On Hannibal Buress, Sensitivity, and The Big Show
The Big Show’s legacy is one of music, so when Skidmore’s Student Entertainment Committee announced that this year’s act would be comedian, Hannibal Buress, many of us were surprised, some students upset, and others thrilled. The Editorial Board thinks that SEC’s choice of bringing in a comedian is great for the campus. We’re grateful that Hannibal Buress feels comfortable doing a show at a small liberal arts college, since several comedians, such as Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, have stated that they refuse to do any shows at college campuses. They attribute this to the outcry they’ve been on the receiving end of from more sensitive student bodies, who are easily upset by the political incorrectness of these comedians’ acts.
The Atlantic recently published a piece entitled “That’s Not Funny,” in which they covered a convention of comedians showcasing their acts for colleges. The National Association for Campus Activities, made up of the students who choose which comedians will perform at their respective colleges, are seeking comedy that is “100 percent risk-free, comedy that could not trigger or upset or mildly trouble a single student.” This excludes multitudes of subject matter, and holds comedians to a standard that arguably no other art form is held to. The Big Show’s most recent past performers, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Chance the Rapper’s lyrics contain many offensive lines, which few students made a fuss about. If a comedian were to say something along the lines of “I got them penis poems for your vagina monologues, love a feminist b*tch, oh it get my d*ck hard,” a line from Danny Brown’s song “Outer Space,” or “slap happy f*ggot slapper, Iraqi rocket launcher,” from Chance the Rapper’s song “Favorite Song,” they’d likely be booed off the stage. While those lines are particularly appalling, the fact remains, there is a peculiar double standard between musicians and comedians.
Skidmore errs on the more liberal side of campuses, and definitely on the more politically correct side. Each academic year typically contains a slew of bias reports; we are certainly quick to jump on the next big social justice cause, and this kind of social awareness can be fruitful and productive. Our progressive attitude makes us more sensitive and passionate global citizens. But, it can also be suffocating if taken too far. Lively Lucy’s Open Mic nights have few to no standup acts, and comedy clubs that perform at ComFest are often under scrutiny if their acts toe the line of insensitivity.
Comedy is a means by which we are able to confront hard topics and social issues, and bring them to light in a palatable way. For example, Hannibal Buress was instrumental in sparking the discussion surrounding Bill Cosby’s sexual assault allegations; women started speaking up about their experiences with Cosby after Buress included a bit in his standup act about Cosby being a rapist. Buress did not include this bit in order to be seen as what GQ describes as a “feminist hero,” he claims he said it simply “to be funny.” And yet, broaching this serious accusation in the middle of a comedy set had a swift and monumental impact.
So, we think it’s great that Buress is willing to come perform at our school. Hopefully, he confronts us with topics that are challenging and may put us on edge. Let’s be a sensitive community, but also a bold one. As President Glotzbach said in a recent interview with the Skidmore News, “we are not [a student body that is] afraid of ideas.” Let’s keep that statement true.