Comedians tackle race, religion, college

Tishauna Carrell,
Staff Writer

Around 300 students laughed and teared up as comedian Tony Roberts jokingly danced to hit single, “Juju on that Beat” during a recent comedy show at Cal State East Bay’s Hayward campus.

When he asked a student from the audience to come up on stage and dance with him, a roar of “Aye” chants came from the crowd. Roberts also shared a story about the first time he performed on stage where he passed gas 14 times. “It smelled bad,” Roberts told the crowd. “I thought I had cancer, like that’s the West Nile Virus.”

Roberts has appeared on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” BET’s “ComicView,” “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” and “Shaquille All Star Comedy Jam.”

Associated Students Inc., the student government body at Cal State East Bay, hosted its 3rd annual comedy show with five headliners, Arnez J, Tony Roberts, Taylor Tomlinson, Ray Lipowski and Nema Williams, at the University Theatre on Jan. 19. DJ Quam played hip-hop hits before the event and during the breaks. The event was free for students.

Roberts, an actor, comedian and M.C. for the night, amped the crowd with stories, animated behavior and interactive questions, in a 20-minute performance and four 10-minute breaks.

Other comics throughout the night also shared personal experiences in their comedy routines, which often centered on racial themes.

“I look very wholesome, like I’m very white,” said Taylor Tomlinson, a Modesto native who wore black skinny jeans, a gray cotton top and black leather jacket on stage. “If I told you my dad was mayonnaise you’d be like ‘that checks out’. I look very wholesome, like men don’t even picture me naked. They picture me helping their mom on Christmas.”

Tomlinson discussed topics that college students can relate to, such as roommate issues and dating. “I follow the special events page on Instagram and when I saw [Taylor], I was like, let me see who she is and thought she was really funny so I wanted to see her,” said Jazz Chand, a 27-year-old business administration major and comedy fan.

Tomlinson asked the mostly 20-something crowd if the people they went to high school with are having kids and getting married all over Facebook. “And it’s never the best people from high school that start doing it first, is it?” she asked. “It’s never like ‘oh the valedictorian has a family’ it’s always like ‘oh trashy Lauren made some garbage babies, good for her.’”

Race and religion were the most popular themes of the night. The audience was diverse, but African Americans seemed to dominate the population. Topics ranged from poking fun at cultural differences in Caucasians, African Americans and Asians. Religions such as Christianity and Islam were also mentioned.

Some of the comedians even referenced each other’s jokes. The biggest laugh of the night went to comic Ray Lipowski when he referred to Roberts’ topic of passing gas. “If you can’t control your bowel movements, stay home,” Lipowski said. “This is why you don’t doo doo in public, cause there’s no amount of wiping that will ever suffice.”

Lipowski, who is white, shared how biggest cultural difference between he and his African American wife is the Happy Birthday song. He asked the black audience to sing their version of “Happy Birthday,” originally sang by Stevie Wonder. “Now watch the energy in this room change,” he said.

Walking on stage with a black suit and a gray fleece infinity scarf around his neck, Arnez J. was unapologetic about his jokes about race and warned, “It’s only funny till I get to your race.” He said, “We’ve been living with this one thing for a long time. Black people, remember that cliche saying ‘All you black people look alike?’ Remember that? Yeah, that’s an outright lie, it’s the Asians.”

Students gasped and chuckled when Roberts pointed to a girl in the audience and told her she had big breasts. The audience was shocked but seemed forgiving when he joked about women looking like lamps, “Big breasts and skinny bodies look like a lamp, you can’t even tie your shoes.”

ASI officials chose comics featured in the show based on surveys given to students after previous comedy shows, as well as comedians who are available to perform, according to Cochran. In efforts to follow the Title IX, an act that was passed in 1972 to end discrimination and sexual assault in schools, comics are censored on the topics of sex and race. Cochran said they’ve received complaints from students and staff about previous performers saying derogatory and racial slurs in the past.

“It’s not my intent for any artist that we book to offend the university,” said Cochran.

According to Cochran, when Ty Dolla $ign performed at Spring Mayhem in 2016, he used derogatory language that caused Cochran to receive two ‘strikes’ from the university. Strikes could have an effect on his job and ASI’s future events. The second strike came when singer Kamaiyah performed at Al Fresco in 2016 and said the “N-word” which offended some of the African American community, according to Cochran.

“I have two strikes with the university, due to performing artist issues,” Cochran said. “I can’t risk another.”

The comedy show experience was originally started by previous program coordinator, Jon Stoll from 2008-2013, however, when Cochran became the new coordinator in 2013, he temporarily discontinued the show as he settled in his new position, but then picked up again in 2015 because of its previous success.

“The goal is for students to laugh so hard that they momentarily forget the climate of our country,” said Cochran.