News & Politics

Columbia University Students Apologize for Inviting SNL Comedian to Campus

The executive board of the Columbia University Asian American Association (AAA) has issued a lengthy apology to atone for inviting SNL comedian Nimesh Patel to perform at their annual charity dinner this past Saturday.

As PJ Media reported, Patel was the headline act at this year’s cultureSHOCK, which saw more than 400 students in audience. But after Patel made “offensive” jokes, AAA emcees jumped on stage to denounce him and eventually 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.

“I was very surprised. Either that means I’m not as sensitive as I should be, or the whole thing was just dramatic,” Ferguson added.

In the aftermath, cultureSHOCK organizers apologized on Facebook.

“Patel’s remarks ran counter to the inclusive spirit and integrity of cultureSHOCK and as such, the choice was made to invite him to leave,” they wrote. (To clarify: the AAA did not “invite” Patel to leave, but rather demanded him to then cut his mic.)

“That being said, we deeply apologize for inviting him in the first place and bringing these comments into a space for inclusion and acceptance,” they wrote, stressing that “we apologize for the hurt his words caused members of the community” (emphasis added).

While the AAA declined to clarify which jokes were offensive, one attendee reported that the Indian-American man misstepped when he attempted (perhaps crudely) to empathize with a black man in his neighborhood.

“[I]t made me realize that being gay is definitely not a choice because no one wants to be gay and black,” one student recounted of his jokes.

The school newspaper has since run a handful of op-eds on Patel’s performance.

Student columnist Liberty Martin offered a justification for the AAA’s actions.

“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,” wrote Martin.

“Patel deserved to get booted off because I was irritated by his performance,” she added.

One brave student, Malia Simon, defended Patel’s right to comedy.

“From the court jester to Aristophanes to Jonathan Swift, the duty of the comic has consistently been to challenge expectations,” wrote Simon, adding that students should not “quickly dismiss what doesn’t fall within our own margins of comfort.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.