September, 2013 Issue

In This Issue

9 online articles from this issue. Next

Madness In The Message


A brand new speaker to the campus market, and a brand new columnist to Campus Activities Magazine, Ron Placone is tackling a subject each and every person that goes to college deals with and is influenced by on a daily basis. The show is "Madness In The Message: Start Talking" a one-man show about media criticism in the modern age.

Now, you could be an exception, but it's pretty unlikely if you're reading this, since Ron's deconstruction of the mass media machine in our culture encompasses pretty much all mediums printed, watched, uploaded or spoken. He has made it his mission in life to cut through all of the proverbial BS and help students see beyond the veil. To get a taste of his medicine, check out the first installment of his monthly column in our August issue (available on our website at entitled "College Students: America's Best Hope" and be sure to check out his upcoming columns in issues throughout the rest of this year.

Ron was interested in issues of media during his undergraduated studies. "I was interested in the media reform movement and new media in general, and in particular I had a very heavy interest in broadcasting and was interested in working in radio. I eventually did and also started doing stand-up comedy, which I still do. Slowly but surely, all those things started to build and form together into something cohesive."

Becoming more serious about stand-up comedy helped really hone Ron's performance abilities, but it wasn't exactly his bread and butter. "This was a couple of years ago and I wasn't at the point where I could be making a living at it quite yet, so I thought, 'What else can I do?' The one thing that really interested me was going back to graduate school, so I did. I studied rhetoric and in the back of my mind I thought there had to be a way to fuse my academic interests in media and news structure and deliberative democracy with comedy, but have something that would be a little more 'high brow' for lack of a better term. You see a lot of media satire with things like 'The Daily Show' or 'How TV Ruined Your Life' over in the U.K., but I thought there would be a way to do it as a one man performance lecture that could fit into a higher ed setting more so than the traditional comedy club setting."

Ron approached his department about it and during the final semester of his master's program he was given an independent study to essentially complete this program. "I wrote a 30 page paper about the topic and my research interests in general and then turned it into an hour long performance lecture. I have video sketches and songs and lots of things going on, but with a fair bit of academic theory woven throughout the entertaining portions."

After all of the groundwork was laid, it was time for Ron to field test the work. "I performed it at a theater once a month for four months and it was well received, but not exactly in the right place. It occurred to me that the obvious home for it would be the college market, it truly is a program meant for undergraduates and universities. That is where I developed these ideas and where they flourish. My next step was to figure our the campus market and start doing it."

This is a program completely fresh and brand new to the market, with Ron just coming out of his graduate program at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in 2012. "I wanted to find a way to merge my interests into something a little different and the college market was the obvious choice. It was fun doing it in theaters and people who came to see the show knew what they were coming to see, so it was fine, but it didn't feel like it was a perfect fit. When I am in a lecture hall or theater on campus though, it clicks; it feels like what this is really meant for."

Ron feels the college audience is specifically receptive to his message for a number of reasons. "I think that colleges and universities are where these ideas are alive and well. It's a time in their lives when people look at the media from a more political standpoint. It's one thing to say 'Oh look at how goofy the news is!' We see that all the time from just about anyone who watches it. It is not hard to find absurdity in the news media on a daily basis and look at it through a satirical lens. But the purpose of my program is to delve deeper than that, why is this absurdity going on? What is going on with this modern media structure, who's running it and the types of ideas that they are trying to promote and why? Why do we have such an intimate love/hate relationship with the media in this country and further, from a more philosophical standpoint, what does it really mean to interact with the media in general? We have to realize these are second hand messages that we are not perceiving on our own. These stories are not created by the media, they are relayed and refracted by it, but we have a response to these messages that can be widely varied based on our own cultural and intellectual perspective in relation to them. This is something one is around much more in college than at any other time in life, whether it be a communications, journalism or philosophy class, or just that academic, intellectual atmosphere of processing new ideas. Pretty much everyone has been exposed to these ideas in college to some degree, whether it is something you are majoring in, or just a core class requirement. I think to explore these ideas is meant for colleges, and thus far the reception has been very encouraging."

Keep an eye on Ron's column for more on his perspective. Give your student body the benefit of his insights and let them draw their own conclusions. Contact G.G. Greg Agency at or 440-266-1732. Be sure to mention you discovered Ron through the magazine and get a special discount through CAM from the agency.