COVID ruined everything…at least for MBAs. Face-to-face classes shrunk to the size of a laptop screen. Social gatherings were banned, trips canceled and offers rescinded. Zoom and Slack became part of everyday language. In a year riven by bitter partisanship, business school deans united behind one mantra:
‘Refunds? We don’t give no stinkin’ refunds!’
Most MBA programs carefully guard their brand. They tightly script messaging to protect their brands. That is, unless you’re part of Columbia Business School. Here, you’ll find the CBS Follies, an MBA student-run variety show that’s held each December and May. Think of it as Saturday Night Live meets America’s Got Talent. Skits, musical performances, and dances – you name it. On this stage, MBAs aren’t afraid to poke fun at everything from an outdated Uris Hall to draconian COVID compacts. Oh – and administration and faculty hardly get a free pass, either.
A YEAR TO REMEMBER
A business school hanging out its dirty laundry for the world to see? That’s refreshing…and confident, too!
That’s especially true from the Fall 2020 show – unveiled online two weeks ago. This semester’s edition is packed with sex, drugs, and Rock-n-Roll, as the cast drops expletives like 13-year-olds craving adult status. Beyond the irreverent takes and clever allusions, the December edition threads a tricky divide: the inside jokes stir curiosity about Columbia life – even as the segments explore the dread, hope, and humor of getting an MBA during a pandemic.
And at Columbia, the MBA students do it with production values that rival Netflix or HBO Max.
HAVE COVID RESTRICTIONS GONE TOO FAR?
Look no further than its opening number: “Wack Ass Policy.” To some, the lyrics harken back to America’s “Don’t Tread On Me” revolutionary spirit. For others, it is an anthem for the complacent and careless – particularly after CBS made national headlines for suspending 70 students for violating school-imposed travel restrictions. A riff on Cardi-B’s “WAP,” the CBS version drops the n-words and lewd references in favor of an indictment of the school’s COVID guidelines – all sandwiched between the pounding refrain: “There’s some bores in this house.”
A few samples lyrics….
“Mask on tight, head inside
Don’t touch nothing, hands by your side
No hugs allowed, speak with your eyes
Limit is 10, stop with the lies
Tryin’ to see friends without a disguise”
“Beach in Aruba
OSA can’t hang
Fuck travel restrictions, masks on a plane
If they catch me, ask “Where you been, bitch?”
Take a COVID Test, tickle my brain”
Are Columbia MBAs in denial? Consider this: the video culminates with a dance number in front of The Curl – with students decked out in masks and facial shields.
BROADWAY RE-OPENS…20 MINUTES NORTH
Broadway may be dark – but it’s alive and well up north in Morningside Heights. That’s because this year’s most satisfying release may be “CBS the Musical – A Medley of Broadway Parodies.” Mining terrain ranging from Rent to The Lion King, this six-minute delight covers the world of internships, job rejections, and even latching onto 2nd years to survive the core. And the students do it with a twinkle in their eyes…and resumes in hand. By the end of this segment, you’ll want to jump out of your seat and shout bravo! It’s seriously that good.
See if you can deduce which Broadway standards inspired these MBA’d lyrics:
“Free coffee in Lehman
And shotguns in Uris
And a signing bonus
Walking out of Parlour Bar smelling like piss
These are a few of the things that I miss”
“I’m a first-year
Why does nothing work here?
Can’t we just get shitfaced?
Firms that I meet, they tell me I’m sweet
And baby, they love the chase”
“Summer intern had me a blast
Summer intern happened so fast
I met a firm crazy for me
Met a boss, strict as can be
Summer nights, working away to get the return offer
Oh well Oh well Oh well Oh – HUH
Tell me more, tell me more
Did you make an impact?
Tell me more, tell me more
Did your startup get backed?”
Looking to dole out a Tony for the best individual performance? Think of the team behind “You’ll Be Back,” a parody of Hamilton. Directed by Olivia Mell and written by Chanel Washington and Meredith Bilski, the number is sung by former Bain & Company consultant Alex Spears and performed by Chris Vandenberg. This video has it all: a bravo individual performance with lyrics designed to settle some scores with a CBS administrator. Here, Jonah Rockoff, the senior vice dean, acts as the stand-in for King George III (with Vandenberg decked out in a royal robe and crown to boot). This Rockoff knock-off prances around his cramped apartment, self-satisfied and oblivious to the dissension roiling around him.
How out of touch is this smiling sadist? He disses his predecessor, Zelon Crawford, by arguing that he may be a bad leader but they’re still stuck with him “[be]cause she’s long gone.”
That’s not to say he doesn’t empathize his Columbia subjects who seemingly prefer their lofts to the ‘luxuries’ of Uris…
“I’m doing my best to be nice to you
I can squash this beef that we’ve been through”
That doesn’t mean that Farmer George/Ravishing Rockoff doesn’t carry a grudge…
“Cause when push comes to shove
I’ll make hollow threats and force you onto campus
Oh, and I’ll cut your TA pay in half…with no warning”
Ah, you can’t almost picture Spears next year: donning a black hat and Snidley Whiplash handlebars as he belts out Wicked’s “Popular” from Rockoff’s Uris digs.