By James Hirsen
Copyright James Hirsen
Known for his brand of sophisticated observational humor, comedian Jerry Seinfeld may seem like an unlikely individual to be ringing a warning bell about the mounting threat against freedom of expression that political correctness is currently posing.
However, after remarks made on ESPN radio and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” appeared on the Internet, Seinfeld appears to have taken center stage on the touchy speech issue.
First, during a guest spot on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN radio show, the King of Sitcoms discussed obstacles that have been created as a result of speech restrictions stemming from political correctness on college campuses. He told radio host Cowherd, “I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.’ They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist;’ ‘That’s sexist;’ ‘That’s prejudice.’ They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
In a round two of sorts, during a further discussion on the topic on Meyers’s late-night talk show, Seinfeld stoked the PC furnace by making reference to the increasing need for comedians to apologize for material that has been labeled offensive by the new politically correct filters being placed on discourse.
“There’s a creepy PC thing out there that really bothers me,” he remarked.
As proof positive that his truths have hit a political nerve, Seinfeld almost immediately became the target of a left-of-center attack.
Lindy West wrote a sarcastic piece for the UK Guardian in which she used her words to assault the admired and respected comedian on the basis of his gender, ethnicity, and financial status.
“…an innocent web series [“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”] with an almost-entirely white, male cast, only 20 years after you were criticized for doing the exact same thing with your sitcom. The PC police might not know what “racism” is, but Seinfeld does, and it certainly isn’t either of those things. And yet the PC death-grip on comedy is so fierce that Seinfeld has only managed to accrue $820m so far. The horror,” West wrote.
West additionally wrote that “his past work does not entitle Seinfeld to our eternal adoration or unconditional support. In fact, he isn’t even entitled to be a defining, authoritative voice in 21st-century comedy – particularly when his response to the broadening scope of his art form is one of mistrust, defensiveness and gloomy prognostication.”
Salon’s Arthur Chu piled on in a similar way with an article titled “How Seinfeld became a bad joke: The threat of a hyper-vigilant left-wing outrage machine has been greatly exaggerated.”
The comedian’s financial assets were once again the subject of ridicule.
“A millionaire tells a dumb joke and nobody laughs — and that’s proof we’re all oppressed by social activists?” the Salon piece cynically asked.
Chu also wrote with derision about his target’s ethnicity and age, stating, “Jerry Seinfeld is the latest brave middle-aged white man to weigh in on the ‘creepy’ ascendance of humorless p.c. SJW anti-free-speech scolds.”
The Salon writer referred to Seinfeld’s remarks on political correctness as “a familiar, tired drill.”
It turns out that Seinfeld is not the only humorist to become concerned about the PC police. Others have issued diatribes and warnings.
Chris Rock told New York Magazine that he quit performing on university campuses because of the “social views” and “willingness not to offend anybody,” perspectives that are prevalent at many educational establishments. Rock described a social media culture that is causing comedians to second guess material with which they are experimenting.
“It is scary, because the thing about comedians is that you’re the only ones who practice in front of a crowd,” Rock said. “…It can get downright offensive…You can’t think the thoughts you want to think if you think you’re being watched.”
The former voice of the Aflac Duck, Gilbert Gottfried, wrote an article for Playboy magazine titled “The Apology Epidemic.” Gottfried posited that the most brilliant comedians in history would never stop apologizing if they were working in today’s squelched climate.
“Charlie Chaplin would have to apologize to all the homeless people he belittled with his Little Tramp character. W.C. Fields and Dean Martin would both have to apologize to alcoholics. The Marx brothers would have to apologize to Italians, mutes and uptight British ladies. Comedy has been around for a long, long time, and there have been a lot of impolite, unpleasant and jaw-droppingly politically incorrect jokes….”
Former Monty Python stalwart John Cleese explained to Bill Maher that political correctness is actually “condescending.” After having had endured criticism, Cleese stopped using humor that involved ethnicity.
“Make jokes about Swedes and Germans and French and English and Canadians and Americans, why can’t we make jokes about Mexicans? Is it because they are so feeble that they can’t look after themselves? It’s very very condescending there,” Cleese said.
Patton Oswalt from the cast of the sitcom “King of Queens” commented on pundits having suggested that John Oliver getting his own show on HBO was wrong because of his Caucasian race and heterosexual preference.
“If Salon is doing articles about, ‘Did the Onion go too far?’ or ‘Why does ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ have to be hosted by another straight, white male?’ then you are now just picking, out of context, these buzzwords. You’re asking questions that don’t need to be asked. The content of what John Oliver does is so revolutionary and so amazing that if you’re going to just pick it apart, you’re making progressives look like people that can count beans but can’t make soup,” Oswalt stated.
During an interview with “60 Minutes,” Larry the Cable Guy, a.k.a. Daniel Lawrence Whitney, opined that political correctness has “gotten way outta control.”
Larry offered some comically sage advice on the increasingly disturbing subject: “I really think that we’re at a point in this country where people really need to take the thumb outta their mouth and grow up a little bit and realize there’s a lot bigger problems out there than what a comedian did a joke about.”