Anthony Berteaux, a college sophomore from San Diego State University, has chosen to respond to Jerry Seinfeld, in the name of all college students, regarding Seinfeld’s comments that colleges are too politically correct. Seinfeld apparently won’t do stand-up at colleges anymore because college students are too easily offended, and this one college student was very offended by that. This is just one of the ironies of Berteaux’s post that he apparently didn’t pick up on.
First some context. Here’s an account of some of what Seinfeld said on The Herd with Colin Cowherd:
“I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.’”
Seinfeld says teens and college-aged kids don’t understand what it means to throw around certain politically-correct terms. “They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist;’ ‘That’s sexist;’ ‘That’s prejudice,’” he said. “They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
The funnyman went on to recount a conversation he and his wife had with their 14-year-old daughter, which he believes proved his point.
“My wife says to her, ‘Well, you know, in the next couple years, I think maybe you’re going to want to be hanging around the city more on the weekends, so you can see boys,’” Seinfeld recalled. “You know what my daughter says? She says, ‘That’s sexist.’”
Anyway, Berteaux had a lot of things to say regarding Seinfeld, provocative comedy, political correctness, and college students. Nearly the whole open letter inadvertently proves Seinfeld’s point. Here is a real gem near the beginning:
As college students who are engaged in a myriad of social, economic, and political issues, it’s our duty to be actively engaged and educated about issues of sexism, racism and prejudice. While, respectively, your daughter might not quite know what’s considered “sexist” yet, I can say with confidence that most college students can distinguish the boundaries of what’s considered appropriately sexist or not.
So as college students engaged in a myriad of social, economic, and political issues, it’s your duty to be (actively) engaged in a myriad of social, economic, and political issues like sexism, racism, and prejudice? You don’t say you don’t say. Also, I think you meant “respectfully” not “respectively,” and what exactly do you mean by “appropriately sexist”? Are you saying that some sexism is appropriate and some is not? I don’t get it.
Or maybe you meant “appropriately considered”? It’s usually the case that you place a modifier before the word modified, especially when your meaning might be unclear, but maybe that’s not a thing they teach in middle school anymore. I could continue by pointing out other areas where your writing is awkward or unclear (e.g., “Provocative humor, such as ones dealing . . . ” or “. . . Schumer has become a muse in being able to tackle …” or “to have an underlying message to be said”), but I’m not “campus editor-at-large” at San Diego State University, so what do I know?
Berteaux’s main point was that offense in comedy was permissible (in his obviously authoritative opinion) only if it furthered “dialogue” about sensitive issues:
Provocative humor, such as ones dealing with topics of race and gender politics, can be crass and vulgar, but underlying it must be a context that spurs social dialogue about these respective issues. [By the way, you correctly used “respective” here. Kudos!] There needs to be a message, a central truth behind comedy for it to work as humor.
. . .
While it’s not the sole role of comics to be social commentators on every issue through their comedy, I believe there is a responsibility, especially when a well-known comic is talking about sensitive topics like race and gender politics, to have an underlying message to be said.
This doesn’t mean that the funny aspect of the bit has to be compromised for the sake of social commentary. As countless comedians have proven before, it’s very possible to have a message and be hilarious at the same time.
This translates to stand-up comedy as well. Take it from your fellow male comics.
Did you catch that? Berteaux had just talked about how Amy Schumer tackles important social issues with her comedy. With his comment about “fellow male comics,” he implies that Seinfeld doesn’t have to take it from a female comic alone … even his fellow male comics know how to tackle sensitive issues in their bits. Perhaps he thinks Seinfeld won’t hear his point unless it’s made by a white male. That’s just presumptuous and patronizing.
But, speaking of sexism, it feels vaguely sexist, especially wen he feels the need to call Schumer “a rising comic in her own right.” Why did he feel the need to include that? Does Schumer need his endorsement because people are unlikely to give her as much credit as a female comic? And speaking of humor, it’s hilarious how hard he’s trying.
He apparently doesn’t comprehend the inherent contradiction of his positions. He says that “there needs to be a message, a central truth behind comedy for it to work as humor.” Then he goes on to say that “the funny aspect of the bit [doesn’t have] to be compromised for the sake of social commentary.” Which is it? If the message is central to the humor, then the humor can’t be compromised by the social commentary. The social commentary is either necessary for the comedy to work, or it’s not. Which is it, Anthony?
The patronizing tone of this letter is stomach-turning. Berteaux feels the need to explain to Seinfeld that George Carlin “was revered by many as being one of the comedy ‘greats.’” Really, Anthony? You think Seinfeld might be unaware of the legacy and existence of George Carlin? He also explains to Seinfeld that “there’s a demographic that yearns for laughter.” Yeah, Anthony, that “demographic” is also known as the human race. Sheesh.
To end his overlong and desultory illustration of why the word “sophomoric” exists, Berteaux “proves” he has no issue with “offensive” comedy by dropping the f-bomb twice for no reason at all. This whole letter was so very enlightening and provocative. I’m sure that Seinfeld, duly humbled, will be doing everything he can to perform at colleges now, thanks to the piercing wisdom of Anthony Berteaux. Or not.