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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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A speaker addressed protestors at an Earth Day rally in Schenley Plaza on Monday.
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A speaker addressed protestors at an Earth Day rally in Schenley Plaza on Monday.
‘Reclaim Earth Day’ protest calls for Pitt to divest from fossil fuels
By Kyra McCague, Staff Writer • April 24, 2024
Stephany Andrade: The Steve Jobs of education
By Thomas Riley, Opinions Editor • April 24, 2024
The best cafés to caffeinate and cram for finals
By Irene Castillo, Senior Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

Pitt senior Andrew Lafferty asks ‘the least important questions’ in ‘Andrew Answers’ series

Andrew+Lafferty+sits+down+with+an+interviewee+while+filming+for+a+video.+
Image via Andrew Lafferty
Andrew Lafferty sits down with an interviewee while filming for a video.

What do mustaches, pickleball and hot dog eating contests have in common? They’re all topics explored by Andrew Lafferty, a senior English writing major, in his series “Andrew Answers,” in which he answers “the least important questions in America.” Produced by recent Pitt graduate Ben Asciutto, “Andrew Answers” is a satirical news reporting series that began as Asciutto’s film capstone project. Now, Lafferty has more than 20,000 followers over three platforms and no plans of slowing down.

Inspired by comedians like John Mulaney, Lafferty began practicing stand up comedy at seventeen years old, often writing jokes about personal topics like dating failures and his parents’ sex life. Lafferty said these jokes provide strangers with intimate details of his life, but they’re the best content.

“To write honestly and the best you can, you have to be irreverent and not aware of the implications it could have. Every time I’ve tried to make jokes out of some observation, like ‘airports are strange!’ people aren’t feeling it. A couple years ago I realized [my personal life] is what I should be talking about,” Lafferty said.

From laughing at Spongebob at five years old to watching Saturday Night Live for the first time at 12, and finally starting “Andrew Answers” in April, Lafferty has loved comedy all his life, and he’s in it for the long haul, he said.

“Watching comedy is so fun, but you doing it is sweating and preparing and you get booed and people throw stuff at you because you will be bad at first,” Lafferty said. “You just have to start doing it, and if you like it enough to think that you could do it every day for 10 years, because it might take that long. Just keep going.”

Lafferty isn’t just performing in Pittsburgh – he began traveling to New York City during his freshman year and spent the summer there to perform stand up comedy, network and work on “Andrew Answers,” he said. He still visits every six weeks and plans to live there after graduation. His time in New York is so valuable because its comedy scene is hugely different from Pittsburgh, Lafferty said. 

“In Pittsburgh there may be 80 comics, but in New York there are 3,000. There are three comedy clubs in PIttsburgh and there’s 20 in New York, plus another hundred other bars and nightclubs,” Lafferty said. “Everyone I know in Pittsburgh who does stand up loves it, but not all of them want it to be their full time job. New York is brutal – everyone wants to be famous.”

Asciutto now resides right outside of New York City, working freelance for ABC News and waiting out the WGA Strike. Asciutto and Lafferty share the same dream – to work on Saturday Night Live – and they hope their involvement with “Andrew Answers” is helping them get there. Asciutto said with his background in documentary filmmaking and Lafferty’s experience in standup, they’re a great combo.

“I do the coordination for the who, what, where, when side of it. It’s kind of similar to documentary filmmaking – the story reveals itself after you get all the footage,” Asciutto said. “A lot of it is just being at the right place at the right time and getting all the footage you can and forming what the story is going to be and what Andrew’s journey through it is going to be.”

Gavin Hitchens, senior film and media studies major and “Andrew Answers” camera operator, agrees that Lafferty and Asciutto create a powerful partnership.

“Ben and Andrew are such a great team. I was excited when they asked me to work with them,” Hitchens said. “You can tell by watching the videos that we had a fun time working together. They’re going places and one of those places is South Oakland.”

Lafferty and Asciutto credit their Pitt professors for introducing them to the entertainment industry. Robert Clift, associate professor and acting director of the film and media studies program, was Asciutto’s film and media capstone professor. He said that college is a time for students to experiment and find their creative identity, which is exactly what Lafferty and Asciutto did. 

“I remember when they first shared footage from “Andrew Answers” with the rest of the class, Andrew’s eyes were always glued to the students watching—he was trying to get a read on what worked and what didn’t,” Clift said. “When you have students who are just striving to make the best project possible, teaching is easy.”

Lafferty has accounts on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, and each platform comes with its own distinctive style that he’s still learning to navigate, he said. 

“My favorite platform is probably Instagram, because you see people you know. With TikTok you have to say something surprising within the first two seconds. YouTube, I’m still trying to figure out. Part of the benefit of being in college is the ability to try new things,” Lafferty said.

Social media comes with challenges, especially when a high-quality video falls victim to unpredictable algorithms, Asciutto said.

“It’s frustrating when we put a lot of time into 60 seconds and it doesn’t get the views we think it should get. But the feedback has been really positive for the limited things we’ve made so far,” Asciutto said. “It’s so randomized in terms of what takes off and what doesn’t that every video has the potential to do it, it’s just a matter of what it’s going to be.”

If you ask Lafferty for advice on pursuing comedy, he’ll take after Jerry Seinfeld and say “give up.” 

“Jerry Seinfeld says that when people ask him he always says quit, and that way if someone continues doing stand up after Jerry Seinfeld told them to quit they must really want to do it,” Lafferty said. “The least interesting thing for a comedian to hear is ‘I want to start comedy.’ Just do it.”

About the Contributor
Trinity Foster, Senior Staff Writer