For a comedian made famous on the show about nothing, Jerry Seinfeld has no problem stirring things up with contentious comments.
During the original run of Seinfeld (1989 – 1998), the NBC sitcom was repeatedly accused of presenting an unrealistic all-white version of New York to the viewing public.
When any African-American, Latino or Asian characters did appear on the series, they were inevitably relegated to second-tier support status in episodes with titles like “The Chinese Restaurant” (“Seinfeld, party of four!”)
Perhaps inevitably, the white-washing claims resurfaced in Seinfeld’s more recent Crackle Web series titled Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, in which he took rides in vintage vehicles accompanied by comedic players like Larry David, Ricky Gervais, Alec Baldwin and Michael Richards (a.k.a. Kramer).
And naturally the topic came up again when Seinfeld showed up on CBS This Morning yesterday, just one day after his appearance in a Super Bowl commercial to promote Comedians in Cars.
Helmed by Buzzfeed business editor Peter Lauria, the Seinfeld segment began amiably enough. Lauria asked Seinfeld straight away about his predilection for programs featuring so many “white males.”
“Yeah, let’s get into that,” responded Seinfeld with dripping sarcasm.
“Take a look over here, Peter,” Seinfeld continued while gesturing toward the studio audience surrounding them. “What do you see? A lot of whiteys.”
But eventually Seinfeld acquiesced to the question, saying, “Oh, this really pisses me off. But go ahead.”
When Lauria asked Seinfeld whether he felt that pop culture – and comedy in particular – should accurately reflect the current diversity of society, the 59-year-old career comic did not appear to be amused.
“People think it’s the census or something,” bristled Seinfeld. “This has gotta represent the actual pie chart of America? Who cares?”
And when it comes to comedy, in Seinfeld’s view, it all comes down to getting laughs.
“Funny is the world I live in,” he said unapologetically. “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.”
When pressed on the subject, Seinfeld stated his belief that approaching comedy in terms of race or gender or sexuality was “anti-comedy.” He also said, “It’s more about PC nonsense than, ‘Are you making us laugh or not?’ ”
That said, it’s probably worth noting that over three seasons and 22 episodes, Seinfeld has invited exactly four non-white, non-male passengers to ride shotgun with him on Comedians in Cars.
Those passengers being: Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Chris Rock and Mario Joyner (who in fact shared the spotlight with Colin Quinn).
Nobody’s trying to force Jerry into a motoring excursion with Arsenio Hall, but would it kill him to give Kevin Hart or Ice Cube a ride?
In case it helps, the duo’s current screen comedy Ride Along topped the North American box office last weekend for the third consecutive week.