Us diversity nerds are not particularly surprised that Jerry Seinfeld finds talking about race, gender or sexuality as "anti-comedy" and dismisses it as "PC nonsense."
After 20 years of whitewashing New York, the media is pushing him to be accountable for his narrow world view. Seinfeld was on for nine years, and defined pop culture in the 1990s. Based in Manhattan, his wonderbread existence was occasionally dotted with heavily accented Chinese food delivery boys, or the inept Pakistani entrepreneur, Babu Bhatt, going bankrupt. Perhaps we should thank Seinfeld and NBC for showing the true immigrant experience in urban North America? Or giving starving comics of colour some work?
After the introduction of the character Babu Bhatt, I went to class the next day to find all the suburban grunge kids mimicking "the Paki" on Seinfeld with his inane accent -- despite the real actor Brian George, being London born and Canadian trained (with a posh British accent that puts James Bond to shame). Seinfeld's pitiful all-white world reminded us that as newcomers, not only did we have to work twice as hard for the American Dream -- that in fact, we were invisible and only existed to make 'whitey' feel superior.
Naming the experiences of the 'Other' is considered unfunny in showbiz. After all, Ellen DeGeneres, once referred to as the "female Seinfeld," found herself dumped by her network after her infamous coming out in 1997.
But then I look at comics Margaret Cho and Russell Peters, who use humour to mock racists and homophobes, and make life just a little more bearable for the rest of us. Both talk about their parents' immigrant journeys. Last year, Forbes named Peters as its third richest comic with $21 million. With his diverse audience and global brand, Peters is steadily encroaching Seinfeld's claim on being top dog.
At 59, Seinfeld is long past his comedy prime, with more innovative comics of the decade taking over the airwaves. All dinosaurs eventually become extinct. Not only is being racist unfunny -- at the end of the day it is just plain boring.
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