Losing My University Degree

A producer from a radio station hit me up earlier this week, asking me to tell a story on air about being lucky/unlucky. I thought my university disaster might be a good look. Here’s the rough draft…

He did? Wowzers. Yeah, I know. It’s weird. The universe is on my side with this comedy thing. But why not? I create what I want in my life. Belief is the cause. What the hell am I talking about? Click here.

Point of Action

how to tell a story

They say that you should start every story by teasing the point of action (climax), and then work your way towards it from the beginning.

They do this in movies all the time. You’ll see the guy in a chase scene, car starts to fly in the air, and then they cut to black with the words, ‘Five Days Earlier…’

So, this is a story about how, due to a mix of luck and misfortune, I’m going to have my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration revoked by the University of Toronto. It is also, depending on how things play out, the story about how I might cause a Bill Clinton-esque scandal in the country of Guyana.

Preamble – University Days

angry teacher

I left full-time studies at the University of Toronto when I was able to find a job at an IT eLearning, Staffing, and Consulting firm, B Wyze Solutions Inc. Why did I leave? I recognized university for what it was: a necessary evil on the way to a career.

In fact, the powers at be didn’t want me to go part-time. They told me that my program (Co-op Management) didn’t allow part-time students. I asked them what they wanted to see happen, because I was going to do the program part-time, one way or another. Eventually, they relented.

Graduation Time

So I’m working at this IT firm. I actually got the job because I told them I was going to graduate in a year.

…so two and half years later, it was time to graduate.

I didn’t even want to go to my convocation. U of T wanted eight dollars for the black dress. I’m like, you bastards, I just spent $30k on a degree and now you want $8 for a black dress made out of high school auditorium curtains? Get the France outta here.

This time, I relented. Mom wanted to see her son graduate.

The Approach

graduating class crowd of graduates

When I got there, they asked me if I graduated with distinction or not. I told them I didn’t know what that was…that’s how little I cared about the process. They checked, told me I graduated with distinction, and that meant I got to go up first before the other academic riff raff.

So I’m sitting there, surrounded by Asians, listening to them drone on about going out in the world and blah blah blah. I look at the program they gave me and my eyes light up: Paul Tsaparas, President and CEO of HP Canada, is giving the convocation speech. Remember…I’m working at an IT eLearning, Staffing, and Consulting firm. So I’m thinking, ‘Man, I gotta give this guy my business card…but how am I gonna do that?’

There were two major problems in giving him my card, one within my control, the other, without.

Strategizing Part 1 – The Grab

bored as fuck

Now, I didn’t want to walk up to the stage looking like I was hiding a concealed weapon in my hand. That probably wouldn’t go over very well. That meant I had to put the card in my pocket and take it out when I got close to the HP CEO.

So, imagine me practising reaching under the dress, into my pocket, trying to be as smooth as possible as I retrieve the card. I didn’t want to fumble when I went for the card. I wanted to be a Smooth Criminal, you know, without the whole arresting part?

Strategizing Part 2 – Proximity

Graduating University 1

This was the part of the plan that wasn’t in my control. You see, there were three people on stage:

  • The Chancellor of U of T
  • The President of U of T
  • The President and CEO of HP

This is how it works: when you go up to get the fake diploma, you do so in pairs. You shake either the President or Chancellor’s hand, and then walk off. The entire ordeal takes about 10 seconds before they announce the next pair of graduates.

The problem was this: The CEO of HP was on the far right hand side, and he just sat there while the U of T heads did the hand-shaking. If the asian girl was on my right instead of on my left, I would have to reach over her to hand him my card, and that wouldn’t be classy at all.

I made up my mind that if I was far away from the CEO, I wouldn’t hand him the card. I didn’t want to be rude. My window of opportunity was going to be decided by the Fates.

Showtime

Graduating University

France. I’m on the left side. With the HP CEO on the far right, there’s no way for me to hand him my business card without reaching over the asian girl. So I resign myself to simply shaking the President’s hand and walking off.

Announcer: Michael Jagdeo and Yangzhou Chow Fan.

So I walk up three steps and shake the President’s hand, whose sitting on this massive throne. To my surprise, he leans in, and with a smile asks,

Did I hear your last name was Jagdeo?

I’m dumbstruck. My mouth somehow responds with movement and voice in tandem,

Yes sir, it is.

He replies,

Are you from Guyana?

Somehow, I muster,

Yes sir, I am.

And he proceeds to go into a story about how he loves Guyana, how he supervised the election a few years ago, etc. I’m now holding court with two presidents and a chancellor. The asian girl is long gone. They announce the next pair of graduates but they can’t come up because I’m talking about Guyana – a place I’ve never been – with a pantheon of three.

I’m a nerve reacting to stimuli. Finally, the U of T President asks,

Bharrat Jagdeo, the President (Prime Minister? I dunno) of Guyana…are you his son?

So I, Michael Jagdeo, a guy who’s never been to Guyana before in his entire life, naturally replies,

Yes sir, I am.

Him,

Fantastic! Very nice to meet you!

I shake his hand. I shake the Chancellors hand. Then, I reach under my cheap dress and grab the business card…

Forgive me for being so bold, but I work for an IT company called B Wyze Solutions Inc., and wanted to give you my card.

The crowd is laughing because they see what I’ve done. Dude…how lucky am I?!?!

But it gets better…

An Unlikely Email

A few days go by, and I get this email from none other than the President and CEO of HP, Paul Tsaparas,

It was very nice meeting you the other day at the University of Toronto Convocation. I don’t think anyone’s ever used their moment of convocation to further their career. I’m unclear as to whether you’d like to solicit business to HP or apply for a job, but I’ve cc’d the VP of Marketing (Geoff Kereluik). He’ll be able to help you one way or another.

Wowzers. A potential job through the VP of Marketing of HP! How lucky am I?!?!

An Unlikely Visit

A few days later, I go into a West Indian restaurant to get something to eat. Now, if you’ve ever been to a West Indian restaurant, you’ll know that there are small newspapers that give highlights of the goings on in Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad, etc. I glance over at the Guyanese Inquirer, and stop in my tracks,

BHARRAT JAGDEO VISITING NEXT WEEK FOR GUYANESE INDEPENDENCE DAYOpening-ceremonies

Uh oh. He’s going to talk to the President of U of T, and his wife is going to think that her husband had an affair with some lady and had some kid out of wedlock. An international scandal will ensue and it’ll be my fault.

And here’s the thing: I’ve never been to Guyana in my life! I don’t know Kaiteur Falls from Niagara Falls.

On top of that, the President of U of T is going to realize that I lied about being someone’s son and mess with my degree. You might think I was overreacting, but I don’t know what these people are capable of. For all I know, he’s in the Illuminati and I’m going to end up on tracks somewhere, getting run over by a GO Train.

Conclusion

So what happened?

Well, as of today, President (Prime Minister? I still don’t know…) Bharrat Jagdeo is still in power. He’s still married. I still have my degree…for now.

Wish me luck.

Michael Jagdeo

About Michael Jagdeo

My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for blogTO.com.
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7 Responses to Losing My University Degree

  1. JP says:

    You didn’t get the job ’cause you said you’d graduate in a year…. you got the job ’cause I knew you could play social worker with the “complicated” staff!

    • Hey JP!

      JP, the man who gave me my first break. Can’t thank you enough for giving a naive nerdy whippersnapper a shot! So many memories…

      I remember driving out for the third interview thinking,

      Damn it, if these guys ask me for a fourth interview I’m going to have to start asking them for gas money!

      I remember sitting at the bar during that final interview, with the partner pantheon of three, having to be the first to order. I ordered a Coke, followed by you guys ordering,

      Beer. Beer. Beer.

      My drink comes with a freakin’ straw, and I thought I lost the job right there. I’m thinking, ‘You might as well have ordered a glass of milk…’

      You guys ordered chicken wings, and I was so nervous because I knew that I looked like a caveman when eating chicken wings. I remember RB eating chicken wings while leaning back in his chair with a white dress shirt on and thinking, ‘Damn, this is the classiest guy I’ve ever met in my entire life.’

      I remember when you asked me how much I was making at the time…I said,

      ‘Not as much as I would like to.’

      It was about $9.00/hour…

      I remember you guys making fun of my white, rusting, broken down Geo Metro that made the office look bad because I’d often be the first to arrive. You said, ‘Thank God’ when I bought the black civic!

      I remember you drinking coffee out of a glass, which I thought was really cool. I remember a beer on my desk on Friday at five pm, when the work wasn’t over yet.

      Social worker? With the staff, the clients, or both? ;)

      Thanks again for your support over the years, Dr. JP! Seriously, without your help and guidance those early years, I might’ve ended up with HP.

      Oh, and I never asked HP for a job. Instead, I asked them how we might be able to do more business with them…he never responded.

      Jagdeo

  2. Lwam says:

    This is a hilarious story Michael. Are you going to use this as a stand up bit?

    • Hey Lwam,

      Thanks for the feedback!

      You know, I told this story once at a nerd-oriented show that was produced by Ian Atlas (he runs Empire Comedy and is one of the top 1-3 comedy producers in Toronto). Joel Buxton (another very good comedian; check out his Premise PUNCH Tag blog) came up to me after the show and told me that he really liked it.

      I’ve never thought about polishing this into a bit because I didn’t think it would be five minutes long. Given that it wouldn’t be five minutes long, I’m thinking I’d have to pair it with another bit, and I don’t like doing more than two bits in a five minute set. Finally, I like to have my sets all be about the same topic, rather than talking about disparate topics in rapid succession (no offense to anyone who does that). I think that’s because I grew up watching Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, who really delved deep into the topics they were discussing.

      That said, now that you mention that you liked it, perhaps I should go back and see if I can premise-punchline-tag it a la K Trev Wilson (one of the best comedic storytellers I’ve ever seen). If I can do that, I think it would make an interesting set because I don’t know any comedian that talks about the University experience.

      Thanks again, Lwam! I talked to Quinn about ya again today…make sure to hit him up on FB (search Quinnie QuinnQuinn).

      Jagdeo

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