Wolfe, Wendy Wasserstein, John Irving, P. J. O’Rourke, Calvin Trillin, Jules Feiffer, Oliver Sacks, Tony Kushner, David Sedaris, Michael Chabon, Sarah Vowell, Gail Collins, Augusten Burroughs, Frank Rich, Ira Glass and Andy Borowitz to the campus.

The Krieger Lecture series was founded in memory of a freshman killed in an automobile accident: a young man who valued “distinguished American writing that incorporates humor as a primary element,” and the choice of speakers consistently reflects that priority. This year, political satirist/comedian/blogger/kids’ TV scriptwriter/amateur chef Mo Rocca, currently a correspondent for the television program CBS Sunday Morning, will grace the stage, discussing “Fake News versus Real News: Just How Fine Is the Line?” in a live interview with Vassar senior Louise Dufresne.

This seems like the perfect topic for Rocca, who represents the first-generation pioneers who recognized the potential use of the Internet to establish a comedic presence through topical commentary. He got his start on television as a regular contributor to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart from 1998 to 2003, so he certainly knows about fake news. Rocca has also been a correspondent for NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In 2004 he served as a presidential convention floor correspondent for Larry King Live, and he covered the 2008 elections for both NBC and MSNBC.

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Rocca also has a following among foodies on account of his two shows on the Cooking Network, Food(ography) and My Grandmother’s Ravioli, and for his stint as an Iron Chef America judge. Even TV-avoidant types know his work as a regular panelist on NPR’s news quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.

Rocca’s latest project, Electoral Dysfunction, is a featurelength documentary film exploring voting in America and the consequences of a Constitution that doesn’t include the right to vote. Throughout, he encounters a range of activists, experts and election administrators, along with some highly opinionated third-graders, who offer commentary on how voting works – or doesn’t work – in America.

Free and open to the public, the “Fake News versus Real News” lecture will begin at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, February 5 in the second-floor auditorium of the Students’ Building. No reservations are necessary, but seating will be on a first-come first-served basis, so early arrival is advisable. For more information, visit www.vassar.edu.

“Fake News vs. Real News: Just How Fine Is the Line?” lecture with Mo Rocca, Tuesday, February 5, 8 p.m., free, Students’ Building, Vassar College, 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie; www.vassar.edu.