Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian who made jokes about nothing, suddenly finds himself in the eye of the storm

Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian who made jokes about nothing, suddenly finds himself in the eye of the storm
Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian who made jokes about nothing, suddenly finds himself in the eye of the storm
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There was tension in the air at the prestigious American Duke University on Sunday. The cause: a speech by comedian Jerry Seinfeld (70). The man behind the legendary TV sitcom bearing his name gave a speech at the graduation ceremony, but it was not well received by everyone. When he was announced, there were loud cheers, and dozens of students stood up and left the sports field where the ceremony took place. “Free Palestine”, they shouted. Others cheered on Seinfield. The stakes of the conflict: Seinfeld’s support for Israel, which he has been quite vocal about since the Hamas attack on October 7 last year.

Students walk away from Jerry Seinfeld’s speech in protest of support for Israel. — © De Standaard

It seems like quite a turnaround for a comedian who has been mostly harmless throughout his career. His brainchild, the TV series Seinfeld which ran from 1989 to 1998, is known as the show about nothing – a sitcom that is about nothing. The emphasis was mainly on drawn-out jokes about everyday, recognizable situations or human irritations. Such as losing your car in a parking lot, thinking of a baby name or having to wait for a table in a restaurant.

That observational humor worked extremely well, and made a difference Seinfeld one of the most successful TV shows ever. And Jerry Seinfeld, 35 years old when he started the series, became a billionaire with it. Seinfeld also specialized in that kind of observational, usually harmless humor in his stand-up career.

Fight against woke

But nowadays Seinfeld appears sharper. At the end of last month he caused quite a stir with an interview The New Yorker, in which he said that people need comedy shows on TV, but they aren’t being made these days. “That is the result of the extreme left and PC (politically correct, ed.) garbage,” said Seinfeld. “People are so afraid of offending someone.” He warned of “the end of comedy”.

He received a lot of support, especially from the far right corner. Tesla boss Elon Musk promptly tweeted “Make comedy legal again.” Strong criticism came from the other side of the spectrum, and also from a number of colleagues.

In the midst of today’s culture wars – and especially in the US – Seinfeld’s sudden edginess became big news. But anyone who has been paying attention knows that he has been making that point for some time. For example, eight years ago he said this openly on Seth Meyers’ late-night show. The latter then said that more and more people indicate that they feel a comedian is crossing a line. “Yes,” Seinfeld replied, “but they’re pushing the line closer and closer for no reason.” According to Seinfeld, there was already “a nasty politically correct thing going on that really bothers me.”

Support for Israel

Added to this was his support for Israel since the Hamas attack on October 7 last year, which left more than 1,300 Israeli victims.

This hit Seinfeld, who is Jewish himself, hard. “I lived and worked in a kibbutz when I was sixteen,” he wrote on Instagram a few days later. “Since then, I have always loved our Jewish motherland.” He concluded his message with “I will always stand with Israel, and with the Jewish people.” Even before the attack, he had already spoken out about the rise of anti-Semitism in the US.

After October 7, he signed an open letter expressing support for Israel along with other celebrities and went to Tel Aviv where he met families of the victims of the Hamas attack. Then the American magazine GQ asked him why he did that, he simply said, “I am Jewish.” Critics accuse Seinfeld of ignoring the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza in his support for Israel and of supporting a regime that would commit genocide.

Statements from his wife, Jessica Seinfeld, also do not immediately calm the emotions around him. She has been very outspoken about the conflict and financially supports pro-Israel demonstrations organized as a counterweight to the anti-Israel student protests in the US. There were already violent clashes between both camps. Last week she also called on social media to vote for the Israeli candidate in the Eurovision Song Contest.

All of this puts Jerry Seinfeld, who so successfully built a career on jokes about “nothing,” at the center of the storm, with students standing up when he takes the floor. Although he would have preferred to see it differently. “I don’t give sermons about it,” he said GQ about the war. “I do have strong personal feelings about it, and I discuss them privately.”

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Jerry Seinfeld comedian jokes suddenly finds eye storm

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