Nimesh Patel, a former writer for “Saturday Night Live,” was booted from a stand-up routine at Columbia University after cracking a joke about gay Black men.
The incident occurred on Friday night at “cultureSHOCK: Reclaim,” an annual showcase organized by the university’s Asian American Alliance (AAA).
While Patel got off to a good start, tension arose when he started talking about a neighbor who happened to be a Black gay man.
According to the Columbia Daily Spectator, the 32-year-old comedian 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.’”
AAA members interrupted Patel’s performance, denounced his jokes on race and sexual orientation, and allowed him to convey his closing remarks.
However, the comedian retaliated, arguing that none of his jokes were offensive and that he was only exposing the audience to matters found “in the real world.”
The joke assumes that Black and gay people, in isolation, suffer from oppression.
However, a person who is both Black and gay suffers from “stacked” oppression, according to Reason Magazine.
Patel’s mic was abruptly cut off. He eventually left the premises.
The event supposedly gave room for Asian American artistic expression and banished harmful stereotypes.
In a statement, AAA recognized that Patel’s remarks opposed cultureSHOCK mission and apologized for inviting him to the event.
According to its Facebook event page, cultureSHOCK aims to provide “a platform for a diversity of Asian American artistic expression, but it also seeks to break through the stereotypes and challenges that our community faces.”
Patel, the first Indian American writer for “SNL” and an Emmy nominee for Outstanding Writing, drew mixed reactions from the audience.
Some found his joke offensive, but others thought it was not.
“While what some of the things that he said might have been a bit provoking to some of the audience, as someone who watches comedy a lot, none of them were jokes that I hadn’t heard before and none of them were jokes that elicited such a response in my experience,” student Elle Ferguson told the Daily Spectator. “[AAA] should have talked to him beforehand especially because comedy is known for being ground-breaking and for pushing boundaries.”
On the other hand, student Sofia Jao believes that the problem lies in his closing remarks. She told the Daily Spectator:
“I really dislike when people who are older say that our generation needs to be exposed to the real world. 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. 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.”
Patel has not commented on the issue as of this writing.