Faculty member Michael Bent '85, a stand-up comedian and magaician for children, has performed at the White House Easter Egg Roll for the past nine years. (Courtesy Photo)
Faculty member Michael Bent ’85, a stand-up comedian and magician, says performing at the White House’s annual Easter Egg Roll never gets old—even though he’s done it for nearly a decade.
“The energy is just so incredible,” said Bent, who teaches in the Writing, Literature and Publishing Department. “The minute you walk on the grounds, you’re like, ‘I can’t believe I’m at the White House.’ It’s crazy.”
Bent, who is on the committee overseeing the new Comedy minor at Emerson, has participated in the White House tradition since 2006. This year, he performed his children’s routine just before First Lady Michelle Obama read storybooks to the kids.
“It was such an honor to be able to do that,” he said.
Bent, who was an original member of the Emerson student comedy troupe This Is Pathetic in the 1980s with well-known comedians Anthony Clark ’86 (Yes, Dear; Boston Common) and David Cross (Arrested Development, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret), said he began working in children’s entertainment 22 years ago after the birth of his daughter, Norah.
“When my daughter was born, I didn’t want to be on the road anymore at all,” Bent said. “I focused on creating a show she would personally like and understand.”
He said adding magic to his performances was a natural choice. He has practiced magic since he was 6 years old.
“The rules of magic and comedy are essentially the same,” Bent said. “When you let somebody in on the trick, it’s the same as when you let somebody in on the joke.”
Bent pointed to numerous successful comedians who regularly incorporated magic into their acts, including Johnny Carson, Andy Kaufman, and Steve Martin.
He says his favorite part about being at the White House every Easter is the excitement.
“It doesn’t get old,” Bent said. “With adults, you have to prove yourself [as a performer]. With kids, they just want to have fun right away.”
“Kids are the most honest audience you can have,” he added. “If they don’t like it, they will let you know. And if they love it, they will let you know.”
About 35,000 people attend the Easter Egg Roll ceremonies, and those who attend are chosen from an online lottery system.
The theme for this year’s event was “#GimmeFive,” which was part of Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move fitness initiative. Families were encouraged to share on social media the five things they are doing to be healthy.
Bent has been called “one of the world’s best children’s magicians” by Hollywood Magic Castle and won the Nickelodeon Parents’ Picks Award in the category of Boston’s Best Children’s Entertainer. He is the author of The Everything Guide to Comedy Writing.