At some point, when none of us were looking, Jerry Seinfeld became the elder statesman of comedy. He went from having a show about nothing, to having an opinion about everything. One reason that we keep listening is that after thirty years of stand-up, Jerry is still standing.
Seinfeld has found a way to make us laugh and to think without resorting to base humor, or to contrived stunts –managing to remain likable throughout. He has avoided the kind of career ending scandals and lapses in judgment that have plagued others in his trade.
Much of what has been on Seinfeld’s mind as late was taken down in an interview with the New York Times via Vanity Fair. Some of his more interesting thoughts centered on Louis C.K.
“We know the routine,” Seinfeld said. “The person does something wrong. The person’s humiliated. They’re exiled. They suffer, we want them to suffer. We love the tumble, we love the crash and bang of the fall. And then we love the crawl-back. The grovel. Are you going to grovel? How long are you going to grovel? Are you going to cry? Are you going to Jimmy Swaggart? And people, I think, figured they had that coming with Louie — he owes us that. We, the court of public opinion, decided if he’s going to come back, he’d better show a lot of pain. Because he denied them that.”
Louis C. K.’s fall from grace was sudden and seemingly came out of nowhere, part of a sweeping tide of zero-tolerance housekeeping in the entertainment industry following the #metoo movement breakout. No one knows how a person is supposed to come back from that degree of public scorn — or even if one can. Seinfeld also expressed shock at the swift and harsh action taken against Roseanne Barr. Barr was fired from her comeback show for an offensive joke that she made on Twitter.
In light of these events, Seinfeld’s shock is somewhat shocking in and of itself. He acknowledges that the speed of the public reaction to incendiary comments is new. A career evaporates in an instant after a few keys are tapped. He compared it to waking up and finding that the Lincoln Memorial was just taken away — because Lincoln was discovered to have had some indiscretion in the past.
Perhaps it is because Seinfeld came up during a time when things happened at a much slower pace, and famous people were given the benefit of the doubt.
Perhaps some part of Jerry Seinfeld is wondering why — and how — it is that he is still standing, while so many others around him are not.