Monday, August 3, 2015

Censorship and Jerry Seinfeld

I recently went to see Jerry Seinfeld perform a comedy show. I thought he was excellent, and I was also a huge fan of his television show. His comedy matters to me.

That's why I was rather nonplussed when he said that he would no longer perform at colleges, given that they are too politically correct, or 'PC.' Here's the thing that weirded me out about that. Jerry's comedy isn't fucking edgey. He does observational humor, and I would've felt comfortable taking my kid to that show. It baffles me that anyone would be offended by any of his jokes.

In light of that, there are two distinct possibilities, two collections of events that could have transpired which caused him to make that decision. Either somebody got pissed at a joke that he made based on a misunderstanding of the material. That is to say, someone became angry over subtext in a joke, when said subtext was not intended. I will concede that this is plausible, but again, the material that he used at the show I attended was in no way offensive. I find it exceedingly unlikely that any rational, thinking person would ever describe him as being 'non-PC.' But maybe the material he used at the college was different from that which he used at my show. I have no way of knowing that.

Which leads me to what I consider to be the more likely possibility. Jerry Seinfeld is a sniveling, whining little asshole. By that, I mean that his joke didn't land, and he got pissed about it. Then he went out of his way to blame anyone but himself for the failure he committed.

Look, let me be clear. I do not agree with censorship in any form, least of all in the context of a comedy show. The jokes that a comedian tells are not necessarily indicative of his real feelings on a subject. His persona onstage is merely an act, intended to illicit laughter from the audience. It cannot be offensive, in my view, because it is comedy. If the humor employed by shock-value comedians like Daniel Tosh offends you, then it is your responsibility to avoid that sort of humor. You cannot force a comic to change his act. You can educate, and engage in constructive debate, but if he chooses to ignore your suggestions, then that is completely within his right. He has a right to peddle the sort of product that he wants, to the market demographic he desires. If that demo does not include you, then suck it up and deal. No one is forcing you to listen to comedians you don't like.

But, in a way, the same goes for comedians. It's still about personal responsibility. If a joke you make onstage doesn't land, it is his responsibility to evaluate why. He must place the blame on himself, and examine his material from a logical standpoint. If he discovers flaws in his act, he can change them to appeal to a broader subset of people. And if he wants to keep pleasing his current audience, that's fine too. But in the context of entertainment, my original point still stands. Both parties are personally responsible for their own actions.

Just something to think about.

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