He wore an Ariana Grande shirt to Pete Davidson’s Merced show. Things got kinda weird

A couple of UC Merced students say they were bullied, embarrassed and eventually kicked out of a student-sponsored comedy show by comedian Pete Davidson because one of them was wearing a T-shirt featuring pop singer Ariana Grande, Davidson’s ex-girlfriend.

The show in February at Merced Theatre featured “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson, who had a very public love affair with Grande that ended in October. The Campus Activities Board routinely puts together student-only shows paid for by fees that students pay along with their tuition.

Ivan Martinez said he was seated in the front row and didn’t laugh at one of Davidson’s jokes, which the 21-year-old said he found tasteless. He’d won front-row seats in a contest.

“He made a child molestation joke, which I did not find funny. He called me out for, I guess, not laughing at his joke,” the cognitive science major said. “He said, ‘Why is this dude all serious?’ He kept asking me if I had anything to say.”

Martinez shook his head repeatedly, he said.

The comedian continued to pester him with questions, according to Martinez, who is from Modesto. Then the SNL comedian called him an “ass----,” and Martinez’s boyfriend, Juan Aguirre, came to his defense.

“I said ‘This is a student show sponsored by students,’ “ 20-year-old Aguirre said. “The comedian said, ‘No, this is my show and you’re getting kicked out.’ “

As they left, Davidson flipped them off and people in the crowd shouted cuss words at them, the couple says. Martinez insists he wasn’t trying to make a scene by wearing the shirt, adding he’s a fan of Grande and her new album was days away.

Representatives from Davidson’s talent agency did not respond to requests for comment this week.

Celebrity magazines started reporting that Davidson and Grande were an item in May of last year. The relationship played out publicly on social media and in the press as the couple got engaged, before the relationship ended in October, according to Cosmopolitan.

Since the Feb. 3 show, the Merced couple tried to speak with a number of administrators and attempted to file a police report to no avail. They said they contacted reporters because they felt let down by administrators.

They admitted that no crime had taken place, but the couple said campus police told them they would write a report about the incident.

They did meet with one administrator, according to Aguirre, a computer science engineering student from Ballico. “He was dismissive about the whole thing,” he said. “Instead they tell us if we want to pursue this further, we could get in trouble.”

Their harassment continued online following the incident on the night of the show, including some people using homophobic language, the couple, who is gay, says. They noted that Davidson did not use any hate speech towards them before kicking them out of the show.

Still, they said they deserve an apology from the Campus Activities Board and Davidson.

“It was like public humiliation,” Aguirre said. “We want a public apology.”

After they were thrown out of the front row, the students were offered seats in another part of the theater, according to UC Merced spokesperson Kenneth Mashinchi. They declined the seats and left the theater.

Officials noted the homophobic bullying the couple experienced online following the comedy show.

“The university takes allegations of discrimination very seriously and have worked diligently to investigate this incident,” he said in a statement. “Campus officials in Student Affairs have met with the involved students on multiple occasions and have offered several resources — including Title VII, Title IX and ombuds services — for the students to report the incident. No report has been filed at this time.”

Reporter Thaddeus Miller has covered cities in the central San Joaquin Valley since 2010, writing about everything from breaking news to government and police accountability. A native of Fresno, he joined The Fresno Bee in 2019 after time in Merced and Los Banos.