Comedian Pete Lee Preaches It’s “Okay to be Mean”?

Comedian Pete Lee returned to campus for a third time last Friday, providing controversial yet hilarious entertainment in the fully packed Kemper Auditorium.

Lee travels around the United States performing stand-up comedy and has been featured on a web showas well as multiple radio and television shows.

Lee wasted no time and jumped straight into the comedy, ridiculing, attacking and stereotyping, humorously, of course.

Many of his jokes playfully targeted his own flaws and personality. Lee began by making fun of his own name, Peter, which he defined as “dude unit.” He recalled his childhood days when his classmates would shout, “Peter’s playing with his Peter!” and how he would return home in tears. This story brought the first wave of laughs from the audience.

Lee later reenacted his confrontation with a controlling man who shared the same name and attempted to change Lee’s name to “Pete” in order to become the only “Peter.” As he continued with a range of anecdotes about his relationship with his wife, the audience discovered new things about Lee, and the atmosphere became increasingly filled with laughter.

“I liked his personality because when he started going on to how he wanted to be a manly man and about his name, that made him really casual and sweet. It made him less of a stranger,” said Chiamaka Okorie ’13.

Much of Lee’s comedy followed along the lines of, “It’s okay to be mean to someone as long as it’s funny,” and “You look fat when you cry.”

Lee gave many examples of when it was “Okay to be mean,” sending the audience into uncontrollable fits of laughter. Yelling at a child is not funny, but putting a baby monitor under a child’s bed and whispering to him is funny said Lee.

At times, however, Lee even went a little too far, and the audience had to decide when it was all right to laugh. When Lee rebutted a fictitious fatherless boy with the phrase, “At least I have a dad,” and other references to fathers, he ensued cries of “Ooooh” and “That was rough” from the audience.

However, his ridiculous facial expressions and exaggerated accents affirmed that his acts were on the joking side rather than the insulting side they occasionally tapered towards.

“I think [Lee] was sort of trying to set the parameters of how to be funny, [and] although he did sort of push it sometimes, I think he was kind of making a statement that making fun of people is okay as long as they’re laughing too,” said Auggie Horner ’14.

Later in the show, Lee also pinpointed members of the audience, tagging them with comical labels and stereotypes, from “spirit leader” Blue Key Heads to the Turkish student Lee assumed was Muslim.

These taglines also spread to the sports community, when Lee began imitating ESPN hosts. He assigned nicknames based to famous athletes based on their physical flaws, forcing the audience to visualize their exagerated features.

Yet these hysterical assumptions turned delicate when Lee humorously portrayed Asians doing dry cleaning, nails and Kung Fu. Although the audience clapped and shook Kemper Auditorium with laughter, a few protests of “That’s so racist!” could be heard.

“I don’t think the stereotypes that he was making fun of are the stereotypes that I tend to come across, so the humor didn’t quite mesh,” said Kate Shih ’13.

Lee’s humor did occasionally drift to the crude and dirty side, and when the laughter from the audience died down to a few hefty chuckles, Lee would start afresh on a new act.

Towards the end Lee turned his attention to animals, ridiculing his giant 23-pound cat, and joking about beating geese down with feather pillows. One of the most popular jokes of the night was when Lee compared penguins fighting to two gay males complimenting each other.

“I liked the joke he made about the penguins fighting, it was cleaner than the rest and just funny in a lighthearted sort of way,” said Sean Ballinger ’12.

While Lee’s comedy proved to be an overall success in providing belly-clenching entertainment, his performance also had an underlying meaning.

“I want people to realize that it’s okay to be vulnerable and weak, and not have to walk around and puff your chest out all the time,” said Lee.

“Comedy is really all about pointing out those [negative and insecure] things about yourself and then exploiting them and making people laugh. You sort of almost heal yourself of all your insecurities while you’re up on stage because you’re just like, ‘This is me.’”

There were definitely a few grumbles about some of Lee’s insensitive comments, but Lee was up there to tell jokes. “Everything [Lee] says is a joke, and it’s not meant to be taken seriously. And we should be happy [that] we can laugh at these things and not actually take them as insulting things,” said Ballinger.