Carnival comedy show fails to respect Carnegie Mellon’s values of diversity and tolerance

During Carnival, Carnegie Mellon students, staff, alumni, and members of the Pittsburgh community are lucky enough to enjoy the privilege of Carnival entertainment. Every year, the Carnegie Mellon Activities Board plans and executes some of the most anticipated concerts, lectures, and events of the season during Carnival weekend. Sadly, this year’s Carnival comedy show did not live up to past standards of success.

While these events are usually successful and well received, it is still important that these shows and the performers that we as a university employ reflect well on our campus community.

It is for this reason that we at The Tartan were disappointed by the material used by this year’s comedy show performer, Eddie Griffin, as well as AB’s choice of performer. During his performance, Griffin ventured into material that was highly inappropriate; the majority of the comedian’s jokes were either racially, sexually, or religiously offensive. After his scheduled hour-long set, the performer continued drinking on stage and making jokes for another hour and a half, a time filled with increasingly distasteful jokes that relied on homophobic political garble and ethnic slurs. Griffin cursed in almost every joke he told, using derogatory terms for every race and sexual orientation throughout the entirety of his set.

Performers like last year’s Michael and Michael kept the crowd entertained without resorting to offensive religious, racial, and political slurs. The pair catered their act to the audience by incorporating jokes specific to Carnival and to Carnegie Mellon. We do not think that any performer that comes to Carnegie Mellon needs to drastically change his or her act to accommodate our campus community, but being aware of what kind of crowd he or she is addressing should be the responsibility of the performer.

Griffin’s material might have been appropriate for Comedy Central, but not at a university where diversity and acceptance of ethnic, political, and sexual differences is held up as a standard and defining feature. In addition, this was an important year for Carnegie Mellon’s alumni network; the university chose to combine its previous Homecoming alumni events with Carnival weekend. As members of this community, we do not feel as though Griffin aptly represented our community or our collective interests.

We wish that the choice of comedian better represented our entire community — which includes students as well as alumni and faculty — so that the performance could have appealed to a broader audience. Carnegie Mellon prizes diversity as one of its central values. Those speakers, comedians, and other guests who we pay to have come to our campus should be aware of those values, whether or not they agree with them.
Griffin’s jokes and actions, while entertaining to many in his audience, respected neither the university nor its values. While we know that the Activities Board was not responsible for Griffin’s behavior, we do hope it will keep the values of the university community in mind when choosing future guests, because racism labeled as “just a joke” is still inexcusable.