“it’s like undermining what our generation is trying to do in accepting others and making it safer”
Last week at Columbia University, the school’s Asian American Alliance held a fundraising event called “CultureSHOCK:Reclaim” and invited comedian and SNL alum Nimesh Patel to perform. Halfway through his performance, student organizers walked on stage, took his microphone and told him to wrap it up.
Stand-up stars like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have said in recent years that they will no longer perform on college campuses and this is why.
Shubham Saharan writes at the Columbia Spectator:
Student organizers boot former SNL writer from stage during standup routine for jokes deemed offensive
Comedian and former Saturday Night Live writer Nimesh Patel was pulled from the stage by event organizers after telling jokes that were criticized as racist and homophobic during his performance at cultureSHOCK: Reclaim, an event held by Columbia Asian American Alliance on Friday night.
Patel, 32, was the first Indian-American writer for SNL, and has since been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing. Patel has previously performed on Late Night with Seth Meyers and opened for comedians such as Chris Rock.
During the event, Patel’s performance featured commentary on his experience living in a diverse area of New York City—including a joke about a gay, black man in his neighborhood—which AAA officials deemed inappropriate. Patel joked that being gay cannot be a choice because “no one looks in the mirror and thinks, ‘this black thing is too easy, let me just add another thing to it.’”
That was, apparently, a step too far:
About 30 minutes into Patel’s set, members of AAA interrupted the performance, denounced his jokes about racial identities and sexual orientation, and provided him with a few moments for closing remarks. Compared to his other jokes, ones specifically targeting sexual orientation audibly receive less laughter from the crowd.
Patel pushed back on the officials’ remarks, and said that while he stood in solidarity with Asian American identities, none of his remarks were offensive, and he was exposing the audience to ideas that would be found “in the real world.” Before he could finish, Patel’s microphone was cut from off-stage, and he proceeded to leave.
Toni Airaksinen of PJ Media has quotes from students who were at the event:
Columbia Students Kick SNL Comedian Nimesh Patel Off Stage after ‘Rude’ Jokes
“Although [my friends and I] weren’t laughing at the jokes, we were all surprised when he got kicked off. None of us were thinking: ‘god this is so bad someone should get rid of him,” Barnard College student Elle Ferguson told PJ Media on Monday.
“I was very surprised. Either that means I’m not as sensitive as I should be, or the whole thing was just dramatic,” added Ferguson, clarifying that she didn’t think Patel should have been kicked off. “I’m open to hearing other perspectives,” she added…
“When older generations say you need to stop being so sensitive, it’s like undermining what our generation is trying to do in accepting others and making it safer,” said Jao.
“Obviously the world is not a safe space but just accepting that it’s not and continuing to perpetuate the un-safeness of it… is saying that it can’t be changed,” she added.
Another writer at the Columbia Spectator named Liberty Martin offers this take on what happened:
This is the issue with telling jokes about other people’s identities: It’s hard to grasp the intricacies of a life you haven’t lived. Personally, I think comedians should be allowed to tell jokes about different communities, but they often end up falling into clichés, stereotypes, or just predictable material. Patel brought himself on stage to perform a tired joke, the punchline being marginalized struggles about which he has no true insight. Some may argue that he was making a comment on society’s racism and homophobia, but for whom? I watched a brown man use the experiences of Black people to make white people ponder and laugh while two of my gay Black friends cringed.
Patel’s mic wasn’t just cut off because he told offensive jokes to a sensitive, snowflake audience, which is the narrative that I see being talked about. He was booted off the stage because he sucked the energy out of an entire auditorium. When he told the gay Black joke, even he noted the tension. His routine was the antithesis of what cultureSHOCK stood for. He stepped into an uplifting atmosphere and soiled it, which is the opposite of what he was meant to do as a hired entertainer performing at someone else’s event.
It’s easy to see what happened here. The progressive culture which has infected our colleges and universities has clear rules about who should be mocked and who is off-limits.
Does anyone believe Nimesh Patel would have been removed from the stage if he used this opportunity to mock Trump and the voters who elected him? Not a chance.
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