"Modern Family" actor charms audience with stories, jokes about his personal life

Jesse Tyler Ferguson shared what it was like struggling with his sexuality during his teenage years.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s parents forced him to drop out of his high school musical after they caught him trying to shoplift gay porn.

Ferguson, to this day, disagrees with the way his parents handled the situation.

“Note to parents everywhere: If you feel like your child is struggling with his sexuality and he’s caught stealing gay porn, let your kid do the goddamned musical,” he said.

Ferguson, who is best known for playing Mitchell in ABC’s “Modern Family,” spoke in Goldstein Auditorium Tuesday night and fielded questions as part of “An Evening with Jesse Tyler Ferguson.”

Ferguson spoke on a range of topics, including his own personal struggle with his sexuality. In 8th grade, Ferguson said he was forced to switch schools because he was bullied. Growing up, he said, he was always a fan of theater. His love for the art led to his big break as Leaf Coneybear in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

As an outspoken member of the LGBT community, Ferguson opened the show with a video promoting his and his fiancé’s new organization, Tie the Knot. The two design and sell bow ties on their website tietheknot.org, then donate the proceeds to other organizations fighting for marriage equality. Ferguson even emphasized his love of the trend by coming on stage in an appropriately colored orange and blue bow tie.

Political science sophomore Alison Shanley said she respected Ferguson’s mission to marriage equality. “I like that he’s using his fame to try and change the world— and that he’s using bow ties to do it,” she said.

Fashion was one of the many topics introduced in the question-and-answer portion of the evening, when students could ask Ferguson whatever they wanted.

Speech therapy senior Merlyn Athimoottil said she liked this segment because Ferguson “was really personable and down to earth.”

The questions provided much insight into the mind of the Emmy-nominated funnyman: He said he’s closest with “Modern Family” castmate Eric Stonestreet; he tried to be a model when he first moved to New York City; and if he had to choose, he would want to be on a deserted island with Ty Burrell.

To some students, the only downfall in an otherwise hilarious evening was television, radio and film professor Richard Dubin’s moderating. Television, Radio and Film sophomore Alexa Goldberg said, “I felt like tonight I got a glimpse into Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s life, however, the moderator was creepy and needed to make the show more about Jesse.”

There was an uncomfortable exchange between Dubin and Ferguson about breast milk, which Ferguson tried to make a joke of, saying, “I beg for a change of topics.” Goldberg said she believes this was when Dubin “succeeded in making a comfortable man feel awkward.”  

Overall, “An Evening with Jesse Tyler Ferguson” left the audience laughing and inspired. Apart from the many anecdotes, the self-proclaimed funniest cast member on “Modern Family” shared the most important piece of advice he received: “Relax,” he said.

Unlike many in his business, Ferguson said he strives to only put out positivity into the world. Through both his comedy and his dedication to human rights, Ferguson moved all in attendance.

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