In an interview with ESPN, Jerry Seinfeld said he's warned against performing at colleges because they're too politically correct.
College students throw around "that's racist/sexist/prejudice" without knowing what they're talking about, he said. "I'll give you an example: 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 says? She says, 'that's sexist.'"
What we accept as permissible racism and sexism in comedy differs based on how the joke's delivered. In some instances, comedians make offensive jokes that are subversive -- a way of making fun of, pushing back against or exploring stereotypes. It's like in the "The Cigar Store Indian" episode of Seinfeld, in which Jerry has to backtrack from insensitive comments he made in front of Winona, who is Native American. He tries to apologize and takes her out to dinner, and he errs on the side of caution by avoiding the word "reservation" when referring to getting a table.
But what if Seinfeld was on today, and what if our aggressive PC culture was taken to its extreme? Could the show even be on television without boycotts and MoveOn.org petitions calling for its cancellation? Whether it was gays, Christians or the deaf, the cast of Seinfeld was just having a little fun, no offense meant. (And if you are offended, just slowly say to yourself, "not that there's anything wrong with that," after each joke.)
Here are seven moments from the show, re-written to offend no one.
Plot: When a journalist thinks Jerry and George are in a same-sex relationship, Jerry tries to convince her they're not gay (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course).
Re-written plot: When a journalist thinks Seinfeld and George are in a same-sex relationship, Jerry just lets it slide because he doesn't know how to bring it up without making sound like there's anything wrong with it.
Plot: Jerry goes out with Marlene, but she tells him it won't work out because she went to one of his routines and it wasn't her kind of humor. She can't be with someone if she doesn't respect what they do, she explained. Jerry's response: But you're a cashier!
Re-written plot: Jerry goes out with Marlene, but she tells him it won't work out because she went to one of his routines and it wasn't her kind of humor. She can't be with someone if she doesn't respect what they do, she explained. Jerry's response: That he respects what she does for work, thinks it's a proud and valuable line of work and that he wishes she felt the same way about him. They part amicably.
Plot: Elaine's Christian boyfriend tries to convince her to steal the neighbor's newspaper because he doesn't want to break one of the 10 Commandments and because, he says, she's going to hell anyways. She is livid.
Re-written plot: Elaine's Christian boyfriend tries to convince her to borrow the neighbor's newspaper because he doesn't want to break one of the 10 Commandments by stealing it. She obliges after he asks nicely.
Plot: Jerry's date Laura is deaf and a master lip reader. He and George try to talk to each other without her being able to read their lips by covering them when they speak, but she's too good for them.
Re-written plot: Jerry's date Laura is deaf and a master lip reader. He and George talk to each other but feel rude about leaving her out of the conversation so they stop and simply refrain from talking about people behind their backs.
Plot: Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George celebrate Festivus together at Frank Costanza's house, and grievances are aired.
Re-written plot: Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George celebrate the holidays together at Frank Costanza's house, and they share memories and enjoy their time together.
Plot: George isn't given his free bread at a soup restaurant, and its owner -- the so-called "Soup Nazi" -- punishes him for asking by yelling, "No soup for you!" George leaves the restaurant soup-less and defeated.
Re-written plot: George isn't given his free bread at a soup restaurant, and its owner -- the "benevolent soup dictator" -- not only gives him his bread, but gives him the meal free as an apology for the oversight. George leaves the restaurant pleased and willing to refer his friends.
Plot: Jerry is dating Gillian, who has "man hands." He is freaked out.
Re-written plot: Jerry is dating Gillian, who has hands that some might see as larger than normal, but really what is "normal" anyways? He learns to love her not only despite them, but because of them.