The High Pi Comedian: Freddy Stebbins Says Being a Professional Funny Man Helps Him Connect with Undergraduates and Influence Conversations About Greek Life
Freddy Stebbins is a funny man.
On stage, he will sometimes portray an overly rambunctious, stereotypical “frat bro.” It’s one of several hats he wears as a character actor and stand-up comedian.
But off stage, he knows that isn’t the reality. In fact, he has dedicated much of his life to helping fraternity men navigate college and launch successful careers as High Pi of the chapter at University of Miami, where he is also a member of Lambda Chi Alpha.
“I get in front of a microphone and try to make people laugh. Depending on how much alcohol they’ve had, sometimes it works,” Stebbins joked. “I offer commentary on everything from social issues, to stereotypes, to absurdities, to common culture. I live in a crazy city. It’s called Miami. It’s like a different world here. So I’ll poke fun at a lot of the people and oddities of South Florida — a moronic Cuban girl obsessed with makeup, an old retired Jewish man, a stuck-up Southern preacher who’s homophobic — all of these people I’ve grown up with my entire life … I’ll play that out on stage. That’s what’s given me most of my success.”
Stebbins actually got his start in comedy in the late 1980s at the chapter house at Miami. He would often show up to the house in character and perform for his brothers. He didn’t think much of it at the time. It was all in the name of fun. But eventually, at the encouragement of several of the guys, he decided to pursue it as a career.
“I owe a lot to Lambda Chi … from the friendships I’ve built, to my continued involvement with the university, to my comedy career,” Stebbins said. “It’s really changed my whole life.”
He moved to Los Angeles where he studied with The Groundlings, an improvisational and sketch comedy troupe and school. After he graduated, he landed several jobs including radio correspondent for the L.A. Dodgers and host of a TV show on the Travel Channel.
Eventually, a job doing character voices for Universal Studios in Orlando called him home. Now, he is the comic voice of South Florida. He has won several high-profile awards, including Miami’s Ultimate Comedian.
Stebbins has served as High Pi at Miami for 13 years. It is something that came natural to him, he said, but also something that required him to grow as a person.
“Overall, it’s been something that has given me back a sense of belonging here in Miami and a sense of pride,” Stebbins said. “We’ve done a lot to renovate the house and rejuvenate the brotherhood. In a way, I guess, I’ve come full circle.”
Being significantly older than the undergraduate members they’re serving can sometimes pose a challenge for High Pis as they struggle to connect. But that isn’t a problem for Stebbins, he says. Thanks to his comedic personality, he is able to connect easily with the guys in the chapter.
“As the High Pi, I’ve found that it’s very helpful when I talk to the chapter in a way that’s nonthreatening, of course, but funny,” he said. “I talk to the guys in a way they can relate. I’m able to goof around with these kids. I can get up in a meeting and impersonate members or deans at the school, and they love it.”
Having a locally famous stand-up comedian at its disposal certainly benefits the chapter. Stebbins will sometimes headline fundraising events for both undergraduates and alumni (he is also on the Alumni Advisory Board).
“I’m a very strong liaison between undergrads and alumni,” he said. “Every alumnus from the last 30 years knows who I am, so I’ll help connect guys that way.”
It takes time to build rapport with the undergraduate members, though. Their initial reaction to Stebbins is usually shock.
“What kind of freak is this guy?” he said, laughing. “Once they realize I’m not a total freak, and there is some substance and success behind what I do, it’s a positive reaction.
I mean, who else has a High Pi who is actually a famous comedian?” he continued. “It takes a lot of … well, actually, I don’t know what it takes. Probably a loss of braincells and individuality.”
Nonetheless, being a professional funny man definitely makes the job easier.
Stebbins has helped a handful of guys at Miami follow in his footsteps and launch comedy careers themselves. He is also a sociology professor and owns a FM radio station which he has a talk-show on, so he has helped undergraduates pursue careers in various other areas as well.
“Lambda Chi is such a big part of my life,” he said. “At a time when the media and people in society tend to criticize and stereotype fraternity men, I have a platform to say, ‘No man, I come from a whole different point of view.'”
He incorporates the overly rambunctious, stereotypical “frat boy” character into his comedy routine as a way to shed light on what it is really like to be in a fraternity, and he announces that he is a Lambda Chi at every show.
“If you can’t laugh about it,” Stebbins said, “then it’s not worth it.”
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