Comedian Nimesh Patel took his gig at Columbia University’s “cultureSHOCK: Reclaim” event a bit too literally, apparently. The former Saturday Night Live writer was kicked off stage by student organizers 30 minutes into his set for jokes that were deemed homophobic and racist.
Columbia’s Asian American Alliance (AAA) invited Patel to perform at the annual charity showcase, which aims to provide a platform for Asian-American artistic expression and to break through harmful stereotypes. According to the Columbia Daily Spectator, “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 quipped 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.’” Members of AAA then interrupted the performance and denounced his material about racial identities and sexual orientation. The group gave him a few moments for closing remarks, but Patel pushed back, saying none of his jokes were offensive. He purportedly claimed that he was simply exposing the audience to ideas that would be found “in the real world.” Patel’s microphone was cut from offstage and he exited.
AAA defended its decision to give Patel the boot. “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,” the group wrote on Facebook. “We acknowledge that discomfort and safety can coexist, however, the discomfort Patel caused was unproductive in this space.” AAA added, “We deeply apologize for inviting him in the first place.”
Audience members were reportedly split over AAA’s decision to remove Patel.
Patel has yet to comment on the event. The 32-year-old comedian was the first Indian-American writer for SNL, but he left after last season. He has since been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing and has opened for comedians such as Chris Rock.
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