'Strive to do something you wouldn't give up for ten million euros'

Many work places in Brabant were undoubtedly a bit less crowded than usual today, but the Blauwe Zaal of the Auditorium, in contrast, was packed to the rafters this Tuesday morning. Television host and comedian Arjen Lubach opened the Career Expo of the Wervingsdagen at this location, and by doing so knowingly entered the “red zone” in Brabant. “I’ll be washing my hands for the rest of the day.”

Laughing with Lubach - sometimes it doesn’t take much. When interviewer Lucas Asselbergs (head of Studium Generale) starts out by asking the audience whether there’s someone in the crowd who doesn’t understand Dutch, a student raises his hand. Lubach, forced to speak English, responds with a warning: “Okay, then I won’t be at my best today, especially for you.” He also wants to know where the student is from. Only to move his chair an extra meter backwards with a grin on his face when he hears the answer: ‘Italy.’

There’s no getting around the coronavirus during this Q&A as well, it turns out. The discussion briefly touches on their first meeting early this morning, which, much to Lubach’s regret, didn’t involve a handshake. Lubach: “So, we French kissed instead.” When referring to the students who couldn’t be fitted in the Blauwe Zaal and who join the Q&A via video link sitting in a different hall. “Are they quarantined?” And when asked what his other plans are for today: “Get out of this red zone. And wash my hands all day.”

But most of all, the conversation today between Lubach and Asselbergs is about choices. Lubach talks about the choices he makes as a tv host (in a nutshell: “what matters most is that we ourselves find it interesting”, writing is deleting, preferably topics most people don’t know that much about, not too much speculating on the future, and making full use of the all-important juice offered by other media). But he also talks about the choices he made when he was young, growing up in a family of lawyers, where it was assumed that he would pursue an academic career.

Timid taxi driver

“I wanted to become a diplomat, or an ambassador. I needed to learn a language for that. So, I decided to study Spanish.” When talking about his subsequent philosophy and Scandinavian (Swedish) studies, his jobs as harbor master on the island of Vlieland, and as a taxi driver in Groningen: “I was nineteen, very small and very timid. That’s why I got robbed many times.”

He says he simply wasn’t really thinking about his future, too busy still with dealing with issues from his past, such as his mother’s early death. “You can drink yourself to death in such a situation, or try to give meaning to your life.” Lubach found his meaning in laughter and in entertaining others. “Once I realized that, my path became much clearer.”

It’s not about deciding whether to study or not, he says, and deciding what program to follow. It’s about finding what’s right for you and how much you enjoy it. “I work with a team of writers on my tv show ‘Zondag met Lubach,’ and that group has so much fun together. It’s a pressure cooker of creativity. Once we’re finished writing the show, I’m dead tired, but extremely happy.” Or, as he puts it a little later: “Even if someone would give me ten million euros right now, I would continue to do what I’m doing now. That’s what you should strive for, I believe.”

The ‘hellhole’ called Twitter

What he also strives for, albeit in vain: care much less about what the outside world thinks of him, for example in the hellhole called Twitter: “It’s like cycling to a large sports hall, where I open my arms in the middle of the hall and say: ‘bring on your criticism.’ When I cycle back home, I feel miserable - but after that, I somehow cycle back to the sports hall again.”

In any case, Lubach (“I’m just a clown with an opinion”) emphasizes that he doesn’t want to be taken too seriously. “I realize that we have some kind of influence with our show, but we don’t start our meeting on Wednesday wondering how we might change society this week. When I hear a politician in the House of Representatives ask whether the minister has seen Zondag met Lubach, I think: ‘please man, don’t.’ I would never want to be a politician; you’re held responsible for so many things.”

That is why Lubach, when a student asks him immediately after that last statement what he would change if he was president of the world, subtly puts her in her place. “Uhmm, weren’t you listening to what I just said?” But if he has to give an answer anyway: “I would get rid of the beer bike. And remelt all beer bikes into hospital beds for corona patients.” Then, seriously: “And I wish for every country in the world that they have a secular government and society, and the human rights and freedom we have here in the Netherlands.”

The Q&A closes with Lubach’s ecological footprint, brought up by a student who was inspired by the ‘Use your footprint’ theme of this year’s Career Expo. He is no saint, Lubach says, “we need to live our lives after all. But I don’t eat meat, take the train to Paris instead of flying there, and I drive a hybrid car, which, of course, is bullshit. but it feels good.” And, he has that grin on his face again: “I don’t have children. At least, my girlfriend has children, but they aren’t mine. So, I’m not responsible for their footprint.”

The Career Expo, which includes stands from companies, lectures and workshops, takes place today and tomorrow. Go to wervingsdagen.nl for the complete program.

Share this article