One wonderful thing about extreme success combined with middle age is that you can, if you have the integrity, speak unpopular truths without caring who objects. Thus it was the Jerry Seinfeld correctly dismissed as irrelevant and misguided the suggestion that seeking racial and gender balance should be an objective in his comedy shows. In response to a question challenging his Web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee“as too white and male, the comedian said:
“People think it’s the census or something, it’s 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, but everyone else is, kind of with their little calculating, “Is this the exact right mix?” To me, it’s anti-comedy. It’s more about PC nonsense than ‘are you making us laugh or not’.”
Exactly. Not that the race and gender bean counters will let Seinfeld escape with an explanation of such obvious common sense. Here’s Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher playing his full hand of gender, race, guilt and quota cards:
“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee features 25 guests, two of whom are black, and two others of whom are women. If we were applying demographic proportions here, statistically speaking, Seinfeld’s only one black guy short of meeting his quota, but well shy of the 13 or so women he ought to have.”
What does he mean “he ought to have” 13 or so women? Seinfeld obviously doesn’t think 13 women are sufficiently funny to justify being on his show, and so what? It’s hardly surprising, given that there are many, many more male stand-up comics than women, and that a large proportion of the women who are stand-ups specialize in comedy aimed at female audiences. Seinfeld has no obligation to seek a statistical balance of any kind. Christopher goes on:
“The idea behind diversity is not that everyone gets their fair share of the Jerry Seinfeld webisode pie, it’s that theoretically, if we’re choosing comics based on their relative merit, the natural result should roughly approximate the diversity of the field and, if it doesn’t, maybe there’s a reason for that.”
Yup! That’s what’s dumb about diversity, all right.
Boy, there sure are a lot of Jews in America comedy, don’t you think? Wildly disproportionate to the population; it’s always been that way too. Clearly, since the natural result “should roughly approximate the diversity of the field,” some kind of discriminatory conspiracy is going on. Does Christopher think that the fact that there have been a hundred or more successful male slapstick comics and only a handful of women (I bet you could name them all) who could take a hilarious pratfall or a pie in the face is due to prejudice? He probably does. Diversity is based on the thick myth that there is absolutely no difference between the culture, traditions, tastes, talents and interests of distinct groups, so any apparent mix that does not mirror the demographics of the population as a whole is proof that something sinister is at work.
Christopher, however, is a model of rationality and fairness compared to Gawker’s Kyle Chayka, who writes,
[Seinfeld] seems to suggest that any comedian who is not a white male is also not funny…Yes, comedy should represent the entire pie chart of America, and the glorious, multicolored diversity pie should be thrown directly at Jerry Seinfeld’s face.”
Seinfeld suggested nothing of the kind. He said the reverse, in fact: he and the audience decides who is funny, and the choice is colorblind. If there are more funny white males than any other group—and there are—then that’s going to be the group that dominates his show. Comedy, indeed none of the arts should try to match “the glorious, multicolored diversity pie” (gag!!). The arts are the ultimate meritocracy. Whites and women are remarkably “under-represented” among the ranks of the greatest tap-dancers. On Sirius-XM there’s a classic ballads station, and it is amazing how many successful Italian crooners there were in the 50’s and early 60’s: Sinatra, Jerry Vale, Dean Martin, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, Frankie Valli, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Al Martino, Fabian, Frankie Avalon. Some of it was faddish, some of it was the kind of music that was popular, but whatever the reason, Italian males (and one glorious Italian female, Connie Francis, before Madonna the top-selling female vocalist of all time) were selling records in numbers completely out of proportion with their slice of the diversity pie. Should record producers have done something to address this terrible injustice, since according to Chayka and Christopher, equally talented Polish, Canadian and Mexican singers were languishing, perhaps because the producers had all discovered horse heads in their beds?
You tell ’em, Jerry.