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10 Surprising Celebs Who Moonlight as Professors

Posted on Sunday November 25, 2012 by Staff Writers


Most college students would find it odd to walk into class and find, say, a hip-hop mogul at the lectern, but for students of these celebrity professors, it’s just another day at school. Comedians, actors, wrestlers, and even a former U.S. vice president have all moonlighted as professors, and some of them are even still doing it today. Read on to discover 10 celebrities who have shared their knowledge as college professors and learn about their impact on students.

  1. Questlove:

    Questlove is best known as the fluffy-haired drummer for The Roots, but he’ll soon make his debut as a professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Along with Universal Music’s Harry Weinger, Questlove is teaching a class on classic albums at the Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music. In this course, students will learn what makes music classic and able to stand the test of time. They’ll discuss music, business, lyrics, production, and related issues. Some of the albums discussed will include the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, and Led Zeppelin’s IV.

  2. John Cleese:

    John Cleese is beloved for his sense of humor, most notably exhibited in the Monty Python comedy troupe and Fawlty Towers. Select students at Cornell University have also been fortunate to enjoy Cleese’s humor up close, as he has been affiliated with the university since 1998 when he came on as the A.D. White Professor-at Large. Although that position ended in 2006, Cleese remained a fixture on campus until at least 2008 as the Provost’s Visiting Professor and still makes occasional appearances today. Cleese has been known to do a little bit of everything, from delivering Sunday sermons to teaching classes on comedy.

  3. Spike Lee:

    Although many of the other celebrity professors on this list have enjoyed short stints of teaching, filmmaker Spike Lee has made academia a part of his life for quite some time, teaching at NYU more than 15 years. An alum of NYU, Lee returned to the school to teach a master series on directing strategies at the Tisch School of the Arts. He has also been named Artistic Director of the Graduate Film Program.

  4. Al Gore:

    Some students may be impressed by movie stars and rappers in their classroom, but we’d be pretty jazzed to find a former Vice President. Students at UCLA, Columbia University, Middle Tennessee State University, and Fisk University all got to enjoy that experience, as Al Gore took on the role of a professor and lecturer at the schools. Primarily teaching at UCLA, former VP Gore worked on a new curriculum on family-centered community building for the UCLA Institute for Children, Families, and Communities, sharing his experiences with students and American families.

  5. Oprah Winfrey:

    Oprah Winfrey has long been known as a speaker, motivator, and wise businesswoman, so it’s only natural that she share her passion with students. In 1999, Northwestern University brought the big O on board, along with longtime boyfriend and marketing consultant Stedman Graham, to teach for the university’s Graduate School of Management. The two shared their knowledge in a second-year MBA course entitled, “Dynamics of Leadership.”

  6. Wyclef Jean:

    It’s no secret that hip-hop star Wyclef Jean is involved in Haitian activism and study, as a Haitian himself, founder of charitable organization Yele Haiti, and former presidential candidate in the country. But did you know that Jean took his interest in Haiti to the Ivy League? He accepted an appointment as a visiting fellow in Brown University’s Department of Africana Studies, sharing lectures, faculty conversations, and classes related to Haiti during the 2010 to 2011 school year.

  7. Jesse Ventura:

    Wrestler, governor … professor? That’s right, it seems that Jesse “The Body” Ventura does a little bit of everything. In the spring of 2004, Ventura was appointed as a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, sharing seminars on a variety of political aspects following his term as Minnesota Governor. Ventura was chosen by Harvard in an effort to share the experience of political office holders that did not fit the traditional idea of a politician, and he brought along famous friends including Dean Barkley and Richard Marcinko.

  8. James Franco:

    James Franco isn’t just a prominent actor, he’s a lifelong learner, too, as a student of Yale, RISD, NYU, and Warren Wilson, to name a few. Now he’s also a college professor, thanks to NYU and USC. In 2011, Franco took on a professorial role for NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts, teaching the art of directing in a course that culminated in a collaborative movie made for film festivals. After his NYU debut as a professor, Franco was offered positions from UCLA, CalArts, and USC, accepting the offer from USC to teach a film production class in the spring.

  9. Alec Baldwin:

    We’d rather take business classes from Baldwin’s 30 Rock character Jack Donaghy, but we’ll take what we can get. In 2002 and 2003, Baldwin was a Distinguished Professor at Southampton College, leading a very popular and prestigious master class in theater. Baldwin’s course was understandably very difficult to get into, and had room for just 20 students in order to allow for personal attention from the instructor.

  10. Bun B:

    Rapper Bun B has taken a new job as a Distinguished Lecturer at Rice University, co-teaching Hip Hop and Religious Studies, an undergrad course. It’s said that he has a box on his desk for demos, and he gives priority to students who have perfect attendance and pay attention in class.