Jerry Seinfeld has been active and successful in comedy on both stage and television for over 30 years now. I’m sure those of you who follow social media have seen his recent interview about his position on stand-up comedy, which is critical for the future of free speech and comedy for several reasons.
First, he has had a relevant and strong position in an industry he helped to bring into the mainstream through the 80s with his stand-up and TV role, as well as with Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It is important to note that he hasn’t just followed suit in societal trends—he finds something funny and goes with it, and that is all that matters.
The Seinfeld decree
Jerry does not care. In 2014 when asked about the lack of “diversity in comedy” he responded with:
“Who cares? … You’re funny, I’m interested. You’re not funny, I’m not.”
For anyone who is working their way through the industry, those were probably heartening words. More recently, the toxic elements are complaining about what he said this month:
“Don’t go near colleges, they’re so PC.’ I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that,” Seinfeld said. “But everyone else is kind of, with their calculating—is this the exact right mix? I think that’s—to me it’s anti-comedy. It’s more about PC-nonsense.”
It’s the same refrain of past comedians when social justice began to bleed into everything in entertainment. The old Opie and Anthony Show (and now both separately), and the late and great Patrice O’Neal were outspoken proponents of free speech in comedy.
Patrice’s stance on comedy and fake outrage at non-PC joke material’s most well known incident probably stems from his 2007 appearance on Fox News when he called out a shill (and subsequently was never invited to Fox News again).
The difference today is we have one of the most famous comedians of all time stating as such, with no sugar coating. When #1 says you are wrong, have been wrong, and what you’re doing is also destructive to the craft—you’re done. In stand-up comedy especially, which is truly an American form of art, you are down and out for good.
Jerry has FU money and he is still one of the most influential comedians of his generation, if not the most influential according to many people in the industry. He does not care about your feelings, and comedy shouldn’t either. Comedy will let comedy decide what is funny or not. It is a self-critiquing process.
The new generation of PC
I am far removed from my undergraduate days, but from what I have seen today, I would not survive. Stifling conversation and debate because it hurts someone’s feelings, or the shocking non-satirical suggestion that instead of clapping people ‘wave jazz hands’ to prevent triggering people?
I also remember that when I was in school, big name people would stop by and tour our auditoriums regularly. We had greats such as Lewis Black and George Carlin come through, and it’s a sad state that it’s such a hostile environment that Jerry Seinfeld—or anyone of his caliber—won’t tour colleges. When you make an echo chamber you end up with the terrible Western women colleges have been pumping out for a while now, and the emasculated beta males that follow them.
Jerry’s remark to the matter is stark naked truth, something public discourse needs these days, and it is important that he said it. Seinfeld’s criticism may mark the beginning of people getting up and walking away from the bullshit and echo chamber of PC nothingness. This is vital, because there is a real fear these days among comedians that what they say will be used against them to destroy them because it hurt some obscure demographic or someone’s idiotic sensibility.
Fear stifles creativity, but maybe with Jerry’s comment it’s time to stop being afraid, and just ignore this incredibly small, yet shrill and blustering minority. Maybe if we begin to say it in other fields, people will stop being afraid and we can have an honest discourse about the issues of today again—instead of just categorizing the 50 different ways you can offend someone pretending to be a victim.