Comedy is in decline, says Seinfeld, because of political correctness and far-left “crap” 

Michael TaubeOur world is starting to push back against the far-left ideology that has dominated public discourse for several years. Political correctness and wokeness are among the screwball ideas that need to be tossed into the dustbin of history – and fast.

Alas, it’s going to be a difficult and painstakingly slow process.

This is especially true in the world of comedy. It was a genre where open discussion was treasured, free speech barriers were few and far between – and people from all walks of life were fair game. This has dramatically changed as of late. Certain topics and jokes are now seen as being verboten in some cases, or not worth the hassle (and potential lawsuit) in others.

When you need to understand what’s wrong with today’s comedy, look no further than the words of a great comedian who’s clearly frustrated with what’s happening.

Who am I referring to? Jerry Seinfeld.

seinfeld comedy far-left political correctness
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A household name in his line of work, his rise from standup comedy to TV icon has been chronicled for decades. He co-created (with Larry David) the legendary sitcom that bore his last name, Seinfeld, and created the successful Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. He’s one of the recognized masters of observational comedy, which focuses on common aspects of everyday life and pokes fun at the situations being discussed. Other comedians who fit this designation include Shelley Berman, Dave Allen, Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Dave Chappelle.

Seinfeld has largely been defined as a non-offensive comedian. He rarely swears during his standup routines. His jokes aren’t terribly edgy or controversial. He doesn’t use racial or religious humour to get laughs. He’s hard-working and the consummate professional on stage, screen and TV.

At the same time, he realizes his art form is under attack. Comedians of all shapes, sizes and disciplines are being affected. He’s not going to remain silent while this problem continues to fester.

His stand was on full display during an Apr. 28 interview with The New Yorker’s David Remnick. Their discussion could largely be regarded as straightforward banter. They talked about Unfrosted, his upcoming movie about the history of the Pop-Tart. Comedians he enjoyed watching and learning from, including Johnny Carson, Rodney Dangerfield, Alan King, Jay Leno and Don Rickles. His respect for fellow comedian Chris Rock, calling him “the smartest person, maybe, I’ve ever met.” His love and admiration for his Seinfeld co-stars, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards, who took “this really esoteric material and, the brilliant performers and actors that they were, made this material accessible to a wide audience.”

Then came the most interesting – and talked-about – moment of the interview.

Remnick asked Seinfeld, “Tell me how you deal with the weight of the world, or the serious aspects of the world weighing on you, and how that affects comedy.” The comedian’s response was honest, forthright and intriguing:

“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, ‘M*A*S*H’ 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. Now they’re going to see standup comics because we are not policed by anyone. The audience polices us. We know when we’re off track. We know instantly and we adjust to it instantly. But when you write a script and it goes into four or five different hands, committees, groups – ‘Here’s our thought about this joke.’ Well, that’s the end of your comedy.”

He’s right. Comedy determined by committee is the death of comedy. Political correctness and woke culture seeped heavily into the American consciousness during (mostly) far-left uprisings like the Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and climate change activism. Individuals and groups were regularly triggered and offended by things they saw, encountered and experienced. American TV shows, including sitcoms, got caught in this tsunami of left-wing insanity. Executives stuck their noses where they didn’t belong, and televised portrayals of humour became a major casualty.

Remnick later asked Seinfeld if what he described as P.C. is going away. “Slightly. I see a slight movement …With certain comedians now, people are having fun with them stepping over the line and us all laughing about it. But, again, it’s the standups that really have the freedom to do it because no one else gets the blame if it doesn’t go down well. He or she can take all the blame themself.”

I’m not entirely sure about this. Some standup comedians have been involved in controversial verbal confrontations with audiences, including his old co-star, Richards. A few of them have even been sued by audience members for past comments.

Then again, if this scholar of comedy – as Remnick’s article described Seinfeld – believes there’s some movement afoot, that’s a positive sign. Anything that helps bring the world of comedy back to its former self is a good thing for this genre – and a world that desperately needs more laughter and merriment.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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