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Comic Patton Oswalt cancels concert at Kingsbury Hall, due to rules against requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination

State law prohibits arts venues on the University of Utah campus from setting such rules, though there is an exception.

(Netflix) Comedian Patton Oswalt, seen here in his 2019 Netflix special "Annihilation," has canceled his Jan. 7, 2022, concert at Salt Lake City's Kingsbury Hall — because, he said in a Instagram post on Sept. 2, 2021, the venue would not permit a requirement that all ticket holders show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative test result.

A second headliner has canceled a show at a University of Utah performance venue because of the Legislature’s decision to bar government entities from setting vaccination rules.

Comedian Patton Oswalt announced on his Instagram account Thursday that he was canceling a Jan. 7., 2022, concert at Kingsbury Hall — on the U.’s campus — because the school would not enforce a requirement that all ticket holders show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a recent negative test result.

“I’m really bummed about this,” Oswalt wrote on Instagram, calling Salt Lake City “an eerily beautiful city where the sun refracts through the mountains and gives everything this otherworldly glow.”

In a video accompanying the Instagram post, Oswalt said he’s instituting the vaccination requirement at all stops on his tour. “I have an ego,” he said, “but my ego is not big enough to think that people should die to hear my stupid comedy.”

The UtahPresents performance series that produces shows at Kingsbury is run by the U.’s College of Fine Arts, and therefore run by a state agency, so it cannot, under a law passed in the past legislative session, require ticket holders to show proof of a vaccination.

U. students are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 30, unless they have a medical, religious or personal exemption. That rule doesn’t apply to U. employees (outside of the health care field) or “other patrons attending University of Utah arts experiences,” a spokeswoman for the College of Fine Arts said in a statement.

The wrinkle is that Oswalt’s show was not part of the UtahPresents series. Oswalt’s management team was renting the hall on its own — and, under state law, could require any vaccination proof it wanted.

The U. had not yet established that policy — that outside groups can set their own rules — before “Oswalt’s team had already made their decision to cancel this performance,” said Brooke Horejsi, UtahPresents’ executive director and assistant dean for arts and creative engagement.

Horejsi said Kingsbury is working with Oswalt’s team to try to reschedule his concert. Oswalt expressed the hope of rebooking his Salt Lake City show in his Instagram message.

Oswalt is an Emmy-winning stand-up comedian, actor and writer. He currently appears on the sitcom “A.P. Bio” and does voice work for “Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.” and narrates “The Goldbergs.” He most famously provided the voice for Remy, the cuisine-obsessed rat in Pixar’s “Ratatouille.”

In August, the rock band Counting Crows canceled an Aug. 26 concert at Red Butte Garden, because the venue would not enforce a proof-of-vaccination requirement. Red Butte is also on the U. campus and serves as the booking agency for the garden’s concert series.

So far, the College of Fine Arts spokeswoman said, no other performers booked for Red Butte or Kingsbury have canceled their shows.

Utah’s law also prohibits Pioneer Theatre Company from setting a proof-of-vaccination rule for its shows. The company opens its season Sept. 10 with a concert-style production of the Fats Waller musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

(Pioneer Theatre Company) The cast of Pioneer Theatre Company's concert-style production of "Ain't Misbehavin'": (from left) Terita Redd, Tyrick Wiltez Jones, Mariah Lyttle, DeMone Seraphin, and Tyla Collier. The production runs Sept. 10-25, 2021.

“At this point in time, we strongly encourage our patrons to take advantage of vaccines and to wear masks,” a PTC spokeswoman said in a statement, “but we cannot require it at this time.”

In Oswalt’s Instagram post, he also announced he was canceling four other shows on his “Who’s Ready to Laugh?” tour, all in December, all in cities in Florida. A law passed by that state’s GOP-dominated Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a Republican, bars any government entity, educational institution or business from requiring proof of vaccination from customers or patrons — subject to a $5,000 fine.

Utah’s law does not prohibit private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination for its customers or clients. In fact, Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson have encouraged businesses to set their own rules.

That’s what MagicSpace Entertainment, the booking agency that runs the Live at the Eccles concert program, has done. The company announced this week that ticket holders for all concerts at the Eccles Theater — a venue owned by Salt Lake County — will have to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result.

The Eccles isn’t available for Oswalt on Jan. 7, because the run of the touring production of “Hamilton” is there for most of the month. Broadway Across America has said it will announce its COVID-19 rules no later than mid-October — ahead of the Oct. 26 opening of Disney’s “Frozen.”

The Utah Symphony and Utah Opera will require proof of vaccination, or proof of a negative COVID-19 test, for ticket holders starting Sept. 16, the organization that operates both groups announced Friday.

Both The Depot and Usana Amphitheatre, owned by the national booking agency Live Nation, are setting proof-of-vaccination rules for their ticket holders starting Oct. 4. The State Room, the Commonwealth Room, Salt Lake Acting Company and Plan-B Theatre already have such rules in place.

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