Ethics Hero: Jerry Seinfeld

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.


Source: Mediaite, Gawker





32 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Jerry Seinfeld

  1. What does he mean “he ought to have” 13 or so women?

    He means “if the goal were to have accurated ratios due to demographics. It isn’t an accusation, from what I can tell. He’s just showing the math (and poking fun at the “needs more blacks” thing – he is almost there anyways).

  2. And, for my parting shot…

    [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.

    No you mewling fuckstain, that is actually not even remotely close to what Seinfeld said. Seinfeld said he doesn’t care about race, if you are funny, then you are funny.

    What Seinfeld said was actually the exact opposite of what you accuse him of saying, and in a good and just world he would either be allowed to meet you at dawn with pistols, or you would simply be struck dead by an angry and vengeful God.

    Great, now the vein on my forehead is pulsing…

    • What Seinfeld said was actually the exact opposite of what you accuse him of saying, and in a good and just world he would either be allowed to meet you at dawn with pistols, or you would simply be struck dead by an angry and vengeful God.

      Great, now the vein on my forehead is pulsing…
      Sorry, but it needed to be said.

      I am sick to death of these PC little bitches, with their angry little diatribes, cropping up all over the Internet.
      “Look at meeeeeeee!!!
      “Look how hip, urban and evolved I am!!!!!!!!!”
      And then probably walks in the gutter to avoid brushing against a black person on the sidewalk.

      These “journalists” are an embarrassment to all Americans.

  3. Jack,

    Have you anticipated the inevitable counterargument that America’s inherent racism and discrimination is what has kept Jews out of other jobs, so they had to be entertainers? Or that our inherent sexism has kept women out of comedy, so of course they are disproportionately under represented? Same with blacks!

    We must force balance on the market! It’s not fair!

  4. Sometimes it’s neither discrimination nor some inherent property of people in a group. See for a discussion of why there seem to be so many LDS members in science fiction writing.

    Still, if you hire people and wind up with a completely or mostly white mix, it’s only right to ask yourself searchingly whether you’ve overlooked anything. The answer will be “no” in many cases but the question needs to be asked.

    • It may be that Seinfeld gets the comedy arising out of experiences and cultures he can relate to, and so what? He’s the one picking the comics. If they aren’t funny to him, they aren’t funny. I have watched, all the way through, as an exercise, concert performances of black-themed material—the underlying assumption is that all whites are dumb, cracker, racists—by black dialect, under 30 comics in front of 99.9% young, black audiences. For the most part, I can’t make heads or tails of it, though the audience is in hysterics. I’m sure the comic is brilliant and achieving his goals, but other than the audience, I have no other clue that he’s funny. (I am pretty sure he’s getting laughs on racist material though—including anti-Semitic gags. Should Jerry be laughing at these?)

  5. Hey, why are Mexicans and Asians left out of series 😉 I would strongly suggest including Cheech Marin and maybe Sandra Oh if she’s available. Anyway, Jerry is right on on his response to the criticism re: his comedy series

  6. How do they explain Tyler Perry’s casting decisions? I do not see any demographic balance there either. He chooses how to be funny and if we agree it sells. If it doesn’t it goes away

    • My only question is “who finds him funny?”

      “Tyler Perry in a story by Tyler Perry, produced and directed by Tyler Perry. Craft services by Tyler Perry.”

      I get that he does stuff so he can direct and star in the things, but who the hell keep funding the guy? Is he someone’s tax write-off?

  7. It is interesting how culture affects comedy, even in non-obvious ways. Pandora’s addition of standup comedy has exposed me to lots of people. Some of my favorites are white guys- Louis CK, Patton Oswalt, Doug Benson, John Mullaney, Eugene Mirman. Sure, they all do their own bits, but they all have similar styles to each other. Then there’s others that I also like- Gabriel Iglesias and Hannibal Burress come immediately to mind. They don’t do “urban” comedy or have any specific Tyler Perry/Chris Rock “A white guy does this but OH SHIT A BLACK GUY DOES THIS” bits, and yet there’s something just- DIFFERENT about them.

    Point being, comedy styles are just so inherently different. Seinfeld’s new show is about people he knows doing comedy. Fine. Tyler Perry’s movies are about people HE knows doing comedy. Also fine.

    • Kat Williams and Bruce Bruce are great comedians. I liked George Lopez before he stopped (to my knowledge) writing new standup material (if he started performing as a standup again with new stuff, I would probably find him hilarious again).

      There’s a SLEW of female comedians I like (though really if you don’t see Elvira Kurt at some point, you are losing out – gay AND a girl! I get double points!!)

      Hell, Arsineo is funny as hell…

      • Case in point: I have nothing against female comedians but none of my favorite standups are women, and if you asked me to name a bunch of standups I doubt it would occur to me to name any for that reason. No particular reason for it beyond I haven’t discovered an that really tickle my funny bone properly, but when you say “standup comics” I think of the names above instead.

  8. A quibble, Jack: “The arts are the ultimate meritocracy.” Yes, in an ideal world, but not in this world, not all of them. Arbitrocracy is more like it. To counter Tommy Christopher’s bleating, call it comic luck instead of moral luck. In a world of casting couches and “Piss Christ,” the merit of at least some so-called works of art is nothing more than luck.

    • Yes, that is correct, and also always has been…there are millions of great artists who never achieve any success at all because of random chance, and lesser artists who became international sensations because they caught a wave.

  9. As I understand it, in the pre-Vaudeville era, each community tended to be fairly insular, so each culture grew to a certain style of joke. The Jewish immigrant communities (probably due to the Jews’ rather unique history) tended to the black (as in morbid) and self-depreciating humor which is still very much in vogue. It was one of the more popular acts of the time, and so prolifigated. It’s also easier than wordplay, wit, or slapstick, so is easy to pick up and run with.

  10. I guess Jerry “don’t get no respect” from Kyle Chayka whoever they are. Russians don’t have much of a sense of humor anyway by and large.

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