Comedian and Emmy nominated writer Nimesh Patel was invited to perform at an event at Columbia University, but that standup performance did not end well; in fact, he wasn’t allowed to finish it. Halfway through his performance, he was removed from the stage because some students said his jokes went too far.
Patel, who became the first Indian American writer for “Saturday Night Live” in 2017 and has opened for comedians like Chris Rock, was performing Nov. 29 at “cultureSHOCK: Reclaim,” an event held by Columbia Asian American Alliance. But it turned out, Patel’s jokes were too shocking for the crowd.
According to the student newspaper, The Columbia Spectator, in his act, Patel reminisced on his days living in a diverse area of New York City. During that act, when Patel joked about a gay, black man in his neighborhood, things went downhill. He said 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.’”
About 30 minutes into his set, AAA members denounced his jokes about “racial identities and sexual orientation,” the paper reported. He was given a few moments for closing remarks. Patel tried to clarify that none of his jokes were offensive, saying he was exposing the audience to ideas that would be found “in the real world.” But he could not defend himself because his microphone was cut from offstage and he left.
Audience members, according to some reports, were split over AAA’s decision to remove Patel forcibly.
“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,” added Ferguson. “I’m open to hearing other perspectives.”
Another student, Sofia Jao, told The Columbia Spectator she has problems with Patel’s performance.
“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.”
The AAA later issued a statement on Facebook, apologizing for inviting Patel to the event, saying his remarks did not align with the “mission and message” of Asian American Alliance and cultureSHOCK.
“Asian American Alliance stands for the political, social, and personal empowerment of Asian Americans as well as other marginalized groups,” the group wrote. “…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. We acknowledge that discomfort and safety can coexist, however, the discomfort Patel caused was unproductive in this space… We invite and welcome dialogue concerning his remarks and our actions.”
“That being said, we deeply apologize for inviting him in the first place and bringing these comments into a space for inclusion and acceptance. We apologize for the hurt his words caused members of the community. We also apologize for being inarticulate as we invited him to leave…” the group added.