Columbia University students invited Saturday Night Live comedian Nimesh Patel to perform on campus this weekend, then cut his mic and kicked him off stage after he allegedly made “rude” and “offensive” jokes.
The debacle happened Saturday night at cultureSHOCK, an event dedicated to celebrating Asian and Pacific Islander culture. Having attended it twice during my time at Columbia, I know that the catered show typically begins with a fashion show and culminates with a comedy skit.
Last year, cultureSHOCK ended with a standing ovation for Phil Kaye, a Japanese-American poet whose work is mainly personal, not political. But this year, cultureShock organizers chose Emmy-nominated Nimesh Patel, the first Indian-American to write for SNL.
The event quickly spiraled out of control.
Patel allegedly made numerous “offensive” jokes, including about how being a gay black man isn’t a choice since “no one looks in the mirror and thinks, ‘this black thing is too easy, let me just add another thing to it.’”
The crowd of roughly 100 students didn’t seem fazed. Three students reported to PJ Media by phone that there was no booing or shouting, but mostly silence as Patel’s racially and ethnically themed jokes fell on politically correct ears.
Halfway through his skit, organizers jumped on stage, stole the mic, denounced Patel’s jokes, and asked him to wrap up his set. Patel pushed back, and said he was exposing students to ideas that could be found “in the real world.”
Students then cut his mic and kicked him off stage.
“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.
Another Barnard student, Sofia Jao, told The Columbia Spectator she takes offense at Patel’s insinuation that comedy is acceptable “in the real world.”
“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.
PJ Media reached out to members of the Columbia Asian American Alliance, the host of cultureSHOCK, but they are declining to respond to media until they decide whether to issue a formal statement on the event.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.