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Craig Robinson headlines Family Weekend festivities

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How does Craig Robinson ’94 feel about returning to his alma mater to perform at Family Weekend?

“I’ll know in about an hour,” the comedian said to laughing students and faculty at a Q&A before his performance Saturday. “It’s nice to be back though. We’re scheduled to go right back out (on the road), but as soon as I got here I knew we should have scheduled a couple of days.”

The Q&A, held in the Green Room of Braden Auditorium, saw students questioning Robinson about his career, seeking advice on how to launch their own forays into comedy, and even inviting him to Theatre of Ted following the show. In addition former classmates and professors were able to reconnect with Robinson and share anecdotes from in and out of class.

Robinson enrolled at Illinois State to pursue his passion for music, but ended up discovering his knack for comedy. On campus Robinson took part in the Interdenominational Youth Choir and Theatre of Ted. He even had classes and performed alongside fellow College of Fine Arts alumnus Sean Hayes.

“Here’s pretty much where I started. I hosted a few shows, like the Homecoming show, and a little bit here and there,” Robinson said. “I actually got the comedy bug here.”

Robinson, who starred as Dunder Mifflin employee Darryl Philbin on NBC’s hit series The Office, and in movies such as Pineapple Express, Hot Tub Time Machine, and This is the End, received his bachelor’s in music from Illinois State. After graduating, Robinson dabbled in comedy before enrolling at St. Xavier University, where he earned his master’s degree in music education.

Robinson taught music for several years to K–8 students in Chicago, but continued to feel the pull toward comedy. Eventually, he knew he had to make his move.

“It was time. I had to do it. I felt suffocated. I needed to take a risk. I realized in Chicago it felt like I had grown to a point where I needed to get out and do something else.”

Despite his move into comedy, Robinson’s ties to music remain strong. He is touring the nation, performing solo acts and alongside his band, The Nasty Delicious. On stage Robinson delivers his signature brand of dead-pan humor from behind his keyboard—a perfect fusion of his passions, music and comedy.

Robinson was joined by The Nasty Delicious for his Family Weekend show at Bone Student Center’s Braden Auditorium. The alum also made time for a stop at two iconic ISU hangouts—Pub II and Alamo II—and for the Q&A with students and faculty.


Robinson’s next major project, Mr. Robinson, will see him returning to TV as a keyboardist and musician turned teacher, whose unorthodox teaching methods earn the ire of his fellow faculty and the love of his students. It’s a role that brings Robinson full circle from his days as a teacher and close to his roots in music.

Steven Barcus can be reached at