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Stop calling Jerry Seinfeld Right-wing

Conservative circles have sought validation from cultural icons. Credit: Getty

June 3, 2024 - 8:40pm

As he promotes his Pop-Tart origin film Unfrosted, Jerry Seinfeld’s comments on the disappearance of traditional masculinity and his vocal support for Israel have led critics on the Left to brand him as Right-wing — a treatment many comedians have received in recent years.

Historically, Seinfeld has refrained from overt political engagement. His humour has often focused on the mundane, shying away from the contentious while poking fun at Oxford shirts, Nilla wafers, and button-fly jeans. Indeed, he was the emblem of the apolitical humorist all too willing to opine about “nothing.”

Since Hamas’ surprise attack on October 7, though, his support for Israel and photo ops with IDF soldiers have come under fire. The belief held by some on the Left is that the comedian functions as a mouthpiece for Israeli violence, a perception that has attracted significant backlash for him and other Jewish celebrities thought to have done likewise.

The Right’s eagerness to embrace Seinfeld highlights a broader trend. Conservative circles have increasingly sought validation from cultural icons, particularly those willing to challenge “wokeness” and political correctness. Here, Seinfeld got the biggest endorsement of all when X owner Elon Musk posted a photo of the comedian alongside the caption “Make comedy legal again!” This thirst for acceptance mirrors the reception given to a fellow star comedian like Dave Chappelle, who, despite making controversial statements about trans people, has never come anywhere close to aligning with conservative politics. Meanwhile, less well-known performers like Shane Gillis have rebounded from past cancellations by producing material that speaks, at least in part, to this underserved, Right-of-centre audience.

Seinfeld’s stance should be considered within the broader spectrum of American political attitudes towards Israel, where support for the Jewish state is hardly an exclusively conservative position. Prominent Democratic figures, such as Senators John Fetterman and Chuck Schumer (as well as his Left-wing comedian cousin, Amy Schumer, and pro-Bernie Sanders “funny girl” Sarah Silverman), have consistently endorsed pro-Israel policies. Similarly, other Left-leaning cultural commentators have lamented the stigmatising of traditional male behaviours — again without leaving the Left.

Over the past decade, the cultural climate for comedians has become increasingly politicised, creating an ever-expanding minefield where even a handful of comments on sensitive topics can quickly define a public figure’s political alignment, regardless of their broader beliefs or intentions (Seinfeld, for example, recently expressed dismay at the prospect of a second Trump term). This environment forces comedians into a precarious position where their artistic expressions and personal beliefs are continually dissected, often leading to mischaracterisations and oversimplified labels — this performer is “woke,” that one is “based.”

Such a politicised environment may lead to more cautious performances or, conversely, embolden others to double down on their controversial stances. Seinfeld, for his part, has responded by claiming that he merely wants to follow “the immutable rules of comedy” without the application of such partisan tags.

Unfortunately, the short-term future of comedy will likely see an ongoing tension between maintaining artistic freedom and addressing the cultural and political sensitivities of the time. Hopefully, however, this period of tension will eventually pass as people tire of the endless cavalcade of denunciations of their favourite comedians. Although getting worked up about the demerits of based or woke performers surely superheats the discourse, comedy is a long distance runner, and it will outpace the hot-button issues of the day.


Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work

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Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
14 days ago

There is an agenda in US media and other establishment circles to label anyone not aligned with Democrat party agenda points as far-right, particularly if they belong to a classis non grata like Jew, white or male. The most pernicious thing about this label is that it permits your political opponents to totally negate you as a person not worthy of being listened to.
It is a gross form of arrogant stupidity wherein anyone who doesn’t conform to a certain way of thinking is deemed morally or intellectually debased. We see it in commenters like Champagne Socialist and Talie Perkins here on Unherd. When their viewpoints are challenged they resort to accusations and insults in order to avoid examining their own glaring errors of judgment. This is what happens when children are taught that ‘correct-thinking’ is more important than critical thinking.

T Bone
T Bone
14 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Progressivism is a Colonizing ideology. They mystify people with the term colonizer because its a projection. Its exactly how they operate. Everyone has to conform and comply with progressive diktats or else they are cast out and marked with a scarlet letter.

The downside of achieving total cultural hegemony is that even marginal critique becomes intolerable for people absolutely certain of their moral righteousness. People already on the cultural “margins” or shall we call them the “culturally marginalized” don’t have this problem. They can accept people even if they’re not perfectly aligned politically.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
14 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

It’s frightening how easily Western institutions succumbed to this colonizing ideology. They care more about creating enemies than making friends (unless they’re ‘allies’ of some kind’).

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
14 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Totally agree. It’s really just a deflection technique to avoid actually debating the issues. I’ll give Tallia credit though. She does engage in endless smears, but she also delivers a bunch of links. Unfortunately, it’s always seriously flawed research from rabidly ideological NGOs.

Ian_S
Ian_S
14 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Beautifully said. On a small point, I’d also noticed the author says “critics on the Left” branded Seinfeld as “Right-wing”. But there is no “Right-wing”. Anyone even slightly out of step with the narrative is “far right”, or “extreme right” — the accusation is always dialed up to 10. But that’s a minor point. Your comment packs a huge punch.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
14 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

“When their viewpoints are challenged”
I’m waiting for someone to challenge my viewpoints without resorting to MAGA talking points.
Hasn’t happened yet. I’ll just keep having fun at your expense in the meantime!

Ian_S
Ian_S
14 days ago

But everything you disagree with is automatically a maga talking point. So not a fun game. You get to eat lunch in the playground by yourself, again.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
14 days ago
Reply to  Ian_S

Don’t be so nervous, laddie! Voice your disagreements, let’s hear what you have to say for yourself.
I’m not that scary, am I?!?!

Sylvia Volk
Sylvia Volk
14 days ago

You really are, CS.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
14 days ago

Not scary, just a bit thick

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
14 days ago

I literally have no idea what your views are – other than MAGA bad.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
12 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

He’s like one of those seagulls in Finding Nemo.

David Mayes
David Mayes
14 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Both Seinfeld and Musk are pro truth. The former satirises the lies of everyday middle class life to reveal the small unacknowledged social truths and where the objective measure is the laugh and the latter is the master engineer of our time where the objective measure is working within the physics of the material world.
I think that makes them, and their like, centrists. The Left and the Right both slip into authoritarianism as they fight against truth, because it keeps conflicting with their idea of how the world should be, so, they tend toward the unfunny and the impractical.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
14 days ago

“Traditional” liberals have been guilty of either ignoring the intolerance of their far left extreme or actually abetting and enjoying the hateful characterization of conservatives as “the deplorables”. Instead of engaging intelligent conservatives in thoughtful discourse regarding the issues of our times they have played a dirty game of putting the spotlight on outrageous “conservative” spokespeople (Marjorie Taylor Greene, Candace Owens, Trump) and cancelling all conservatives of intellectual merit. The left abandoned the hard business of actually defending their positions in favor of a bag of subterfuge and dirty tricks. They have been coasting on the momentum of decades past when to be liberal was to be thoughtful.

For too long the entire “left” would not admit that any part of the Right was not far Right. Israel-Hamas has abruptly illuminated the dark side of the left. Liberals, in opting to confront conservatism only ad hominem, have grown intellectually flabby and cannot articulate a modern liberal viewpoint uncontaminated by hate, intolerance, craziness, glaring inconsistency, and a new version of anti-intellectualism. When the hard-won rights of actual women must be sacrificed to the expedience of trans-women; when the nominally most liberal segment of society campaigns in behalf of the most repressive culture on the planet; when the answer to crime is to decriminalize crime, defund police, and willfully refrain from prosecution; when “intellectuals” predicate academic success upon foundations that reject merit and ability in favor of dubious diversity; when the minority with the longest grimmest legacy of persecution finds itself lumped with the colonial oppressors, the game is exposed. Name the progressive intellectual that cogently reconciles these contradictions. Name the American politician on the left to succeed Biden who articulates an appealing coherent vision that speaks to the biggest issues of our time with even a whiff of practicality.

Let the idiots come after Seinfeld and demonstrate their true colors. Every day more and more sleepy Boomer liberals are waking to the reality that their 1960’s vintage liberalism is a vanished pot dream. More and more Millennials are beginning to visualize their future transferred wholesale to immigrants hostile to their values and interests. More and more Blacks and Hispanics are trending Right because–imagine that–legions of them also have family values and are queasy about the thought of their children whacking off their genitals, or schools that don’t teach math, or crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Rave on progressives!! Wrap your faces in support of monsters!! Find three or four more pretenses to put Trump on trial!! Keep up the good work!!

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
13 days ago

‘Far right’ has become a meaningless term. It used to mean Nazi, but what is called ‘far right’ now is simply any idea that conflicts with the prominent ‘far left’, or ‘loony left’ that seeks to dominate all opinion. Jerry Seinfeld is a talented intelligent comedian. I’ll continue to like him even if he says something I disagree with–there’s still plenty he says that I do agree with.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
14 days ago

The audiences don’t care about any of these labels, those on the right or the left. They just want funny. It’s the venues that get targeted by the activists and NGOs. People like Seinfeld and Chapotelle can easily shake it off because they are beyond the reach of activists. It’s the up and comers who are held hostage by the venues.

PS. Unfrosted was a seriously bad movie. I checked out after about 30 minutes. Love Seinfeld though. Still think it is the best sitcom ever.

A D Kent
A D Kent
14 days ago

Ask Seinfeld who he thinks should be in charge of the means of production and get back to us. In the meantime, all I can say is he’s probably less far-right than his missus.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
13 days ago
Reply to  A D Kent

‘means of production’?? Do you think you are Karl Marx or something?

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
14 days ago

Seinfeld and Chappelle are both at least 20 years past their prime. Their antiquated views are what you would expect from old people. And neither of them have been funny for a long time…

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
13 days ago

Is support for Israel an ‘antiquated view’? It’s not being represented in current editions of Teen Vogue magazine?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
13 days ago

Belief in self defense, self determination and freedom from terrorism is so last century, it’s all about supporting genocidal antisemites now

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
13 days ago

Big-whoopy doo. In twenty years time, those strange-looking ‘they/them’ people will be laughed at by children who won’t be able to believe their ears when they hear that grown adults used to think you could change sex at the drop of a hat. What you find sacred today, people will dismiss as old-fashioned fancy.
The thing is if you’re not willing to hold on to your values, even when they go out of fashion, you never really had values to start with.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
13 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

In fairness, I’ve read a lot of science fiction and maybe one day we’ll be able to change sex as easily as is claimed by some today, in the same way we may be able to grow new bodies or upload ourselves to computers.

That day is not today – out of courtesy, politeness and common decency I’m happy to call people by whatever pronouns they want and not ask questions in a normal environment but it will always be a social pretence. In situations of legal matters (rape for example) then I don’t think this social courtesy should be extended.

I suspect my views above are shared by most people, and indeed by comedians like Dave Chapelle but expressing them in certain situations could be risky for me. This is wrong. So as per OP, even if he doesn’t find these guys funny they are performing a vital social function by poking fun at ridiculous ideas