Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his Hasty Pudding bounty.

Darren McCollester/Getty Images/ for Hasty Pudding Institute of 1770

When Joseph Gordon-Levitt headed to Harvard University last Friday, he knew he’d have to make a fool of himself. But even he didn’t predict giving lap dances, pretending to drink milk from a cow’s udders (well, a student in a cow suit) and dropping his pants onstage.

“I had seen some photos, and I knew I might have to dress up,” Gordon-Levitt said that evening at Harvard's Farkas Hall, where he was honored with the 50th “Man of the Year” award by the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, the university’s esteemed theatrical troop.

In between jumping around in the audience wearing a spandex Robin costume and performing a spot-on impression of his friend Seth Rogen, Gordon-Levitt spoke earnestly about his own college experience at Columbia University.

“I’ve spent the last two days here. I also went to a esteemed college in the Ivy League, and I ended up dropping out. I’ll be really really honest, I came out of that experience a little bit pessimistic about the people that were in my class. A lot of people that went and studied engineering and learning science, that sort of thing, ended up becoming [investment] bankers and gambling for a living, breaking the world a few years later,” Gordon-Levitt told the audience.


“I really know the difference here. I really noticed a thoughtfulness, optimism, passion, worldliness and a sense of humor that leaves me feeling optimistic about people who are younger than I am. Having just bore a child half a year ago, it makes me feel really good that people who are younger than I am are doing great.”

After the on-stage portion, Gordon-Levitt also spoke about his role as notorious National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in Oliver Stone’s upcoming film, "Snowden." Joseph said he had spent with the real Snowden, and respects him.

“We sat and talked for 4 hours,” said Gordon-Levitt. “We had a really great conversation. I’ve spoken with him a couple times since shooting the movie. Speaking of optimism, that guy is an optimist. He is really dedicated to trying to make our country and our world better for everyone. I personally really believe that’s what he’s dedicated to doing.”

But it certainly wasn’t all serious talk for the actor. Earlier on Friday, Gordon-Levitt spent a lot of time with the Harvard undergrads, frolicking through Harvard Square wearing a hat made of blue balloons, receiving a key to the city and hanging at the Hasty Pudding Clubhouse.

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