Jerry Seinfeld Clarified What “Seinfeld” Gags He Couldn’t Do Today

He got more specific than most do when making this argument

Jerry Seinfeld on stage
Jerry Seinfeld attends the UNFROSTED NY Friends & Family Screening at The Whitby Hotel.
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Netflix

Jerry Seinfeld has plenty of thoughts about changing mores around comedy. He brought this up in a controversial 2015 interview, in which he said, “I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘‘’Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.’” (Though as John Mulaney pointed out, Seinfeld’s asking price for a gig is likely more than most colleges can afford to spend.) He’s kept up that nostalgia for a bygone era in an interview with The New Yorker‘s David Remnick.

That’s meant very literally, for what it’s worth. At one point, Seinfeld compared Hugh Grant — who appears in his upcoming movie Unfrosted — to the celebrities of Seinfeld’s childhood. “[W]hen we grew up—Muhammad Ali and J.F.K. and Sean Connery. Those were men. We wanted to be like them,” he told Remnick. “They were all witty and handsome and had broad shoulders.”

Later in the interview, Seinfeld discussed his creative partnership with Larry David and the making of Seinfeld. “We did an episode of the series in the nineties where Kramer decides to start a business of having homeless people pull rickshaws because, as he says, ‘They’re outside anyway,’” he told Remnick. “Do you think I could get that episode on the air today?”

He also addressed some other plotlines from the show that a circa-now version of Seinfeld might not feature. “If Larry was thirty-five, he couldn’t get away with the watermelon stuff and Palestinian chicken . . . and HBO knows that’s what people come here for, but they’re not smart enough to figure out, ‘How do we do this now? Do we take the heat, or just not be funny?’” he said.

There’s plenty of talk in the comedy world about shows and movies you couldn’t make today. Largely, this comes up in discussion of either Blazing Saddles or Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Largely, this is done in the broadest strokes, so at the very least, it’s refreshing that Seinfeld is bringing up specific examples of jokes and plotlines.

Seinfeld is not arguing that he regrets those jokes — something that other comedians have been very open about. But he also argued later in the interview that not being able to do the rickshaw joke wouldn’t have been the end of the world. “We would write a different joke with Kramer and the rickshaw today. We wouldn’t do that joke,” he said. “We’d come up with another joke.”

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A look back at the 1960s and his old show weren’t the only trips back in cultural history that Seinfeld took over the course of the interview. He addressed the dearth of new sitcoms and chalked it up to politics. “This is the result of the extreme left and P.C. crap, and people worrying so much about offending other people,” he said. “Now they’re going to see standup comics because we are not policed by anyone.”

Reports of the sitcom’s demise may be, contra Seinfeld, a bit premature. Just look at the pages of The New Yorker from a little over a month ago, which profiled Abbott Elementary star and creator Quinta Brunson. Comedy and television are like any other examples of creative expression: they evolve.

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