Conservative comedian Steven Crowder entertained Gustavus students with a comedy routine followed by political dialogue last Thursday. Crowder is one of the youngest contributors on record for the Fox News Network and is also well-known as a stand-up comedian, having performed at the Montreal “Just for Laughs” comedy festival and winning Myspace’s “So You Think You’re Funny” national contest.
Crowder was brought to campus by the College Republicans. He presented his controversial humor to a crowd of both conservatives and liberals. Following his comedy routine, a political discussion was held during which the crowd had the opportunity to ask Crowder any questions they wanted.
“I always welcome everybody to come and welcome everybody to ask questions, regardless of political viewpoints. I like bringing a voice and opinion that not everyone has heard before and especially in a way that they have not heard it,” Crowder said. Responding to the controversial nature of his comedy act, Crowder defended his routine, declaring its political incorrectness to be part of the act.
“My first goal is to make people laugh; after all, I am a comedian. I am not necessarily trying to sway opinion or give political advice,” Crowder said.
Crowder began his career in the spotlight at a young age as the voice of the Brain on Arthur. He continued to act on film and television shows throughout the rest of his childhood. At age 18, he began performing stand-up comedy. His talent as a comedian and his viral internet videos with his “own special brand of take-no prisoners, politically incorrect humor” earned him the attention of major cable news and radio programs across the country.
“For the most part, legitimate questions were asked after the show and Crowder provided answers in ways that people could understand, even if they were not politically involved or knowledgeable. Obviously, the goal was not to give direct advice but instead to foster discussion and offer different perspectives,” Cassandra Kendall, vice president of the College Republicans said. Kendall also felt Crowder’s performance was a helpful step towards the College Republicans’s reformed agenda on campus.
“This year is about breaking stereotypes and reaching more of the conservative body. We understand that there are more conservatives on campus who may feel ostracized in a way. This year, we would like to foster more healthy dialogue and create a friendlier environment for conservatives,” Kendall said.
Bess Folsom, junior political science major and president of the College Republicans, is pleased with the way the show went.
“His plane came in on time, the microphones worked and he did not get egged. Overall, I would say it was a success,” Folsom said. Folsom said the College Republicans’ goal inbringing Crowder was reaching out to more of the student body in a different way than in the past when they planned more serious speakers and events.
“We do not want to be serious all the time. We like to laugh and joke. Bringing Crowder to campus is a step towards breaking some of the stereotypes surrounding conservatives on campus. We are lighthearted and like to have fun,” Folsom said.
Not everyone in the audience was amused by Crowder’s act.
“Overall, the problem with Crowder’s act was the mix between comedy and agenda. It was a difficult mix of genres. There was a lot of racism mixed with serious messages. I do not consider that to be comedy,” Mandy McCourt, senior English major and president of the College Democrats said.
“The question and answer session afterwards made no sense given the nature of his act. He is a comedian, but people in the crowd were asking him policy questions. It just was not productive and it just was not the place for a dialogue,” McCourt said.
Some felt that Crowder’s presence on campus was inappropriate given the politically incorrect nature of his YouTube videos.
“Crowder has a lot of offensive material online. He jokes about waterboarding Nancy Pelosi and makes fun of immigrants. His comedy truly is distasteful,” Senior Philosophy and Political Science Major Drew Ajer said.
Responding to the controversy surrounding the politically incorrect nature of Crowder’s show, Folsom defended Crowder’s humor.
“He is a comedian. Yes, he pushed the envelope. He even pushed it for me. It is a comedy show. You cannot take everything he says seriously. He over-generalizes and stereotypes, but he has the right to express comedy in whatever way he chooses. It is his artistic right,” Folsom said.
Despite the tension between the College Democrats and College Republicans regarding the Crowder performance, both groups will continue to work together as peacefully as their differences in views will allow them.
“We have pretty heated debates, especially at the annual Pizza and Politics event. But we leave it at the table. We can still get along outside of politics,” McCourt said, referring to the relationship between the College Democrats and the College Republicans.
“We sincerely do appreciate that the College Democrats showed up. Even through there is opposition and differing points of views, it really meant a lot to us. None of the other groups from the Diversity Leadership Council attended. We can always count on each other to attend each group’s events and show support in that way,” Kendall said.