Before we weigh as to why Jerry Seinfeld’s comments about comedy and diversity were perhaps one of the most disappointing and ignorant comments we ever heard about the topic, let’s step back and provide the context about what he said.
This is what Buzzfeed reported about the interview Seinfeld gave on a BuzzFeed Brews with CBS This Morning interview to Peter Lauria BuzzFeed’s Business Editor:
“People think it’s the census or something,” Seinfeld said of the assertion that all pop culture should accurately reflect society. “This has gotta represent the actual pie chart of America? Who cares? Funny is the world that I live in. You’re funny, I’m interested. You’re not funny, I’m not interested. I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that.”
Seinfeld went on to say that approaching comedy through the lens of race or gender or sexuality are “anti-comedy.” “It’s more about PC nonsense than ‘Are you making us laugh or not?’” he said.
You can also watch the video of the interview clip here:
Now that you saw and read what Seinfeld said, here is why we think he really doesn’t “get” it and why he never will:
White = Funny. Non-white = Not Funny.
For some reason, Seinfeld makes a mistake in associating “diversity” with “being PC.” We agree with him that comedy should not be tied to numbers, but this is where we greatly diverge. It is really easy to say that when you have already worked your way through the door and are looking at everyone behind you.
Why? Because the world of Jerry Seinfeld truly doesn’t reflect the real world. This isn’t about making sure that “black comedy” or “Latino comedy” or “Asian comedy” or “Muslim comedy” gets featured more often, it is about the fact that Seinfeld thinks that such type of of “diverse” comedy is not funny. Sorry, don’t shove your ethnicity down my throat, it makes me uncomfortable and in the end I hold the purse strings and make the decisions. In the end, it truly is about power and control (and the fear of losing that power), and Seinfeld has never been one to promote diversity, so why would he now?
However, why get so defensive, Jerry? Seinfeld sure seemed really confident about his opinions during that interview, but why wouldn’t he? It was his “safe place.” A bunch of Buzzfeed (read: white) supporters with a white host asking a white comedian about why diversity is a bad idea. Would Seinfeld say the same thing to a diverse group of New Yorkers? Probably not, because in the end, something like that gets him out of his cocoon and we wouldn’t want to upset Jerry Seinfeld.
It just goes to prove: even if you are white and progressive (Seinfeld), making your world a little browner is still a bad idea. And the way Seinfeld describes it, that idea is almost revolting. He sounds as bad as any other person who thinks the Browning of America and catering to it is the most un-American thing one can do. How quickly they forget, since we are pretty sure that Seinfeld’s family (his dad is of Austrian Jewish descent and his mom Syrian Jewish) at one point in their lives were outside looking in as well. Seinfeld’s privilege was earned, and he is doing a great job in flaunting it now.
Seinfeld’s comments really don’t surprise us, and that is why this is all about creating your own situation and taking advantage of it. Comics of color don’t need Seinfeld to pass judgment of what is funny or not. We know funny and our worldview only adds to what makes comedy a rewarding craft. Would it help if Seinfeld help to open a door for a few comics of color? Sure, but he isn’t going to, and that is what can make the journey more rewarding. Imagine when those diverse comics do make it because there is someone who is smart enough to understand that the world is changing. When that happens, Seinfeld will be playing to a bunch of senior citizens talking about cereal bowls and the rest of the world will be laughing at us and with us.