Maya Rudolph Impersonates Oprah, Sings to Beyonce During Tulane University Commencement Speech (Video)
The 'Saturday Night Live' alum brought comic relief to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the university's keynote speaker.
Maya Rudolph brought the laughs (and her spot-on impersonations) to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as she delivered a commencement speech to Tulane University graduates on Saturday morning.
"Look at all these beautiful faces ... and iPhones," she said before beginning her address. "Families and friends of graduates, mothers, fathers, brothers, brothers from other mothers, sisters, roommates, grandmas and grandpas, meemaws and papaws ... and people who met on Tinder this morning, I thank you for having me here to join you on this special day in this incredible city. I stand here humbled, gracious and completely naked under this robe."
Rudolph jokingly spoke about how she wrote her speech in her hotel room that morning. "The first thing I did was go online and look up other commencement speeches, and then I got tired so I took a nap. I woke up, cried a little bit, ordered some room service, and then I cried a little bit more. And then I picked myself up by the boot straps ... and decided to go back to sleep," she said, adding that she used Periscope to film her breakfast, took four quizzes on Buzzfeed and watched Games of Thrones before actually preparing.
In trying to ease the minds of the new graduates seated in the audience, the actress-comedian shared that she too struggled with paving her own career path. "I never wanted to admit that being on [Saturday Night Live] was my dream. I never wanted to admit that I was a thespian," she lightheartedly added. "And my dad did what any great teacher would do. He looked at me, un-phased, and said, 'Great. And how do you plan to support yourself while you figure that out? And when are you going to wash your feet?' "
Rudolph went on to offer advice for students, her biggest tip being to see where a simple answer "yes" may lead. "Just say yes," she said, "and not just yes, but to add information, so that in adding information, you don't negate that other person's idea but in fact, you build on it."
She applied her advice to the improv industry, setting up a scenario with Tulane University president Michael A. Fitts. "If I'm in a scene with you, President Fitts, and you say, 'Hey, you're Oprah Winfrey!' and I say, 'No I'm not,' then our scene would be over. But President Fitts, if you say, 'Hey, you're Oprah Winfrey!' and I say, 'Yes I am' — "
The SNL alum, showing that a simple "yes" can further a conversation and turn around any scenario, then broke into a spot-on impersonation of Winfrey herself. "And today, class of 2015, look under your seats because you are all leaving here with a college diploma!" Rudolph exclaimed in her best Winfrey voice. "You get a diploma, and you get a diploma, and you get a diploma! We're all getting diplomas!"
Rudolph closed her comedic speech by asking the audience to stand up from their seats while she sang the national anthem. Her over-the-top rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" transitioned into an impromptu performance of Beyonce's hits "Single Ladies" and "Drunk in Love" to the surprise of students.
Maya Rudolph sang Beyoncé in the middle of her commencement speech so Tulane totally wins at graduation again what's new #tulane15— YellowHammered (@TheYellowHammer) May 16, 2015
Rudolph has strong ties to Tulane University. Her father, Richard Rudolph, graduated from the university in 1968, while her cousin Sabrina Rudolph was seated in the auditorium as part of the graduating class of 2015.