“Arrested Development” star and comedian David Cross received backlash Saturday afternoon for a tweet he made advertising his show at the University of Utah’s Kingsbury Hall.

“Hey #SaltLakeCity! See you on Wednesday night at @kingsburyhall @UUtah? Tickets still available at bit.ly/Cross-SaltLake…” the tweet read.

The image attached caused some Twitter users to demand the U cancel the show.

In the first season of the television series “Arrested Development,” Cross’ character Tobias Fünke suffers a “rare psychological affliction of never being able to be completely naked.”

In the seventh episode, there is a scene of the character wearing cut off jean shorts underneath a pair of red men’s underwear, asking the employee in the dressing room if they effectively hid his “thunder.”

The ad pictures that same scene with Cross sporting a pair of garments worn by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have been endowed, or made certain religious promises, in the faith’s temple. Serving as a reminder of their commitment, the underwear is often referred to as sacred.

The image is overlaid with the words, “UTAH! Learn the real truth!” along with the date, time and location of the performance.

“Big fan of you and [“Arrested Development”]. This is unacceptable. It’s not funny. It’s not cool. We (LDS people) hold garments very sacred. You wouldn’t make fun of a woman in a burqa or hijab right? Same thing here,” tweeted Kelsi Moore, followed by a plea for Cross to apologize.

Others saw the tweet as a comedian merely looking for attention.

“I don’t like the image, but it’s hardly the only photo of Mormon garments on the internet,” said Twitter user Greg Welch in an email. “Some national comedians have said people getting offended over every little thing is killing comedy. It would seem Mr. Cross disagrees since he has paired an intentionally offensive image with the crass invitation ‘tickets still available.’ If he gets a story written and posted about it, I would guess his marketing team will call it a success.”

The U’s official Twitter responded to Cross’ tweet with a GIF of his character on “Arrested Development” saying, “Huzzah!”

“It was an error of ignorance and in no way meant to offend,” said U spokesperson Chris Nelson.

The U has since deleted the response, tweeting, “We apologize for not immediately seeing a connection to the LDS faith in this tweet. It took a minute to understand the reaction to our GIF, but gratefully our community pointed it out. Our reply was in reaction to David Cross performing on campus & not intended to offend.”

The performance will not be canceled, and as a rental event organized by an outside promoter, has no affiliation with UtahPresents or the U. Cross will perform in Kingsbury Hall on Wednesday night.

“The University of Utah is committed to fostering a campus climate that welcomes and respects all people,” Nelson said. “This use of sacred religious imagery is disrespectful and in direct opposition to the university’s values. The university does not endorse David Cross nor does it censor content of those coming to campus.”

U President Ruth Watkins released a statement Sunday condemning the tweet, but reaffirming that the First Amendment is a priority for the university.

“The use of the imagery was deeply offensive,” Watkins said. “At the same time, the First Amendment protects such speech and the university cannot and will not censor content of those coming to campus. We acknowledge the free speech rights of individuals and entities who rent university facilities — even those with whom we disagree. By doing so we protect the free speech rights of all.”

m.mcdermott@dailyutahchronicle.com

@Kenzomcd

Mackenzie McDermott
Mackenzie had one year full of covering news before jumping to sports as editor. Now, going into her junior year, Mackenzie is back to the desk she started at filling the role of News Editor.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Took me a minute to realize the connection to garments. It’s interesting that I’m very much on the fence about this… on the one hand, it really does seem like the guy is just trying to be funny. On the other hand, I CAN see how this can be seen as offensive.

    As a member of the LDS faith, I think I would say the joke is distasteful and perhaps misguided, but doesn’t appear to be meant to insult. Even the “real truth” bit seems to me like he is trying to joke “with” the audience more than at them: it makes it seem like he did a quick internet search on Salt Lake City and went with whatever ridiculous stuff came up to use as his jokes. I could be completely wrong: maybe the dude is just looking for cheap jokes at anyone’s expense.

    I hope the “backlash” has at least been respectful. The twitter response featured here was level headed, and I think that is more the right way to respond to something that might be seen as disrespectful.

    Also, I can attest to the fact that outside Utah, very few people have a clue what a “Mormon” is, so I’m willing to believe this guy has no idea how disrespectful his joke could be seen. I definitely do not think this is worthy of his show being cancelled, and I must agree with the “freedom of speech” element, even if I sometimes wonder how much the University actually cares.

  2. I definitely support free speech enough to say a comedian’s constistutional right to make fun of something considered sacred by others is more important than my feelings. But when a state entity (the U) is using my tax dollars to pay for a sacriligeous comedian I have a problem. Not with the comedian but with the school. They won’t be getting my alumni donations anytime soon.

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