It seems that the story about that one time you hooked up with that girl in Saybrook might just buy you a future.
Aaron Karo, at least, has been able to profit from his college tales. After beginning a small e-mail list of thoughts about life in college during his freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, Karo has transformed his musings into a veritable empire. His book, ‘Ruminations on College Life,’ was published this summer and is now in its second printing, as its first run sold out. Karo has also begun a speaking tour, and currently performs as a stand-up comic.
Karo, who graduated from Penn in 2001, said his writing has attracted a large following because people can see their own college experiences reflected in his.
“The college experience I was writing about was very universal,” Karo said. “I had a great time my first couple weeks of school, partied real hard. Come Sunday night, my body was all messed up, like my clock.”
On one of those sleepless Sunday evenings, Karo decided to jot down some thoughts about college and e-mailed them to 20 of his high school friends. The recipients of the initial e-mail forwarded Karo’s ‘ruminations’ on subjects ranging from laundry to beer pong to so many friends that by the end of his freshman year the monthly e-mail reached over 300 people.
“I don’t know why I called it ‘Ruminations,'” Karo said. “I don’t even know if I knew what it meant back then.”
Much of ‘Ruminations on College Life’ focuses on partying and going wild, which Karo did not deny.
“You get this impression that I’m a — drunkard, didn’t work hard, didn’t do anything,” Karo said.
Karo said his writings did not focus on his academic career — as a business student at Wharton — because it just simply was not as interesting as the time he woke up after a long night of partying with “vomit on my dorm-room rug, much of it in my left shoe, and Rice Krispies all over the place.”
When he does venture into academics, Karo is clear: “Remember, it’s not what you learn, or even the grade you earn, it’s the grade you argue for that counts in the end.”
Karo writes that the “only one surefire way” to improve grades in college is to make an excuse. His favorite such instance, he writes, is the “whopper” his friend came up with when he did no work for his history class and got a D.
“So he told the head of the department that he had swollen testicles the whole semester,” Karo writes. “He got the grade dropped! I love college.”
Karo said his writing about college is so appealing because it is one of the first books to fully explore the “real” college experience.
He notes with irony, for instance, the “warped concept” administrators and researchers have about students’ drinking habits, pointing out that Harvard studies define binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting.
“Hey, morons, what do you call shotgunning twelve beers after drinking half a bottle of tequila?” Karo wrote.
Karo said it is important that he wrote the book while he was in college, and was not afraid to share embarrassing details. He tells the story of the time he was feeling “a bit, well, irregular” and his mother e-mailed him with advice on how to “um, get things flowing a little better.”
He did not realize until it was too late that his computer was hooked up to a machine that projected his e-mail — and his “problem” — to the entire room.
But Karo said his life at Penn was ultimately “the way I always pictured college to be.” He applied to Wharton early — and has never been to Yale.
“Yale’s like one of those schools where I don’t know anybody who goes there,” Karo said.
But he said he thinks Yale’s urban surroundings are quite similar to both Penn’s and Columbia’s. He said Columbia has walled itself in and Penn has surrounded itself with Steve Madden stores and high-end sushi places to keep out any potential trouble.
“The problem with New Haven? They haven’t done either of those things,” Karo said.
By the end of Karo’s senior year, over 11,000 people were reading Karo’s thoughts about everything from the standards of college life, like extra long beds (“The name is kind of misleading”) and Yaffa Blox (“I had every make and model of Yaffa Blox in my tiny little dorm room but no place to put them”), to major milestones, like spring break.
“In a person’s life, there are only four times when he or she can experience a week of zero responsibility and extreme drunkenness,” Karo wrote. “This ritual is called Spring Break, and it happens once a year in college.”
Karo never avoided responsibility completely, eventually trading in college life and ‘Ruminations’ for a job on Wall Street. But thirteen months later, in April of 2002, Karo began a new series of ‘Ruminations’ about life in New York on his Web site, www.AaronKaro.com.
When those ‘Ruminations’ became even more popular than the first — attracting over 16,000 subscribers — Karo ditched his Wall Street life.
“I became a full-time entertainer,” Karo said.
Most recently, Karo has been in Los Angeles, working on preliminary plans for a sitcom based on the new ‘Ruminations’ series, which could debut in the fall of 2004.
Karo was quick to serve up advice from his college years.
“Don’t take this time for granted,” Karo said. “Because you’ll never have this little responsibility ever again.”