Yamil Piedra (Spanish for “pretty rock”), an actor in the film“When Justin Meets Kelly,” in TV series like “Graceland” and an occasional co-star on programs like “TOSH.0,” created a self-titled one man comedy show featured during new student orientation this year. Throngs of socially timid fresh-people processed across the North Residential Village. Some of us were under the impression that the event, “Pretty Rock Project,” meant painting over the colorful boulder near Denny’s. But as our crowd surged past Denny’s and other landmarks of burgeoning familiarity down to the field, we formed new theories about what was to take place. Gleaning bits and pieces from passerby conversations, we understood that a real treat awaited us: there was a comedy show in the tent.
Tweeting highlights from Piedra’s twitter account flashed on the projector screen as students filed into the tent. At that point, his humor seemed harmless, sometimes more punny than funny, social commentary. Then the show began.
Nothing struck me as a hilarious. I mustered a chuckle here and there just to show courtesy to the man who put it all on the line in front of a restless crowd. I think the bravery of any performer warrants at least a little slack from audiences. However, as time went on, the jokes lost their luster. Then whatever resemblance of class Piedra started off with decayed away. What was left barely constituted entertainment.
One by one, volunteers from the audience made their way on stage to complement one of Piedra’s ridiculous alter-egos. The dud magician persona ripped up one girl’s dollar bill. She responded only with a prompt flick of her middle finger as she walked off stage. Piedra welcomed another female volunteer to the stage with a cat-call and performed the “magic trick” of covering her with a sheet, picking her up and putting her back down. How clever.
The performance really took a turn for the worse when Piedra pulled out his iPad to scroll through his greeting card concepts. I can’t imagine I was the only one taken aback by the card about suicide. On the cover it read, “Sorry to hear about your latest failed suicide attempt,” and on the inside? “Please try again.”
This mess of poorly-veiled sexism and insensitivity—among other offensive themes—drove us away in, well, droves. Luckily, fireworks started to crackle in the distance, providing us a convenient excuse to leave.
The fact that Piedra expected uncontrollable laughter after every “ef you” and not-so-poignant expletive heavily influenced my own decision to leave. Though, his success up until that point means that he has a solid fan base. Our age group probably comprises a decent portion of that fan base. The coordinators for new orientation figured that we all must enjoy the crude, insult-based “TOSH.0” style of comedy. It’s an unfair generalization, to be sure. But we should also take responsibility for perpetuating that stereotype.
We didn’t have to laugh at Piedra’s immaturity. Not only did we reinforce the belief that college humor is inherently offensive, but we created unwanted tension in our blossoming, fragile friendships. Every idle smile at Piedra’s stupidity brought on disapproving looks from those who weren’t afraid to express their distaste. This wasn’t an ideal situation for beginning long-lasting college relationships.
One would think this incoming class’s high SAT scores would indicate a higher caliber of humor, and maybe our standards are higher after all. But until we learn to refine our appreciation and reject the comedy status-quo, we’ll run the risk of sacrificing our intelligence for a cheap laugh. Yamil Piedra can go back to “TOSH.0” while we find the sense of humor that better reflects an atmosphere of higher education.
Maia Delegal is a first-year student from Jacksonville, Florida. She is planning to double major in music performance and either cognitive science, psychology, neurobiology, political science or women’s and gender studies. In her free time she likes to read, write and have jam sessions with the talented musicians in Taft.