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Jerry Seinfeld stands up to diversity hecklers

Photo of Jennifer Gratz
Jennifer Gratz
Lead Plaintiff, Gratz v. Bollinger

Should a comedian be judged by the color of his skin, or the quality of his humor? That’s a question Jerry Seinfeld was forced to confront this week during an interview with “BuzzFeed Brews.” Not surprisingly, he was ready with the perfect response.

On Monday, BuzzFeed editor Peter Lauria challenged Seinfeld about the perceived lack of diversity among the guests on his new web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. More specifically, he was asked why he hosts so many “white males.” His full response is worth watching, but it can aptly be summed up in two words: Who cares?

“People think it’s the census or something?” he said. “It’s gotta represent the actual pie chart of America. Who cares? Funny is the world 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 calculating — is this the exact right mix? I think that’s — to me it’s anti-comedy. It’s more about PC-nonsense than are you making us laugh or not.”

Seinfeld has faced a considerable amount of criticism for apparently selecting the wrong skin colors and gender to appear on his show. This response further agitated his detractors, leading to insinuations of white privilege, sexism, and even racism, from outlets such as Gawker.

Of course this is not the first time a show has faced pressure to feature a more diverse cast. Last year Saturday Night Live received a deluge of calls to take proactive measures to increase its diversity. Critics even made it easy by specifying the preferred color and gender – in this case, a black female. Thus, it was no surprise when SNL announced it was holding auditions exclusively for black females and then announced in January that it had added a black female to its cast. The criticism subsided. Another diversity hire for the history books.

Seinfeld’s response is markedly different. Rather than saluting the flag of surface level diversity, he shrugged it off as something that really does not matter in the realm of comedy. In fact as an extreme, it manifests itself as “anti-comedy.” Either you think someone is funny or you don’t. Trying to impose pseudo-quotas on what colors, genders, ethnicities, and orientations should be represented on a stage (or in a car) misses the point of comedy, undermines genuine talent, and reinforces judgments based on appearance. It is a cycle that promotes narrow-mindedness, awkward sensitivities, and plain stupidity. Seinfeld was right to dismiss it.

The fact that he is being criticized for such a common sense stance is yet another sign of just how far some are willing to go to impose race and gender identity politics on almost every aspect of people’s lives. In January, the Department of Justice issued new guidance to K-12 schools, calling on administrators to use race in student disciplinary action to ensure punishments are distributed proportionately to each racial and ethnic group. Those that do not produce the right numbers may face aggressive civil-rights prosecution.

Last year, six federal financial regulatory agencies created regulations to monitor the diversity policies of institutions they regulate. These standards prioritize producing “correct” diversity numbers over genuinely evaluating each employee based on individual talent and contributions.

Even the craft beer brewing industry has not been immune to this scrutiny. Last year, NPR bemoaned the lack of black and Latino local brewers nationwide and pondered how the government could step in to ensure more diversity in the industry. Have you ever met a single person who judges a beer based on the brewer’s color or gender? These factors are just as irrelevant to brewing as they are to financial regulation, school discipline, comedy and just about every other profession.