Jerry Seinfeld Is a Lazy Hack Out of Touch with the Real World—And Who Can Blame Him?

Comedy Features Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld Is a Lazy Hack Out of Touch with the Real World—And Who Can Blame Him?

Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t know that sitcoms still exist. Abbott Elementary? The Righteous Gemstones? Ghosts? It’s Always fuckin’ Sunny? Jerry’s never heard of ‘em. At least that’s our takeaway after listening to his recent appearance on The New Yorker Radio Hour, where he repeated that aging comic canard about political correctness ruining comedy. 

Hey, at least he didn’t use the word “woke.”

In the conversation with David Remnick, which can be read here, Seinfeld claims that the sitcom has been killed by “the extreme left” and “P.C. crap.” To be a little more generous to the guy than he deserves, he’s probably not talking about all sitcoms—I mean, he clearly knows about Curb Your Enthusiasm, which just ended its run earlier this month—but the kind of dominant, pop culture-defining sitcoms that existed in the past, shows like Cheers, All in the Family, and a little series called Seinfeld

Of course shows like that don’t exist today because TV doesn’t exist the way it used to. Instead of a handful of networks, or even a few hundred cable channels, TV now consists of all of that plus several siloed, subscription-only streaming services, while also having to contend with countless YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok channels. To beef up those streaming services, media corporations focused on developing short-run series with small writers rooms, upending the system that has kept the classic pipeline pumping since the ‘50s. The classic 22-episode-per-season sitcom crafted with broad appeal in mind is largely a thing of the past. Fewer sitcoms and shorter seasons means less opportunity and experience for comedy writers, which means fewer writers moving up the ladder, creating and pitching their own shows, and becoming showrunners and producers, which means even fewer sitcoms.   

Still, sitcoms do still exist, and haven’t been destroyed by politics. Abbott Elementary and Ghosts, both in their third seasons, are broadly popular mainstream hits (or about as much as any show can be in 2024), whereas Young Sheldon remains one of the most watched shows on network TV in its final season. Even if Seinfeld was talking solely about edgier, more offensive shows, South Park and It’s Always Sunny are still going strong, while The Righteous Gemstones hit ratings highs during last year’s third season. They’re more niche than the shows Seinfeld mentioned, but all TV is more niche today; all three shows get away with far more than any Norman Lear show could do in the ‘70s, or Seinfeld could do in his day.

It’s not surprising to hear a rich, old, white comedian complaining about politics or sensitivity “ruining” comedy; that’s basically all guys like Seinfeld are good for these days. And we shouldn’t be surprised that he can’t see the real world from the other side of his mountains of money and parking lots worth of classic cars; if I was basically a billionaire I’d probably lose touch with reality, too. It’s still weird to hear Jerry Seinfeld, specifically, saying it, though; he was one of the least controversial and offensive comedians ever—a guy so devoted to trivial observations and surface-level jokes that his stand-up felt weightless and disposable even at his ‘80s peak.

He also makes a ridiculous comment that seems to be ignorant of how sitcoms have historically been written. “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 told Remnick, describing how the vast majority of sitcoms have worked. Seinfeld didn’t always use a traditional writers room structure, so perhaps Jerry is unaware of how most shows are written; considering how ignorant his “P.C. crap” comment makes him look, I wouldn’t put it past him.

Seinfeld, of course, is a guy whose post-sitcom resume includes, like, four projects in 25 years, including movies about Pop-Tarts and a cartoon bee. He had no reason to ever work again after Seinfeld’s massive syndication deals, and the work he has done proves he doesn’t exactly have his finger on the pulse of the world today. He’s a once talented, if hackneyed, comic who’s about three decades past his sell-by date, and who is hugely in debt to Larry David and writers like Peter Mehlman, Larry Charles, Carol Leifer, Marjorie Gross, and others for the fortune that has let him insulate himself from society. The funniest thing about Jerry Seinfeld in 2024 are all the tweets and memes about him dating a 17-year-old when he was in his late 30s. Clearly a dude like this has no idea what’s actually going on, so maybe we should all just stop paying attention to him already? Let him play his stand-up shows to CEOs and lesser millionaires (the only people who can afford tickets) and release his Netflix specials that nobody under the age of 60 ever watches, while spending our time talking about comedians who are actually interesting and relevant today. We’ll stop writing about it if y’all stop clicking on it. Deal?

Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.

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