“What’s The Deal With Jerry Seinfeld?”

Image via Netflix.

Jerry Seinfeld has a movie coming out this Friday on Netflix. It’s called Unfrosted, and it details the behind-the-scenes conflict between Kellogg’s and Post over the creation of the Pop Tart. And the film looks like a hard sell. It takes the real-life race to get a breakfast pastry on the shelves and adds a healthy dose of silly farce to it. As such, Seinfeld is hitting the publicity trail to promote the film.

This is not unusual. It’s the way he is deciding to promote it that is odd. He has decided to become the living embodiment of that “Old Man Yells At Cloud” meme. Only in Seinfeld’s case, his cloud is the way political correctness, and the extreme left are ruining TV Comedy.

“Nothing really affects comedy. People always need it. They need it so badly and they don’t get it. It used to be, you would go home at the end of the day, most people would go, ‘Oh, “Cheers” is on. Oh, “MASH” is on. Oh, “Mary Tyler Moore” is on. “All in the Family” is on.’ You just expected, ‘There’ll be some funny stuff we can watch on TV tonight.’ Well, guess what—where is it? This is the result of the extreme left and P.C. crap, and people worrying so much about offending other people.”

That’s a quote from Seinfeld from an interview he did with The New Yorker when asked if world events have an effect on comedy. The extremely flattering interview is titled “The Scholar of Comedy,” which feeds into Seinfeld’s egotistical view of himself as an expert on comedy. But the pure idiocy of that statement calls that expertise into question.

Let’s talk about Seinfeld’s expertise. It’s hard to deny that Seinfeld is a legendary name in the world of comedy. He was one of the most successful stand-up comedians of the 1980s. However, what makes Seinfeld’s anti-PC stand of today a bit ludicrous is the fact that he was one of the tamest comedians of his day. He wasn’t standing shoulder to shoulder with Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison, pushing the boundaries of comedy with his language and content, He was making pithy observations about airline safety instructions and chopsticks. He became the trademark observational comedian, with a delivery and style that was mocked almost as often as it was respected.

Where Jerry Seinfeld became a legend was with his TV series, Seinfeld, hit the air. The unconventional show that focused on “nothing’, is recognized as one of the best shows in television history, landing in the top five of all time in lists composed by Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and TV Guide.

Seinfeld mentions how certain plot points from Seinfeld would keep it from being made today. He seems to forget that the show itself almost didn’t make it to air back then. The pilot tested abysmally. It was put on during the dead period of summer, surely meant to be forgotten. If NBC Executive Rick Ludwin didn’t take an interest in the show and didn’t order a historically paltry four-episode season, we wouldn’t be talking about Jerry Seinfeld at all today.

Seinfeld seems to be blaming “the extreme left and P.C. crap” not only for the lack of boundary pushing comedies, but also the lack of situation comedies altogether. This is a lot of heavy lifting for PC Culture to do, and that reason doesn’t really apply to the downturn in this style of entertainment.

Another thing Jerry Seinfeld seems to have forgotten is that during Seinfeld’s last season (1997-1998), while there were a whole lot more sitcoms on the air, they were shows like Cybil,  The NannySpin City, and Home Improvement. They were safe, comfortable sitcoms. Yes, this was also the season that South Park debuted and Friends was stretching what would be allowed in the 8 o’clock hour, most of the sitcoms pushed no boundaries in any way shape or form.

But if we are talking about the PC culture of today hampering creative freedom, I have five words that blow that argument out of the water: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has picked up the “horrible people doing horrible things” banner Seinfeld left behind and took it father that anyone thought possible. Arguably, the least politically correct show on TV, the show’s characters have poked fun at disabilities, skin color, law and order, and practically anything else you’d have to offer. The show is also incredibly popular, has been on for 16 seasons, and will be coming back for a 17th. If the PC police was as big of an issue as Seinfeld said it was, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia would have never gotten on the air at all, let alone last this long.

Seinfeld finale
Image via Castle Rock Entertainment.

Seinfeld is right that there are less sitcoms on the air today. This season (2023-2024) features only 21 shows that could be considered sitcoms on network TV. During Seinfeld‘s last year, there were over 25 sitcoms that aired though the season on Sunday and Monday alone. But the villain behind this change is far more nefarious than woke culture gone wild.

In the 26 years since Seinfeld went off the air, the reality show rose to prominence. If you were to look at this year’s network TV schedule, you’d see over 40 different reality programs, from The Weakest Link to The Wall, from Survivor to Big Brother.

Reality shows dominate the television landscape these days. Why? Because they provide all the drama and the pathos of scripted shows at a fraction of the cost. That’s the true villain of this story. It’s not the extreme left. It’s penny-pinching network executives who care more about the bottom line than offering quality content. Also, the audiences who prefer to watch these kinds of shows than situation comedies.

But the thing is, this is pretty obvious. You’d have to be a moron not to realize this. But Jerry Seinfeld, as the New Yorker told us, is a “Scholar of Comedy.” Someone so scholarly should be able to see this trend and not stupidly blame woke culture.

This is not the first time took aim at PC culture. Back in 2015, Seinfeld criticized college audiences for being “too PC.” He said he doesn’t book colleges, which is odd because why wouldn’t he want to perform at a location where the whole audience was born after Seinfeld went off the air. But it still comes off as sour grapes.

Or maybe Seinfeld is just trying to take the “Dennis Miller School of Career Improvement” by currying favor with a right wing audience. But he doesn’t need to. His recent Broadway concerts sold so fast they had to add another phone line to handle the requests. Maybe he is just shifting to the right in his old age. Seinfeld has just turned 70. That seems to be right in the Fox News demographic.

Whatever the reason, Jerry Seinfeld is wrong. For someone who claims to be a comedy scholar, a man old enough to see stand-up comedy move from Bob Newhart to Richard Pryor to Robin Williams to himself, who saw TV comedy go from Gilligan’s Island to M*A*S*H* to The Cosby Show to his show, and still blame woke culture for the way both artforms are today is disingenuous. Seinfeld has been getting a lot of press over this. But instead of showing us that he is a pundit worthy of paying attention to, he instead shows himself a self-important relic whose opinion means nothing.

Avatar für Bill Gatevackes
About Bill Gatevackes 2035 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.
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