UPDATED: Conservative comedian who canceled UI show now says he's coming

UPDATED: Conservative comedian who canceled UI show now says he's coming

UPDATE, 11:30 a.m.:

Comedian Steven Crowder now says he will be coming to the University of Illinois on Thursday after all, for a different type of show.

Crowder posted a video Wednesday morning, saying he plans to host a "Change My Mind" live broadcast from the UI at 7 p.m. Thursday. In those YouTube broadcasts, Crowder sits at a table with a provocative sign, such as "Male privilege is a myth," then invites passers-by to change his mind.

He cited security concerns and setup problems for the cancellation of the original show at Lincoln Hall Theater and pledged to pay for University of Illinois police or private security officers to be on hand if needed. He didn't say why he felt so much security was required.

"Unfortunately there's been some miscommunication all around," he said in the video. "I wish the miscommunications could have been corrected behind the scenes, but here we are."

* * * * *

Original story, published 10 p.m. Wednesday:

CHAMPAIGN — A campus show featuring conservative comedian Steven Crowder was abruptly canceled Tuesday, but not because of any controversy about his political views, according to the Republican group that sponsored the event.

The comedian canceled his Thursday night show at Lincoln Hall Theater after his last-minute requests for a fog machine, extra police officers and other demands couldn't be met, according to Jack Johnson, president of the Illini Republicans, which was sponsoring his appearance.

The biggest hurdle was Crowder's demand for access to the auditorium for most of the day beforehand to set up for the show, an impossible request given that the room is a busy lecture hall used all day for UI classes, Johnson said. The comedian's team rejected alternative arrangements suggested by the group, he said, and Crowder then announced Tuesday on Twitter that he wouldn't be appearing at the UI.

"The university didn't shut this down in any way," Johnson said Tuesday after Illini Republicans posted a memo about the cancellation on its Facebook page:

Born in Canada and raised in the United States, Crowder is a conservative political commentator, comedian and actor who was once the voice for a character on PBS' "Arthur" cartoon series. His provocative podcast, "Louder with Crowder," covers news, pop culture and politics.

"We're waging a culture war against the tyrannical left. Fight with me. Get 'Louder with Crowder' on your campus," the website for his current campus tour reads.

In a Twitter post Tuesday morning, Crowder appeared to blame the UI for the cancellation: "University of Illinois show for Thursday was just canceled. Corruption of the highest order."

His supporters expressed outrage, some directed at the UI, but then others posted a copy of the Illini Republicans' explanation and accused him of canceling the show to try to get publicity.

Crowder promised to explain the situation in detail in his podcast Tuesday night, saying, "I will make this hurt." But he later posted that the podcast had been postponed until today "due to scheduling conflicts."

Johnson, a UI sophomore in aerospace engineering, said the Illini Republicans started planning the event in October. They partnered with the Young America's Foundation, which sponsors conservative speakers on college campuses and covers a large chunk of the cost. The Illini Republicans also received more than $5,000 from the campus Student Organization Resource Fee to help pay for the event, which cost more than $20,000, Johnson said. Crowder's speaking fee was $15,000.

The Young America's Foundation handled the contract details with Crowder and was "very professional," Johnson said. Crowder initially only had two requirements: that the venue have theater acoustics and access to sound and lighting, he said.

Then, on Monday, both groups started getting phone calls with more demands, with "an incredibly short amount of time to arrange them," he said.

The first was more security. UI Police hadn't planned to have any extra police officers on hand Thursday night, other than regular patrols, as they had contacted campuses where Crowder appeared and hadn't heard of any security issues, Johnson and UI officials said.

Both Young America's Foundation and Crowder's team knew about those arrangements earlier this year, Johnson said.

But Johnson said he understood their concern, and the student group agreed to pay $250 for an extra UI police officer.

Then they learned from the UI's facilities manager that the comedian had made other demands, including several large televisions, the fog machine and additional lighting that would require electricians to control. The total cost was $1,200 — not something the group had planned for, Johnson said. Its budget comes mostly from $5-a-semester dues. The group told Crowder the cost would have to come out of his honorarium.

"We're normally pretty stingy; I guess that's what happens with a bunch of fiscal conservatives running a club," he said.

The group had reserved Lincoln Hall Theater from 6 to 9 p.m. for the 7 p.m. show, as there were classes in the room until 5 p.m., he said. He said the Illini Republicans had told Crowder up front that the venue was a classroom. But on Monday the comedian's team said they'd need to be in by noon.

The students offered to push the show back until 9 and provide access at 5 p.m., with four hours for setup. They also suggested moving the show to a weekend, offering several alternative dates and locations, to no avail.

By Monday evening, "it wasn't looking good," Johnson said.

"The next thing we know, we see on Twitter that the show's been canceled," he said. "It looked like he was trying to blame the university. I didn't think that was right.

"Everyone at the university did their part. They were quite supportive," he said.

"It's just really sad overall," Johnson said, noting that 600 people had picked up free tickets, some from out of town, and 600 more were on a waiting list.

UI officials said they worked with the student group from the start to help them put on a successful event.

Until Tuesday, "as far as we knew, this event was going to happen," said campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

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rsp wrote on March 28, 2018 at 1:03 am

From looking at his stuff I think he had a conflict come up and was looking for a way out. Doesn't sound very professional to me.