Comedian Hannibal Buress’ mic was cut after making a joke about the Catholic Church’s history of child abuse during his Saturday night Colossus performance, attendees said.
Colossus is an annual, two-night show held by Loyola’s student-run Department of Programming (DOP) in Gentile Arena, where a musical act performs one night and a comedic act the other night.
Buress reportedly opened his set with pictures of an email he said he received from Loyola detailing the school’s restrictions for Colossus artists, including a ban on any content regarding rape, sexual assault, race and sexual orientation.
The show began with a DJ opener, Tony Trimm, whose set was also reportedly cut short. According to students in attendance, he was playing music containing swearing, such as Kendrick Lamar. He later wrote on Twitter, “I got about 15 minutes into my set before they cut me. Thanks Loyola. Saving the world one cuss at a time.”
Buress took the stage soon after another comedian warmed up the crowd.
After making a comment referencing priests’ molestation of children, Buress’ microphone cut out. The upset crowd booed but eventually quieted so Buress could perform without a microphone. The background music’s volume was reportedly increased, according to attendees, and the comedian left the stage for 15 minutes. After the break, he returned and finished his set.
Evangeline Politis, communications specialist at Loyola, confirmed Buress’ mic was cut because he “violated the mutually agreed upon content restriction clause in his contract.”
The statement went on: “It is standard for the University to include a content restriction clause in entertainment contracts; Buress is the only entertainer to disregard the clause to the degree that his mic was cut. Buress eventually returned to the stage and completed his set.”
Politis said she didn’t feel comfortable answering any further questions, as she wasn’t present during the event.
William Rodriguez, Assistant Vice President of Loyola and Dean of Students, said the “degree” to which Buress disregarded his contract was decided in consultation with administrators after considering the details of the situation. According to Rodriguez, there’s no universal “degree,” but rather each situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
While DOP puts on Colossus every year, its assistant director, Leslie Watland, said Student Development Administrators made the decisions during the show.
“DOP students did not make any day-of decisions for Hannibal Buress’ show,” Watland wrote in a email to The PHOENIX. “Student Development Administrators made the decisions.”
Rodriguez expounded on Watland’s statement.
“[The decision to cut Buress’ mic was] made in consultation with a number of administrators,” Rodriguez said. “The decision … was a very difficult one, but one that was determined to be most appropriate based on his content and behavior and one that did not involve any student staff.”
During the break, Buress took to Twitter to share his thoughts about what happened, writing, “Weird way to celebrate sweet 16,” in reference to Loyola Ramblers’ March Madness win over the Tennessee Volunteers earlier that evening.
Hours later, Buress’ tweet was no longer available.
Members of the audience vented their frustration with the handling of the situation on Twitter, writing, “Loyola just cut Hannibal’s mic. This is ridiculous. We want Hannibal.”
Once Campus Safety reportedly stationed themselves at the front of the stage, Ally Boly, a 20-year-old international studies and history double major, thought the situation was about to escalate.
“I literally thought like I was about to witness a riot and I was ready to participate,” Boly said. “Also it’s wild that Loyola preaches about speaking up and speaking out but they’re gonna censor someone doing just that, like that’s wild. Also I’m really impressed with all the Loyola kids that stood their ground and refused to leave without an explanation.”
After the break, Buress returned to a standing ovation from the crowd. He reportedly explained he was originally going to follow Loyola’s content restriction until he saw that he’d already been paid for his performance ahead of time.
Rodriguez said it’s common for Loyola to “honor requests for early payment from artists after contracts have been properly processed.”
Buress reportedly made jokes about Loyola cutting his microphone throughout the rest of the night.
Rachel Martin, a 20-year-old international studies and Spanish double major, said she thought the situation was poorly handled overall with poor communication between Loyola, Hannibal and the students in attendance.
“I guess I can understand where Loyola — or whoever was controlling the mics — is coming from, because Hannibal did outright say he was going to violate the contract restrictions,” Martin said. “[Loyola] said he couldn’t talk about race in his show, which seems highly restrictive, especially for a man who is known to incorporate his black identity into his performances. So, although I can see where Loyola is coming from, I think the situation could’ve been handled a lot better.”
Additional reporting by Baylee Corona, Jane Miller and Mary Grace Ritter.