In the trailer for his new stand-up special, comedian Nick Di Paolo labels his anti-PC material “too ‘dangerous’ for Netflix” and “too ‘honest’ for Comedy Central.”
Evidently, neither platform was willing to pay Di Paolo for his new hour—titled “A Breath of Fresh Air”—so he decided to give it away to fans for free on YouTube.
“I made this special and am giving it away for free without any media/industry filter,” he wrote on his website, along with a call for donations. But before some viewers even made it to the jokes, they have drawn attention to the deliberately provocative image he has been using to promote it.
In the image, which is still the first thing visitors to Di Paolo’s website see as of 9 p.m. ET, the comic can be seen giving the finger to a group of protesters that include a woman wearing a Pussyhat and carrying a #MeToo sign. Beside her is a photo of a man wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.
“The guy in the Black Lives Matter shirt is activist Muhiyidin Moye who was shot and killed last year. but yeh sure, use him as your prop in a shitty photoshop job to demonstrate how edgy and brave you are,” Sachi Ezura, a senior producer for WNYC’s Greene Space, wrote on Twitter.
Muhiyidin Moye—also known as Muhiyidin d’baha—spent years protesting as part of that movement before he was killed in New Orleans last February. According to reports at the time, the “circumstances surrounding Muhiyidin Moye’s death were unclear” and he died in the hospital after officers responded to a call about gunshots. He was 32. Several months later, police received a tip that led to the arrest of a suspect in the case.
Moye had initially gained fame online a year earlier after he was caught on camera snatching a Confederate flag out of a counter-protester’s hands at a rally in Charleston, South Carolina.
In response to Ezura’s tweet on Tuesday, Di Paolo initially apologized for what he categorized as an innocent mistake. “I did not know that as I found it online in stock photos,” he wrote. “Looking into changing it as we speak. My apologies.”
Jensen Karp, an executive producer of TNT’s Drop the Mic, perhaps summed up the situation best on Twitter, writing, “Nick DiPaolo releasing a comedy CD about how being offended is stupid, then doing something so stupid and offensive that he apologizes to people is QUITE A LOOK.”
But a few hours later, after his name started trending on Twitter, Di Paolo, who previously defended his friend and fellow comic Louis C.K. after he had admitted to sexual misconduct, doubled down.
“Trending number one on Twitter in NYC mins ago thx to you my great fans and the whining leftist maggots,” he wrote, failing to acknowledge the irony that his name appeared just below that of Sandra Bland, whose death was back in the news this week after new video emerged that contradicted her arresting officer’s story.
The Charleston City Paper reached out to Moye’s sister Kim Duncan, who said in a statement, “It’s hurtful to those who loved Muhiyidin. It’s disrespectful to those who knew what his fight was about and why. It’s counter productive in pushing for change. It’s sad to ‘challenge’ someone who can't defend themselves, and Moye would have challenged him and won.”
It’s possible that Di Paolo’s use of Moye’s image was indeed unintentional. But even if he did not know the slain activist’s identity, he was clearly trying to provoke a reaction with the photo.