Forty students from Elmhurst College recently showed their school spirit before a national television audience and also learned how a daytime talk show comes together when they took part in an episode of the Steve Harvey show.
As members of the studio audience for the show’s first College Town Hall, the Elmhurst students joined students from Purdue University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, Chicago State University and Loyola University for a session on finding happiness and success in college—mostly according to the show’s popular comedian host.
The Steve Harvey show, an Emmy Award–winning talk show mainly about love and dating, has a daily viewership of 2 million people. The Campus Town Hall episode was taped in September, but show producers thought it so strong that they waited until November to broadcast it, as the kickoff to their offerings for the TV industry’s sweeps week. The College Town Hall episode is scheduled to air again this year in reruns.
After a high-energy, parade-like opener by the Purdue All-American Marching Band, Harvey enthusiastically introduced the schools represented in the studio audience. The students responded with cheers, shouts and applause.
“We represented Elmhurst really well—I think we came out on top as the most spirited to be there,” said Blessing Steele, a senior majoring in political science. “It was really cool to see how enthusiastic we could be on TV.”
A part-time actor, Steele also appreciated the behind-the-scenes look at how a national television show is put together, with attention paid to everything from what the students wore to how loudly and how often to applaud. “Everything has to be very precise and very prepared, and I really enjoyed seeing how the producers got everyone ready.”
Elmhurst student Alex Romano was the star of the Ask Steve segment, when audience members with a dilemma seek Harvey’s advice. A second-year student majoring in political science, Romano told Harvey about taking a date to a restaurant and panicking because he wasn’t sure he could afford the bill. Could he impress his dates and stay on a budget, he asked Harvey.
Harvey’s advice included Googling menus beforehand to check out the prices, and charming his date by bringing a romantic touch to a less-than-glamorous dining spot—setting out candles at an all-you-can-eat buffet, for example. Romano and Harvey got big laughs for their exchange and Romano said he appreciated the advice, even if he wasn’t sure he’d ever use it.
But he and other students took issue with some of the other comments Harvey made on dating and what women and men want from romantic relationships.
“He applied certain characteristics to men across the board, made some generalizations that I didn’t really agree with,” Romano said. “But I understand that he’s a comedian and is supposed to be funny.”
Meredithe Mimlitz, a senior majoring in communication studies and religion and service, thought Harvey’s messages didn’t always match up with the core values of colleges like Elmhurst. “Elmhurst College prides itself on being an inclusive place, and some of what he said could have been more inclusive,” she said. “But it kind of makes sense because he was speaking from his own life experience.”
On the bus ride home after the taping, she said, many of the students discussed Harvey’s views and their own, as well as “how to bring what came out of that discussion back to the community as a whole.”
“It was interesting to his hear viewpoints on things and then that of the other students,” she said, adding that in the end, “We all agreed to disagree.”
During the show, Harvey also told the students about the importance of finding their natural gifts and drawing on them to achieve their dreams. He advised one student, who hoped to design his own shoe line, to go for it—the money would follow.
“He offered advice about pursuing your dreams, working hard and following your passion, and I agree absolutely, 100 percent, with what he was saying,” Romano said.
Harvey also talked about overcoming personal obstacles, including divorce and homelessness, on the way to achieving personal and professional success.
“He talked about how he came from the lowest place in his life to the highest by making an attitude adjustment,” Steele said, “from believing that he couldn’t do things to needing to believe that he could get out of that situation, by believing he could be successful.”
“A lot of what he said was inspirational,” Romano said. “He talked about how he was homeless and said, ‘I made mistakes that you will not make.’ I think it was great for everyone to hear that. You can disagree with some of the things he said, but at the end of the day you can agree that he worked really hard to get to where he sits, and that’s something I can totally respect.”
The students agreed that being on the show gave them a lot to think and talk about, and was a fun way to introduce Elmhurst to a different audience. “It was a really cool experience,” Mimlitz said, “to be on the set of a TV show, to represent Elmhurst College and to be with one another.”