Gay 30 Rock star’s anti-bullying school talk axed over ‘lifestyle’ concerns

Gay 30 Rock actor Maulik Panchol

30 Rock star Maulik Pancholy has had an anti-bullying talk at a Pennsylvania school assembly axed after concerns about the gay actor’s “lifestyle” were raised. 

Maulik Pancholy had been booked to speak at Mountain View Middle School, in Mechanicsburg, next month but the eight members of the district’s school board voted unanimously to cancel his appearance.

At a public meeting on Monday (15 April), school board member Bud Shaffner said: “If you research this individual, he labels himself as an activist, he is proud of his lifestyle. I don’t think that should be imposed upon our students at any age.” 

Fellow board member Kelly Potteiger flagged Pancholy’s novel The Best At It, which focuses on a gay Indian-American boy. 

“It’s not discriminating against his lifestyle, that’s his choice, but it’s him speaking about it,” Potteiger said.

Pancholy, who has also appeared in Weeds and Only Murders in the Building, and is the voice behind Baljeet in Phineas & Ferb, devotes his spare time to opposing bullying and hate. His website states that he delivers keynotes on diversity and inclusion. 

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In 2014, he was appointed by Barack Obama to serve on the president’s advisory commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, through which he co-founded the anti-bullying campaign #ActToChange.

The school board’s decision has been opposed by many people, including Trisha Comstock, a parent of a former pupil at the school. She launched a petition calling on the school board to reinstate the assembly.

“Being LGBTQ+ isn’t a dirty little secret to protect our students from. To have someone with Maulik’s life experiences would have been inspirational for our students,” the petition, which has almost hit its goal of 1,500 signatures, states. 

Former student Tony Conte took to Facebook to share an open letter to Shaffner, which also called for the talk to go ahead. 

Conte, who is gay, opened up about his struggles with bullying in school and wrote that a talk such as Pancholy’s would’ve meant the world to him when he was growing up. 

He added that he wrote the letter for his “three young children” and that if he didn’t stand against the “poor decision” it would only hurt kids who “desperately need to hear the positive message of inclusion to feel a little less alone in this world”. 

Speaking to, Shaffner claimed he feared Pancholy would go off topic and speak about “politically motivated discussions” which, he said, “belong at home and not in the classroom”.