Jerry Seinfeld Writes a Letter Home From the PC War Trenches


Dearest Jessica,

I write this to you from the garage, having returned from a jaunt in another one of my expensive, pornographically shot cars with another one of my famous, successful friends. (Julia says “Hi,” by the way.) As you may have heard, the latest battle in the PC Wars is raging: I said some inflammatory stuff about racism and sexism again, and now I must fight for nothing less than the Fate of Comedy Itself.

Like my colleague Patton Oswalt, the free time afforded to me by massive success has led to my increasing uneasiness about Kids These Days and their preoccupation with small matters like race and gender. I’m not sure why, since those subjects have always been well served by comedy’s proud tradition of equal representation — just look at the whopping 17.4 percent of performers at this year’s Just for Laughs Festival who happen to be women! — and basic human decency towards non-white dudes with a microphone.

Anyway, someone had to speak out against the trigger warning-happy hordes on campuses these days, with all their student debt and control over other people’s employment, and I seemed like the right man for the job. “I don’t play colleges,” I told ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd — the “but I still feel totally qualified to talk about them” is implied — “but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.'” Does calling out racism and sexism hurt comedy, Cowherd asks? “Yes!” I said, right before admitting that neither I nor Louis CK feel compelled to self-censor as a result.

It’s all part of the good fight I started last year: “I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that,” I told BuzzFeed’s Peter Lauria. Anyone who might feel the need to approach comedy through those lenses (and who could possibly find either of those subjects funny?) is practicing “anti-comedy.” And even though the mainstream entertainment industry seems to have internalized that message fairly completely, I revisited the theme during SNL’s 40th anniversary show. “How many black women were on the Seinfeld show?” former cast member Ellen Cleghorne asked during a scripted Q&A. “Good point, Ellen! We did not do all we could to cure society’s ills,” I replied. “Mea culpa.” Notice how I didn’t think enough of her question to come up with a response that was even a little bit funny!

But even though I’ve scored many victories thus far, the PC Wars still need waging. Think of all the jobs no one ever seems to lose! The social media users I might need to (hire someone to) spend half a second blocking, if I regularly used social media! The shows that might no longer draw their inspiration from rich, complex themes like “nothing”! I mean, what’s the deal with the millions of young people fueling the current comedy boom and its abundance of groundbreaking work? I have no idea, because I’m pretty much ignoring it in favor of some anecdotal evidence about their peers!

Some might wimp out and write thoughtful, nuanced considerations of what our changing standards of humor mean. So it’s up to people like me to stay strong and keep fighting for what we believe in: our right to say whatever we want, no matter how unthreatened or undisputed or lucrative to us it may be. The PC Wars continue, and no one knows how long they’ll go on. Probably until the American public’s consensus on social issues shifts gradually to the left, as it tends to do, and what my opponents are arguing becomes less controversial — but still, no one knows for sure.

I hope to return to you someday soon. In like, 20 minutes maybe, for lunch? Anywhere but Tom’s.

All my love,