Columbia High's Friday Night Live Show Cancelled, Then Moved

Friday Night Live, a comedy sketch club, saw their performance cancelled then relocated

The Saturday show went on for (FNL), Columbia High School's comedy sketch club, though the performance was first cancelled by school officials, then moved to the . Still, confusion lingers. The performance is the subject of a lengthy MaplewoodOnline thread, and considerable social media speculation on the part of students.

FNL is a performance group based on Saturday Night Live sketch comedy, explained Grace Gifford, who graduated from CHS in 2011. Gifford, a FNL member, was , and described the group and its activities. The group meets throughout the year to write a series of sketches that become the annual June performance. In recent years, the June performance has taken place in the Black Box Theatre at CHS; shows generally sell out.

The sketches spoof life at Columbia High School and beyond, Gifford explained in 2010, poking fun at well-known students, teachers, and administrators. Members of the group are regulars at CHS in Action Night.

This year, some school adults and students felt the comedy went too far, according to a student who contacted Patch. Students present at a performance earlier this week believe that an adult district employee asked a student to videotape a sketch that may have parodied her. According to three reports from those present, when that student began videotaping, despite requests from the troupe not to photograph or tape the performance, the student was asked to leave. However, this report has not been confirmed by authorities, and the identity of the adult was not released to Patch.

Others felt it was the content of the show that caused officials to act.  A junior at CHS tells Patch, "The shows were just very raunchy and innappropriate, their jokes were aimed mostly at homosexuals but they had a few jokes aimed towards Africans or people of African descent."  She continues, "I think students were truly angered just because the show was so innappropriate."

After performances earlier in the week, school officials told the group, which has two faculty advisors, that the final (Saturday) performance would be cancelled.  The group was able to obtain space at the Maplewood Tennis Club, where, explains a parent who was present, the venue sold out, with standing-room only.

The district has not yet made a formal statement on the incident.

Patch will continue to follow this story.

Marcia Worth (Editor) June 13, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Aimee, I, South Orange Patch editor, wrote the story. If you have any firsthand knowledge or experience of this incident, I would be delighted to have your perspective. You are also more than welcome to write a letter to the editor or even a longer piece detailing your experiences or more fully explaining what agenda you see being put forward here. When emails came in about this incident, my first question to those readers was what their experience/perspective was. I have no reason to doubt anything I was told. Again, if you care to add to this, you're most welcome. As to your final point, there are, indeed, adults who watch FNL without having a child in the show. I have personally attended for a few years to see and support friends of the family.
Rick June 13, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Interesting that there were no people of color and only one woman in the group. I wonder if the club truly represented Maplewood's diverse racial and social makeup if jokes about gays and blacks would have been tolerated. Or if the school's money (unless the faculty advisors, who, it seems, did not advise against this kind of humor, advised for free on their own time) should be spent encouraging this kind of behavior? I wasn't there, but like Marcia says, I have no reason to disbelieve the CHS junior who reported that the humor was "inappropriate."
aimee willis June 13, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Mary and Marcia, Thank you for responding. I am just frustrated with the way this whole abrupt cancellation happened, without any explanation to the performers or their families, and the way we use race as a hot button issue to instill fear within organizations to get what we want, without regard to the damage it causes in furthering a REAL discussion of racial equality and harmony. The jokes were not 'mostly aimed at homosexuals', unless I fell asleep during most of the show. Maybe if you had also included some quotes from someone with something positive to say about the show, the article would've appeared more balanced.
Talya Rothenberg June 13, 2012 at 01:26 PM
I have to agree with Aimee. Since I attended all three shows (I am a parent of one of the participants), I feel that this article is misleading. Where are the comments from the many people laughing and enjoying the skits? Where are the comments from those who were impressed with the kids and their hard work? I know I was not the only adult who felt proud to be in a community where we can laugh at ourselves and where kids think something is wrong with a parent who does not accept their gay child (the premise of one skit). What is disturbing is that the teachers and administrators who were offended, as far as I know, did not attend the show before judging and determining that the kids were being offensive to a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, or group. And if offense was taken, it should have been an opportunity for dialogue, not division. The lines are not clear in a community where many of us feel comfortable - maybe too comfortable with each other. If so, this is an opportunity to use our resources such as the Coalition on Race and come together. Sadly, so far, this experience has left many of those who had a child in the show feeling great disappointment for the way the administration has handled this situation. They have still not addressed the kids with any information as to why exactly the show was canceled.
Mary Mann June 13, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Thanks, Tayla, for the feedback! See Marcia's comment a few back. You can reach her at marciaw@patch.com. Sometimes it's hard to track down actual people when all we have to go on are MOL avatars!
Marcia Worth (Editor) June 13, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Please get in touch! Please share your responses: marciaw@patch.com. I can't be clearer that your comments are very welcome.
Marcia Worth (Editor) June 13, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Please feel free to give a call, as well: 973 862 9205
Lori Abrams June 13, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I am an FNL parent. I believe the shutdown of FNL highlights school administrators’ difficulty dealing with racial sensitivities. Last year, an American history mosaic of hundreds of images assembled by several classes over many hours was removed due to a single offensive tile. Rather than transform this into a school-wide teaching moment, teachers refused to discuss it with students because they were forbidden or because they didn’t feel equipped. True, some FNL antics go right to the edge, but the production is an outlet for students who write and perform, and the audience of students, parents, teachers and administrators who watch. And laugh. If we want to understand our children, let’s pay close attention. The theater they’ve created reflects issues that are shaping them, their social environment (to which we are seldom privy), the messages we send them, the responsibilities they bear (and confess to), and our own idiosyncratic behaviors. Our students’ observations offer us clues about issues we do not yet know how to address but force us to acknowledge and challenge us to chart a course to move our community forward to the place some wrongly believe we already occupy. Parody, as it is intended, causes us to flinch. It offers raw and unpleasant truths about human behavior. If we censor our children when they reveal to us who we truly are no matter our ethnicity, then shame on us for squandering an opportunity to be the model community that we purport to be.
Lori Abrams June 13, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Just to clarify, there is an African-American male student and four female students in the group. I do not think faculty and staff are paid to advise the group. The students poke fun at everyone, including themselves for their own personal missteps during the course of their high school career.
John Alexander June 13, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Rick, the reason there were so few people of color, is simply because fairly few people of color auditioned
aimee willis June 13, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Rick, You can't make people audition. In this day and age we try to teach our kids that they are unique individuals, not just representatives of their genders, sexual orientations or ethnicities to fill quotas. Not only did few people of color audition; few people auditioned. This is a special skill set kind of performance niche. You are out there on your own, in front of your peers, performing your own material, which takes courage, but now we are implying they are racist and homophobic in an article? By your comment, one could then infer that if there had been more than one African American performer, the skit a few people had a problem with would not have been written? Does that mean that the African American student (who will be a FNL director next year) was overridden in standing up to the majority, or that he didn't do his job as an African American? And do you know the sexual orientation of the performers, their family members, or the faculty advisors?
aimee willis June 13, 2012 at 11:42 PM
The skit that spoofed several teachers, including the one who objected, was making fun of each persons' well known personality quirks, not their ethnicities. If your take away from that skit was that they were making fun of African Americans, you had to also think they were making fun of Polish people-you can't have it both ways. The skit with the gay youth was about his father being homophobic. When people cry 'Wolf" in this way, we only ensure that when something actually important comes up, no one will listen. If you look for red flags everywhere, you're gonna find them, even if they don't actually exist.
aimee willis June 14, 2012 at 12:52 AM
There's a petition up at Change.org that explains the situation as the FNL team sees it: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-chs-administration-superintendent-osborne-and-the-somsd-board-of-ed-exonerate-the-members-of-friday-night-live In the interest of fairness, let's see an article on this, please.
aimee willis June 14, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Please sign the above petition.
Marcia Worth (Editor) June 14, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Again, Aimee, please get in touch with your firsthand knowledge of the situation.
Olive June 14, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Everyone has an opinion which should be valued but don't share it if you're ignorant or have no prior knowledge of the conflict. First, FNL is not funded by the school. It is run by the students. Second, you wondering "if the club truly represented Maplewood's diverse racial and social makeup if jokes about gays and blacks would have been tolerated" is completely countered by the fact, as the previous commenter had stated, that there is an African-American male student and four female students in the group. Furthermore, the point of the group is to offer a humorous point of view on everyday occurences in the school, so questioning whether "jokes about gays and blacks would have been tolerated" is completely unrelated.
Playingtheracecard June 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Why are the majority of you blaming the show's cancellation on the black teacher and the racial issues? The alleged scandalous sexual relationship between two administrators was also spoofed! Why don't you think that these angry and embarrassed administrators are the reason why the show was canceled? Folks are quick to place all the blame on this one teacher, when two other faculty were also depicted in a negative fashion. Do you universally believe that the only reason that the performance was pulled was due to the racial issue? Does the Black faculty member have that much influence? I think not. Talya seems to be the one commenter with a reasonable perspective, which is that the administration should have provided a reason for why the show was cancelled instead of allowing these gross assumptions to fester, especially in light of the fact that everyone believes it's the Black teacher's fault for the cancellation. And just so we're all clear, the majority of you folks are a bunch of hopeless racists. Yes. I said it. And I'm not playing any race card. I'm simply calling it as I see it. And to prove my point, let's see how many of those who have blamed the cancellation on the Black teacher can admit that they did so to the exclusion of other plausible reasons for it's cancellation (versus those that will lash out at being called racists).
Janet Coviello June 14, 2012 at 12:55 PM
A suggestion for Playingtheracecard: if you're going to post a comment in which you accuse people of being "hopeless racists", at least have the courage to use your name.
Al June 14, 2012 at 01:02 PM
I just happened upon this article and all of its post. This is the first i have heard of FNL. After reading everything on the "Patch " i have to say i agree most with "Playingtheracecard " i read the article and dont understand how the discussion ended up about the black teacher.
Al June 14, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I want to hear about the relationship between the two administrators
aimee willis June 14, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Playingtheracecard, There were actually 3 teachers spoofed in that skit, plus a few more faculty in the other skits. However, those teachers did not complain, go to FNL advisors and complain, or offer extra credit to their students for film and pictures. Teachers are spoofed every year, and have been for 40 years, with no cancellation. Apparently, a history project had been shut down last year as well, so yes, some people do seem to have an unusual amount of power. Something I am sure we will all be looking into.
Playingtheracecard June 14, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Janet, what does knowing my name add or detract from the dialogue? Does it make you feel better? Too bad. Since you've not contributed to this thread aside from remarking that I'm casting aspersions, I'll continue to bask in my anonymity. Aimee, do you know for a fact that the other teachers did not complain? No you do not. Do you know for a fact that the alleged teacher offered extra credit to any student for film and pictures? No you do not. Do you know for a fact that the teacher in question went to the FNL advisor and complain. No you do not. You are making assumptions OR you are basing your opinions on one side of the story, presumably one fed to you by the students who are behind maligning students and faculty in the first place. Unless you have spoken to the teachers in question, you have no FACTS about what took place, just hyperbole and conjecture. The fact that FNL students have spoofed faculty for 40 years without being cancelled only speaks to how disempowered faculty, teachers and students may have felt in those years. The one year a teacher or teachers stand up for themselves, suddenly this 40 year precedent means that those teachers are wrong? Are you suggesting that regardless of how repugnant and distasteful these skits are, they should be tolerated simply because they are cast as spoofs? I think not.
aimee willis June 14, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Racecard, I'm sure Janet's point, one I agree with, is that if you are going to call people racists, have the gonads to own it. Aside from that, I could care less who you are. There were no skits that were 'repugnant and distasteful'. What evidence do you have that there were-did you see a show? And I doubt teachers have been cowering in the halls for years, waiting for one strong, brave teacher who was willing to take a stand against the diabolical high school students who made jokes at their expense in front of multiple dozens of friends and family once a year. Whew!
Janet Coviello June 14, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Playingtheracecard, I would submit that anonymously hurling accusations of racism at people you don't know is cowardly and adds nothing of value to this discussion. Second, I did contribute to another thread on this topic, a portion of which is below. In truth, the show is an equal opportunity offender. It pokes fun at everyone—nerds, jocks, hipsters, coaches, parents, teachers, you name it. Anyone who finds this type of material offensive to the point of reporting it to the administration should probably stay away from comedy in the 21st century.
Mary Mann June 14, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Just to reiterate: That article was not inaccurate. It accurately reported a statement issued by the district. Your argument is with the district. And Patch is following up with the district on allegations that the district's statement was inaccurate. Thanks!
aimee willis June 15, 2012 at 01:40 AM
I must say, however, that I am very flattered to be lumped in with Janet, who is an extremely thoughtful and intelligent person!
Marcia Worth (Editor) June 15, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Two comments were deleted by the editor. Please remember to keep your remarks civil. I know this has become a heated topic. Thank you.
STEPHANIE VOLIN June 15, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Aimee, you're acting like a bit of a bully here: bullying the Patch editors, bullying people on MOL (IF you are who I think you are) and also here. Quite tantrumy really. Ease off the exclamation points. Threatening lawsuits? What kind of lesson is THAT for the kids? I have no special knowledge of the situation, but I am willing to wait and listen to the facts as they emerge. Someone is covering their bum big time, and that will come out eventually. But in the meantime, you seem unwilling to believe that someone could have possibly been offended by this skit. The skits change every year, correct? So why is it so inconceivable that this is the first year in 40 that these kids stepped out of bounds and someone was genuinely wounded? Who are you to tell them how they should feel? Of course it would be nice if we could all laugh at ourselves in some sort of post-racial, post-gender, post-nerd etc. utopia. Possibly the atmosphere will need nitrous oxide. I don't know. I signed the petition because I think the punishment was overly severe and there were clearly other issues at play, and probably some miscommunication.
aimee willis June 15, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Stephanie, It is not my intention to bully. Yes, those of us with children in FNL do know what sparked the situation. I am not saying that comedy, including this FNL show, does not have the potential to offend people. I AM saying that there is a responsible way to react, whether that is not seeing the show, talking to the kids, etc., and that has not been done here. People can feel however they want to feel, but handle it in a mature way, not by implying kids are racist and homophobic, right next to a photo of the kids! The legal action you mention was me wondering if Patch releases names of people who post extremely slanderous comments while remaining anonymous only by subpoena. Patch removed the slanderous comment. What the school is doing to our children is unconscionable, and as a parent, I take that seriously. I am sorry if I come off tantrumy. It is because I would like the things that are printed about this painful situation and these children to be as accurate as possible, and see them treated fairly, because that is a parent's job. If you were a parent in this position, and you could remain calmer, you are obviously a much better person than I. I am doing my best.
STEPHANIE VOLIN June 15, 2012 at 11:27 AM
sorry, Aimee, I should have been more clear. If it was my child, I would absolutely be pursuing this as vigorously as possible, including retaining a lawyer. My comment about the "threatening lawsuits" was in reference to the comments that have since been deleted (probably while I was writing). Here's a general thought, not aimed at anyone in particular: anyone who casually throws around the term "race card" should own all of the baggage that comes with it. It's a divisive and ugly term. It drips with contempt. People that use it probably don't drink their morning tea from an "I Heart My Black Neighbors" mug.


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