Marisa Peryer, Staff Photographer

The Harvard College Events Board and Yale College Council co-hosted a virtual Harvard-Yale Roast-Off Wednesday evening — an attempt to keep the schools’ rivalry alive in the first year without a Yale-Harvard football game since World War II.

The YCC hosted auditions from Nov. 9 to Nov. 10 for student comedians hoping to partake in the event. Students were instructed to prepare a five-minute set roasting Harvard, and in the end two Yale students were selected to perform sets: Ben Jenkins ’24 and Aidan Neziri ’23, alongside three Harvard comedians. The event, which was on Nov. 18 and hosted on Zoom, was moderated by Harvard alum Harrison Greenbaum.

“What better way to decide which school is better than by a contest of wit and humor?” Greenbaum asked. “It’s better than football. Can we all agree that it makes more sense than football? I’m not a sports person, I don’t think anybody is — that’s why we go to these schools.”

At the roast-off, which drew well over 100 Yale and Harvard students, Yale and Harvard comics took turns offering their roasts of the other school. The first Yale student to present was Jenkins.

Jenkins went through a slideshow of comparisons between the two schools, finding “important” distinctions — when he googled “hot Harvard students,” he noted that the students looked “average.” When he looked at Harvard merchandise, he simply noted that the schools’ Barnes and Noble bookstore looks ugly and that he “hopes it doesn’t survive the pandemic.”

“They have Veritas, and we have Lux et Veritas,” Jenkins said. “More is always better, so take with that what you will. And I know you all like to drone on about the admission rate. So, Harvard has a marginally more selective admission rate, but when did anyone ever get far being selective? I actually think that being accepting gets you farther in life, and it’s a lot more rewarding in the long run.”

During his roast, Neziri called the school’s Nobel Prize count “nerdy,” after making fun of Harvard’s parties, problems with addressing students’ mental health and tendency to admit students based on family donations.

“One could argue that sometimes Harvard treats their donors a little too well,” Neziri said. “Like when prestigious billionaire, island owner and great friend of Bill Clinton Jeffrey Epstein donated 9.1 million [dollars] to Harvard, Harvard gave him the keys to a private office on campus, they promoted his foundation and they even let him sit in on undergraduate classes full of 18-year-olds. This was all after he was convicted of being a pedophile.”

But before, after and between the Yale comics were the three Harvard comedians, who also held nothing back.

Harvard student Freddie Shanel took the roast-off as an opportunity to make fun of Toads, which she labeled “a really weird thing to call an STD.” She also described different feelings, people and phenomena as Yale or Harvard alumni — lease agreements and the feeling one gets when their childhood bully succeeds would be Yale alumni, she argued.

“Tuesdays are a Yale alum, as are when you take a sip of your tea and it’s too hot, but then you take another sip and it’s too cold — that’s a Yale alum,” Shanel said. 

YCC Events Director Chloe Adda ’22, who helped organize the event, told the News that overall, she thought it was a success.

“I was very happy with the overall turnout and received a lot of positive feedback from Yale students who attended,” she said. “I was thrilled that we were able to have students unmuted so that performers could hear laughter and applause. I think this contributed to the event’s overall positive energy.”

This year, the rivalry took a hit from the loss of The Game, scheduled to occur at Harvard this year. 

But even without The Game, Adda said the friendly feud is more important than ever, given that during a pandemic students can sometimes feel isolated.

“I think in many ways the rivalry serves as a way to bring the two schools together in a fun way,” she said. “This is particularly vital given a time where so many of us feel disconnected. I think at the end of the day both institutions respect each other overall.”

The Game is slated for next fall at Yale Bowl.

Owen Tucker-Smith |

Correction, Nov. 20: Parts of this article misspelled Neziri’s name. It has been updated.

Owen Tucker-Smith was managing editor of the Board of 2023. Before that, he covered the mayor as a City Hall reporter.