Prescott Tolk

Staff Writer, “‘Why?’ With Hannibal Buress”

Prescott Tolk (BSJ99) is a comedian and comedy writer and is currently a staff writer on Comedy Central’s sitcom, “Why?” With Hannibal Buress.

He also was a staff writer for Kevin Hart’s BET sitcom, “Real Husbands of Hollywood.”

His stand-up comedy has been featured on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, The Bob & Tom Show, and PRI’s The Sound of Young America.

High Jinxed, his one-man show about multiple adolescent arrests, received rave reviews and won Best Stand-Up Show at the inaugural United Solo Festival in New York City. 

He also had the pleasure of working with Robert Smigel and Bob Odenkirk on their staged reading of Da Bears Movie Dat Wasn’t during Chicago’s Just For Laughs Festival in 2010, collaboratively revising the script and contributing jokes for the panel afterward.

He was also one of the founders of Blerds, a Chicago comedy collective, and, under the comedy crew’s banner, created a web series called Hung about the world’s worst jury for Warner Bros. 2.0.

Mesmerized by jokes as a kid, Tolk remembers sneaking in TV time with his then-favorite comedian: Andrew Dice Clay. When his parents weren’t home he watched Clay’s routines on HBO and then mimicked the foul-mouthed jokes in the mirror.

“It gave me this feeling like I want to do this on stage,” Tolk says. “It made me want so badly to be a comedian.”

Luckily, as Tolk grew up, he drifted away from Clay and drew inspiration from many Jewish comedians including Woody Allen, Groucho Marx and Albert Brooks. Tolk’s brand of comedy has evolved into an unusual blend of old school punch-line jokes with a journalist’s eye for detail and sense of storytelling. The laid back Tolk finds the funny in everything from health insurance to text messaging. And years after graduating from Medill, he still watches his words.

“Do you people know how hard it is to drive while text messaging?” Tolk jokes. “And I am very conscious of spelling: Y-O-U. No short cuts for me. I go all the way—I spell smiley face.”

Tolk went into journalism because he wanted to be a comedy writer and credits Medill’s program for teaching him key lessons about brevity and meeting deadlines.

“Comedy itself is really about the economy of words,” Tolk says. “I feel like journalism favors that same stylistic aspect.”

Getting comfortable with deadlines at Medill has served Tolk well, whether he was on a comedy tour or covering hard news for the The Hudson Reporter. Tolk covered the aftermath of Sept. 11 and despite being intimidated by the colossal scope of the attacks, he worked hard to localize the story for a New Jersey audience. Tolk’s dedication paid off.  He was part of a newsroom team that won 2nd place in deadline reporting from the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists for an article called “The Longest Day.”

Comedy itself is really about the economy of words, and I feel like journalism favors that same stylistic aspect.