Manhattan fans of the TV comedy “The Office” were in for a treat last night at McCain Auditorium as Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight Schrute on the show, visited K-State to dwell on life’s most profound questions with almost 1,700 audience members.
Wilson spent a little over an hour and a half talking to the audience about art, spirituality, creativity, faith and happiness; all in his own special way of course. It was a discussion of his own journey through life, physically and spiritually and what he thinks of the idea of “the pursuit of happiness”
Wilson first founded SoulPancake in 2009 with his friends Joshua Homnick and Devon Gundry. Wilson described Soulpancake as a movement to “make the world a better place.” It’s now a media company that provides platforms for guest celebrities as well as regular people to explore existential topics such as spirituality, creativity, religion, arts and philosophy.
SoulPancake runs an independent website and has a Youtube channel which holds over one and a half million subscribers. The channel offers exclusive videos, creative challenges and interviews across its platforms. SoulPancake is not affiliated with any one religious or spiritual organization.
Aaron Jackson, long time friend of Wilson and president of the humanitarian organization Planting Peace, said that away from acting, Wilson is an integral part and large supporter of the organization.
“What some people don’t know is that (Planting Peace is) a global nonprofit that runs straight from Topeka, Kansas,” Jackson said. “We focus on causes like rain forest conservation and poverty-caused diseases, and we run projects in 10 different countries. Rainn has been a supporter of ours for a long time now. He may not be very directly involved with the process but he’s always been of great impact, and I think it’s wonderful what he does with projects like SoulPancake and making the world a better place.”
Russell Harp, senior in entrepreneurship and UPC entertainment co-chair, said the act was definitely not what the audience had expected.
“I don’t think the audience knew what they were getting into,” Harp said. “It was a much deeper and more profound, and surprisingly still very comedic, discussion. I think the most important thing about trying to change people’s perspective on certain ideas was bringing up questions that made people reflect on what was being said. Wilson is a top-class act and it was a great pleasure working with him.”
Harp explained how Wilson was chosen to visit the campus.
“The way things work at UPC is that we decide on five performers each year and then we present our propositions to the Union Governing Counsel which in turn decides whether or not we make the performer an offer,” Harp said. “With Rainn everything was fairly simple; he accepted our offer straight away and from there on he was easy to work with.”
Maggie Murphy, freshman in elementary education, said she enjoyed hearing about Wilson’s journey through life and how he still was able to make the audience laugh despite asking serious questions.
“It was more than just a funny comedy act, really,” Murphy said. “It was important that he showed that it’s OK sometimes to question ideas and beliefs that have long been set in place. I thought it was amazing what he did with a comedy show and how he kept the laughter and the smiles but also made the audience reflect on the deeper end of what he was saying.”
Jordan Strickler, sophomore in music education, said the show gave him a new perspective on ideas he hadn’t heard of before.
“It was the first time I’d heard of Baha’ism,” Strickler said. “It’s definitely an interesting ideology, and the way Wilson portrays it makes it seem profound and fascinating; however, as far as the show goes, I thought it was amazing to see him outline his journey through life through this comedic context and raise serious life questions and still make people laugh.”
Wilson discussed a multitude of topics including his religious faith, his parents, his acting career, his mentor, inspiration, family and through all of that, chewed on life’s big questions.