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Insensitivity unintentional

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, November 1, 2005

I am the student stand-up comedian who wrote and performed the joke criticized by Ashley Williams in the Oct. 31 issue of The Observer.

It has been said that a good joke requires no explanation. That said, I would rather go down as a lousy comedian than as a bigot.

The joke, as written and roughly told was: “Rosa Parks just passed away, which I don’t mean to make light of. She is an American hero and a civil rights pioneer. Because of her, black Notre Dame students can sit in the front of the dining hall.”

Anyone who has spent so much as a day at Notre Dame knows that this is, sadly, a self-segregated campus. This is especially evident at the dining hall – as was the point of the joke. It has been my experience, and the experience of many others, that we are greeted with strange or suspicious looks when sitting down to eat with friends of a different race. That is the insensitivity and intolerance here. Race matters, as Williams says, and it shouldn’t, so I say. This was the point of my joke, which most students were able to recognize, if uncomfortably.

I believe comedy ought to go beyond airline-peanut jokes. The best comedians, the ones I idolize, have turned comedy into a way to combat prejudice and the absurdity of class conflict through irony. This has been my guiding principle in three years of performing comedy at Notre Dame, and it was the intention of the joke. I can’t be held responsible for those who would willfully misinterpret my humor. My previously-performed work proves my impatience with discrimination.

Williams selectively quoted my material and left out the portion of the joke that paid homage to Rosa Parks, printed above. Parks was merely a vehicle to discussion of a larger important issue crippling student relations at this University, which hopefully begins now.

Will SeathseniorMorrissey ManorOct. 31