Though “Seinfeld” has been off the air for much of two decades, the cast of the show has managed to generate quite a few headlines in the past week.
First, Jason Alexander — a.k.a. George — told Howard Stern that Susan, George’s fiancee, was killed by toxic envelopes because the actress who played her was hard to perform with. Then, Alexander felt “officially awful” about those comments.
And now, Jerry Seinfeld himself has taken a stand — against political correctness on campus. The 61-year-old comedian told an ESPN interlocutor that he avoids performing at universities because of trigger warnings, speech codes and other First Amendment umbrage.
“I don’t play colleges,” Seinfeld said on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.” “… I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.’”
Seinfeld then offered an example that seemed unrelated to his original thesis.
“My daughter’s 14,” he said. “My … wife says to her, ‘Well, you know, in the next couple years, I think maybe you’re going to want to be hanging around the city more on the weekends so you can see boys.’ You know what my daughter said? She says, ‘That’s sexist.’”
Seinfeld’s conclusion: “They just want to use these words. ‘That’s racist.’ ‘That’s sexist.’ ‘That’s prejudiced.’ They don’t even know what they’re talking about.”
Cowherd: “Does it hurt comedy?
Seinfeld: “Yes it does.”
Cowherd then said radio personality Artie Lange had asked for “five or six seconds” to contextualize Caitlyn Jenner’s gender transformation, attempting to link that topic to the broader discussion of political correctness. Seinfeld did not comment on that. But conversation then turned to Louis C.K.’s recent controversial joke about pedophilia on “Saturday Night Live.”
“Louis’s great gift is that he doesn’t worry,” Seinfeld said. “He just does his thing. If I wanted to say something, I would say it.”
Seinfeld then implied that he is not in the business of making jokes about hot-button issues.
“I talk about the subjects I talk about because, for some reason, I can make them funny,” he said. “The ones I can’t make funny, you don’t hear.”
As Seinfeld reported, he is not the only comedian to comment on colleges’ perceived uptightness.
“I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative,” Seinfeld compatriot Chris Rock told Vulture last year.
“Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody,” Rock said. “Kids raised on a culture of ‘We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.’ Or just ignoring race to a fault.”
Rock pointed out that George Carlin, before his death, had made the same observation.
Indeed, at least one college has attempted to ban at least one comedian in recent memory: Last year, students at the University of California at Berkeley unsuccessfully tried to prevent Bill Maher, who is often criticized for his views about Muslims, from giving a commencement address.
“Bill Maher is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for,” said a Change.org petition that failed to reach its goal of 7,500 signatures. “In a time where climate is a priority for all on campus, we cannot invite an individual who himself perpetuates a dangerous learning environment.”
The address came off anyway.
“Never forget that we are lucky to live in a country that has a First Amendment,” Maher said. “Liberals should want to own it the way conservatives own the Second.”