Not Woke If You Shook

When they arrived on campus in 2014, Dylan Wrobel ’18 and Patrick Reed ’18 initially struggled to find their place at Yale, as they wrestled with typical first-year anxieties.

“Yale was a different environment,” Wrobel said. “Part of me felt really out of place.”

But, he added, “It was a window into a world that was really interesting.”

In their senior year, the two Yalies, who are both mixed-race and identify as black, launched an entertainment group, “Not Woke if You Shook.” They are now working on producing a web series called “Now I’m Confused,” based on their experiences at Yale.

“[Patrick] might have been the only person that understood my perspective,” Wrobel said. “We coped with the Yale experience in a similar way: by making jokes about what was going on.”

The 30-minute episodes follow a goofier version of the two friends as they make their way through Yale. The first two episodes are available for free on YouTube, and the duo is in the process of developing the third.

Wrobel and Reed began working on the show in the fall of their senior year, and since graduation, they have continued collaborating on it from New York.

Both said that in coming up with ideas for the show they tried to find the humor in situations they experienced at Yale.

“I was on full scholarship and really grateful to be here,” Wrobel told the News. “I was struggling a lot less than other people I knew [from home] and felt guilty about it. But it seemed like no one at Yale was laughing at all the crazy stuff that happens here. And there’s a ton of it.”

The episodes are based on real experiences. According to Wrobel, many of the lines featured in classroom scenes are taken word-for-word from notes that the two took during discussion sections.

Wrobel and Reed also said they were inspired by the race-related protests that shook campus in 2015. Reed emphasized, for instance, that the movement made them realize that “we’re all in it together.”

“It recognized that there are lots of different lives at Yale, that everyone is having their own struggles, and we’re all making sense of it in our own way,” he said. “Our form of protest was our comedy. The fact that people stood up gave us the confidence to do our own version of that, to tell our own stories.”

“We are two identifying-black, mixed-race people who don’t look black,” Reed added. “We have to make jokes about it, or it’ll be sad!”

The two aspiring producers came up with the idea for “Now I’m Confused” the summer before their senior year, when they were both interning at investment banks in New York City.

Each weekend, Reed said, he and Wrobel would meet at Tom’s Restaurant — the renowned diner from the sitcom “Seinfeld” — to discuss their ideas.

“We needed to try something that would make us happy and fulfilled, and we had had this idea for so long, so we were like ‘Let’s do it,’” Reed said.

Neither Wrobel nor Reed had any previous experience writing, directing or acting. So they reached out to students involved in film on campus for help. Yale students, as well as students at other colleges and local New Haveners, have acted in their show or worked on the crew.

“Dylan and Pat are really talented guys and they were a blast to work with,” said Charlie Lee ’20, who appeared in one of the show’s episodes.

“Now I’m Confused” is aimed primarily at young people, particularly college students and high-schoolers looking for a taste of college life. Wrobel said he hopes to inspire such students to follow their dreams; he always knew he wanted to make art, he said, but only took the leap after deciding to diverge from the so-called “right way to do things.”

“We want [first-years] to know that it’s OK to feel like you’re stuck, like you don’t know to what end your path is taking you,” Reed said. “Be thoughtful and kind to yourself as you figure out what you want and who you are.”

Moving forward, Wrobel and Reed anticipate that they may struggle to stay in tune with campus developments now that they have graduated. And Reed stressed that they don’t want the show to make the same mistakes as other sitcoms about college and “misrepresent the experience.”

Both graduates said that working on the show has allowed them to connect with people from a variety of backgrounds who relate to different aspects of the episodes.

“Our show is everything we want it to be, and it’s a blessing and privilege to have complete creative freedom,” Reed said. “We would love to hear any and all ways that people feel about it — feedback is worth so much.”

Helena Lyng-Olsen | helena.lyng-olsen@yale.edu

Correction, Sept. 17: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that Charlie Lee is in the class of 2019. He is, in fact, in the class of 2020. The article also incorrectly attributed the statement “I was on full scholarship…” to Reed, when it was said by Wrobel. Conversely, an earlier version of the article attributed “we’re all in it together” to Wrobel. It was said by Reed. The quote “We needed to try something that would make us happy and fulfilled…” should also be attributed to Reed.