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11 of the most entertaining UC Berkeley alumni

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SEPTEMBER 25, 2014

Sometimes, all you feel like doing is curling up on your unmade bed — in your ratty sweatpants and with a cup of overly strong coffee — and watching YouTube clips. If this is the case,  you clicked on the right blog link — especially if you enjoy feeling awesome by association with these super successful and prominent alumni, and let’s face it: who doesn’t enjoy that?  These alumni may not have won Nobel Prizes or discovered atomic elements, but they’re all accomplished creators or performers who have impacted the media in major ways. And dammit, they’re funny/tear-jerking/multi-talented. So sit back on your reading pillow, take a sip of your homemade wannabe vanilla latte and enjoy swelling with pride while you learn about these incredibly cool entertainers, all of whom walked through Sather Gate just like you.

1. Chris Pine, actor


B.A. in English, 2002

Looking for a social group on campus, Chris Pine somehow found himself involved in a theater group. Surprisingly, given his mother’s and grandmother’s histories as actors, the idea had never before occurred to him. Luckily for us, the rest is history. Just two years after graduating from UC Berkeley, Chris Pine appeared opposite Anne Hathaway in the “Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” then opposite Lindsey Lohan two years after that in “Just My Luck.”

Chris Pine, however, was destined for more than romantic roles in Disney chick flicks, which he learned soon after when he accepted the role of James Tiberius Kirk in the reboot of the cultural phenomenon “Star Trek.” Pine quickly rose to stardom and has since been featured in films including “Unstoppable” with Denzel Washington and in the spy rom-com “This Means War” with Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy.  He also provided the voice for Jack Frost in the animated film “Rise of the Guardians” and is set to portray Cinderella’s Prince in the upcoming film adaptation of Steven Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”

Chris shows off his acting chops well in this clip from the 2013 film “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Beware of spoilers if you haven’t seen the film yet.

2. Hannah Hart, YouTube personality


B.A. in English and Japanese, 2009

When Hannah Hart got drunk in March of 2011 and made a cooking video for a friend, she had no idea it would make her a viral sensation. Now, three and a half years and about 1.5 million subscribers later, Hart has become an Internet icon with her show “My Drunk Kitchen.” Hart’s success, however, goes beyond intoxicated culinary escapades — she has toured internationally, met up with fans at food banks, worked with her two best friends to produce a feature-length film, collaborated with the likes of New York Times bestselling author John Green and Weeds and West Wing actress Mary Louise Parker and published her own parody cookbook, which spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. She has won two Streamy Awards — think Emmys for digital media — for her body of work, and she cohosted the fourth-annual Streamy Awards with Grace Helbig on Sept. 7.

Hart has also used her platform to act as a voice in support of the LGBT community. During her time at UC Berkeley, Hart realized and eventually came to terms with her homosexuality. Her prominence on YouTube has allowed her to talk about her experience and work toward building an accepting community and culture, and she’s a voice of help and hope for many. If you ever get the chance to meet Hart, give her a high five — she deserves it. She’s also more than willing to give a hug and a “Go Bears!” to any fans she meets wearing an Oski shirt, as certain Clog staff may or may not know from personal experience.

This episode of “My Drunk Kitchen,” featuring fellow YouTube star Jenna Marbles, is one of Hart’s most popular videos.

3. Rube Goldberg, cartoonist


B.S. in engineering, 1904

For some, the name Rube Goldberg brings up thoughts of awesome Ok Go music videos. For others, it unearths flashbacks to eighth-grade physics projects (we’re not gonna talk about it, okay?). Few know that these overly elaborate cause-and-effect mechanisms designed to complete simple tasks came from the brain of a UC Berkeley alumnus. A student at UC Berkeley at the beginning of the 20th century, Reuben, or “Rube,” Goldberg was an engineer on campus before the College of Engineering even existed. He spent six months after college as an engineer for the City of San Francisco but quit to become a sports cartoonist.  Goldberg drew cartoons for various newspapers and gained nationwide popularity.

Most famous of Goldberg’s cartoons were those in a series involving professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, who created elaborate and absurd machines to complete simple tasks. Such machines would eventually take Goldberg’s name. Goldberg was well decorated during his lifetime: he was the founder and president of the National Cartoonists Society and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for his political cartoons, among other awards. He probably knew he’d done something right with his life, however, when in 1931, “Rube Goldberg” entered the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as an adjective that means accomplishing something simple through complicated means. If your name in the freaking dictionary doesn’t indicate a cultural impact, what does?

This is a great example of one of the cartoons that led to Rube Goldberg being the namesake of such inventions.


4. Sammy Obeid, stand-up comedian


B.A. in applied mathematics and a B.S. in business administration, 2006

The Daily Californian was lucky enough to sit down with Sammy Obeid this past May, and because he’s awesome, we’re going to talk about him again. The rising comic, who turned down a job at Google to pursue a career in stand- up comedy, gained national attention for his 1001 Arabian Nights of Comedy Campaign. This endeavor, beginning in December 2010 and ending in September 2013, involved Obeid performing for 1001 straight nights, making him the current world-record holder for consecutive comedy performances. He has appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and “Conan” and has been featured in publications such as TIME Magazine, LA Weekly, and the New York Times.

The Haas School of Business and College of Letters & Science graduate, who likes to point out during comedy bits his 3.9 GPA, is based in the Bay Area. He tours at universities and comedy clubs throughout the country, and his website claims he is making a book and documentary about his 1001 Arabian Nights of Comedy.

This clip of Obeid’s performance on “Conan” provides a great summary of his comedic work and was filmed four days before his completion of 1001 Arabian Nights of Comedy.

5. Gregory Peck, actor


B.A. in English, 1942

If you had to read “To Kill A Mockingbird” in your ninth-grade English class, there’s a good chance you had to watch the movie, too — in which case you already know Gregory Peck, who won an Academy Award for his performance as Atticus Finch in the adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic novel. Peck was nominated four other times for an Oscar and appeared in dozens of films, including “Roman Holiday” opposite Audrey Hepburn and “Moby Dick.” Aside from being an actor, Peck was a lifetime humanitarian — President Lyndon Johnson honored him for this in 1969 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Before he took Hollywood by storm, however, Gregory Peck came from humble origins. While he succeeded at UC Berkeley as a member of the Cal rowing team and as an actor at the Little Theater, he still struggled to pay the $26 tuition — about $400 by today’s inflation rates — and worked as a hasher at the Gamma Phi Beta house in exchange for meals.

If you haven’t seen Peck’s legendary courtroom speech from “To Kill A Mockingbird,” this is the first part. Watch it. If you have seen it, watch it again anyway.

6. Susanna Hoffs, musician


B.A. in art, 1980

Susanna Hoffs came to UC Berkeley with the goal of becoming a professional dancer, but exposure to punk rock music led to her decision to instead pursue a career as a musician. Seven months after graduating from UC Berkeley, Hoffs met Vicki and Debbi Peterson and formed the band that would eventually be called the Bangles. The all-girl pop rock group rose to prominence in the mid ’80s with the release of songs including “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like an Egyptian.” Their biggest single, the soft ballad “Eternal Flame,” was a number-one hit in nine countries. Susanna launched her solo career after the band split up in 1990 and currently plays music with the reformed Bangles.

Hoffs and the Bangles undoubtedly left their mark on pop culture. Their music has been featured in the 1985 cult classic the “Goonies,” an episode of “Gilmore Girls” and the Austin Powers film franchise. Modern moviegoers should definitely recognize “Eternal Flame,” as it appeared in the a capella movie “Pitch Perfect” as part of the Barden Bellas’ original competition medley.

The video for “Eternal Flame” might be super 1980s and super cheesy, but Hoffs sure rocks those high notes.

7. Scott Adams, cartoonist


M.B.A in economics and management, 1986

As a child, Scott Adams loved to draw comics, but he spent 16 years of his adult life working in the corporate world. During this time, he created the characters and concept for the comic strip he called “Dilbert,” which follows the titular character through his life as an engineer in a satirical caricature of a corporate office.

Adams first published “Dilbert” in 1989, three years after receiving his master’s degree from UC Berkeley. For six years afterward, he continued to work at Pacific Bell, until he quit in 1995 to become a full-time cartoonist. Now, the comic strip appears online and in 2,000 newspapers worldwide, featured in 65 different countries and 25 different languages. Adams received the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award in 1997, an award of great prestige in the comic sphere. The strip has spawned a short-lived TV show, a video game, several books and tons of merchandise.

There’s 25 years worth of hilarious “Dilbert” strips to choose from, but here’s just one of our favorites:


8. John Cho, actor


B.A. in English, 1996

Turns out Captain Kirk was just following in Hikaru Sulu’s footsteps with his UC Berkeley English degree. Six years before Chris Pine graduated from UC Berkeley with his English degree, John Cho did the same. He fell into acting during his time as a student. A member of his writing group was directing a play and convinced Cho to fill in.

John may be best known for popularizing the term “milf” in his role in “American Pie” and for breaking Hollywood stereotypes with his portrayal of Harold Lee in the raucous Harold and Kumar series. He currently portrays Sulu in the reboot of the Star Trek franchise, following in the footsteps of fellow UC Berkeley attendee (but UCLA graduate) George Takei. He also has a recurring role on the show “Sleepy Hollow” and is costarring in ABC’s new comedy “Selfie,” which premieres next week.

Check out John in this awesome fight scene from “Star Trek,” featuring Pine.

9. Laci Green, YouTube personality


B.A. in legal studies and education, 2011

Usually bubbly, occasionally controversial and always frank, there’s certainly no one on the internet like 24-year-old Laci Green. If there’s anything you ever wanted to know about sex, gender or sexuality, this girl’s got your back. Over the past five years she’s spent on YouTube, Green has developed a fan base of more than 1 million subscribers for her show, “Sex+,” in which she educates her viewers on human sexuality and other related topics with plenty of humor but with absolutely no sugarcoating. If people using the word “hymen” makes you uncomfortable, Green might not be for you. But you can’t deny she’s playing an important role by providing a comprehensive sex and consent education that a lot of students and adolescents don’t get in high school.

In addition to her own show, Green hosts a sex-education channel in partnership with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and just finished her run as a host for Discovery News.

This is Green’s most popular video from the past year, in which she discusses — with honesty, humor and thoughtfulness — her support for feminism:

10. Rob Hotchkiss, musician


B.A., 1983

It’s just about impossible to figure out what Rob Hotchkiss (pictured above, second from left) majored in at UC Berkeley. Some sources say he originally intended to study law, but his constant transferring, particularly to Berklee College of Music, indicates he primarily focused on music. He may have spent his sophomore year in Southern California and his junior year at Berklee College, but Hotchkiss’ freshman and senior years were spent at and his degree comes from good ol’ Bear territory.

In 1994, Hotchkiss crossed paths with Pat Monahan, and the two recruited three other men to form a band they decided to call Train. This San Francisco-based group would go on to have a six-time-platinum hit, “Hey Soul Sister,” and earn three Grammy awards. While Hotchkiss left the group in 2003 over creative differences, the band today would, of course, not exist without him. He also has a Grammy of his own for his songwriting contributions to best rock song winner “Drops of Jupiter,” featured below.

11. Adam Lamberg, actor


B.A. in geography, 2008 

Adam Lamberg may have retired from acting in 2008, but he still gets to make this list. He’s 30 years old now, working as a development associate at a New York City arts center while pursuing a master’s degree in public administration, but we will always remember him for the role he played when he was 16.

Before he became a Golden Bear, Lamberg was everybody’s favorite guy best friend in everyone’s favorite Disney Channel show about everyone’s favorite middle-school student. His performance as Gordo in “Lizzie McGuire” and the subsequent “Lizzie McGuire Movie” will forever immortalize him in the hearts of early millennials. Sometimes eccentric, always smart and always an incredible friend to Lizzie, it was hard not to root for Gordo. If you didn’t cheer at least a little when he and Lizzie finally kissed at the end of the “Lizzie McGuire Movie,” you might not have a soul.

Check out this adorable moment between the two in season two, episode one of “Lizzie McGuire,” titled “First Kiss:”


This list only includes entertainers who graduated from UC Berkeley, but there are plenty who attended without obtaining a degree and tons of graduates we didn’t list. Can you think of anyone we missed or who deserves mentioning? Let us know in the comments below. And if you spend the rest of your day watching clips from Harold and Kumar or “My Drunk Kitchen,” we’re only a little bit sorry. Hey, you can just call it UC Berkeley pride, right?

Image Sources: Featured image, Image 1, Image 2, Image 3, Rube Goldberg CartoonImage 4, Image 5, Image 6, Image 7, Image 8, Dilbert ComicImage 9, Image 10, Image 11

Contact Kelsi Krandel at 


SEPTEMBER 25, 2014