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Letter to the editor

On Monday night, I attended the SiriusXM "Electoral College Tour" comedy show in Page Auditorium. The show was sponsored by the Duke Center for Politics, Leadership and Service (or Duke POLIS). Professor Fritz Mayer, the director, spoke first, describing the show as “an attempt to fix our broken politics through comedy." By “broken politics,” he didn’t mean the corrupt political system that has drawn criticism from both the right and the left. He meant the Republicans.

The first comedian to perform was Pete Dominick, who has previously toured with Stephen Colbert. Dominick harshly criticized the Republican field of candidates but spared the Democrats. Next to perform was Dean Obeidallah, who offered an equally harsh critique of the Republican field. He, too, left the Democrats unscathed. I didn’t agree with these comedians politically—this is an understatement—but I found their acts to be relatively tasteful.

The third and final comedian to perform was John Fugelsang. He tore into conservatism, Catholicism, the Republicans and, tastelessly, even the late Justice Antonin Scalia (who died just over two weeks ago). "I can reduce [Scalia’s] life's work," claimed Fugelsang, “to one sentence: blacks are dumb people, women are dirty people, gays are evil people, accused are guilty people and corporations are people.” The audience, which included many students, laughed and applauded. I nearly got up and left.

Let’s get one thing straight: Scalia was brilliant. He was an inspiration to thousands of law students and revered even among his opponents. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia’s ideological opposite, called him a “jurist of captivating brilliance and wit.” POLIS, many of whose students are pre-law like me, should not be bringing in speakers who rhetorically spit on the work of a Supreme Court Justice—even if it’s done in jest. I understand Fugelsang was only making a joke, but I found it offensive: if a comedian comes to Duke after my death and calls me a racist, sexist homophobe by virtue of my constitutional philosophy, I certainly hope the joke is not received with laughter and applause.

At Duke, where a "Cops and Robbers" party was recently protested as racist, no one is expecting to see any conservative comedians book shows anytime soon. Still, POLIS would be well-served to present some degree of balance. During the Q&A, an audience member asked, "Let's be fair: how come there haven't been any Hillary Clinton jokes?" Dominick responded that, while the Republicans are easy targets, he simply couldn’t find fault with "America's first female president." Obeidallah and Fugelsang agreed.

Noah Kane 

Trinity '17


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