Do We Have the Right to Censor Critical Comedy?

Courtesy of EzmosisComedian Hannibal Buress hosts his Sunday night showcase at The Knitting Factory, a live music venue, in Brooklyn, New York.

Hannibal Buress, a Chicago-born comedian, headlined Loyola’s 2018 Colossus, an annual two-night concert and comedy event put on by the university’s Department of Programming (DOP). When the highly anticipated performance began, Buress opened his show with a joke about the Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandals, and the response from Loyola’s Jesuit, Catholic administration wasn’t too hot.

Buress showcased Loyola’s contract in which the university restricts any sexually explicit material from being stated during a performance, and he followed with a joke regarding how Catholic priests sexually abuse children. With a mic cut, Buress tried to continue his act without a mic — to no avail — and a temporary halt in the performance ensued.

And now, students and staff are posing the question: Who was in the wrong? Buress or the university?

There are compelling arguments on both sides of the controversy, but overall, Loyola putting the blame on Buress would be extremely hypocritical.

A liberal arts education maximizes on a system of free speech and critique, so why shouldn’t a performance guest at a liberal arts college be granted the same freedom?

While the comment was rather disrespectful to the religiously-tied institution, it isn’t something that should be censored, especially in comedy. Comedy provides artists a platform to provoke and critique current and historical social issues in a way that resonates well with audiences. Through content that’s both informative and entertaining, comedy remains an effective platform to spread a message.

Loyola’s Colossus history includes multiple comedians who push boundaries through comedic criticism. Just last year, Trevor Noah, a comedian known for his satirical news updates on The Daily Show, headlined the DOP’s 2017 Colossus. In addition, Nick Offerman, a comedian who’s often coined as being blunt and, at times, offensive, performed at Colossus. This is where the institution’s hypocrisy is exposed. So, can Loyola only praise criticism when it’s not affiliated with them?

Catholic priests’ well-known scandals of molestation are an issue worth criticizing, and calling out institutional hypocrisy should be welcomed in any way, on any platform, no-holds-barred. Being a school with deep-rooted values in activism and change, Loyola shouldn’t criticize certain forms of social justice while applauding others.

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