Like Dave Chappelle’s controversial 15-minute monologue last weekend Saturday Night Live penetrates the cultural membrane, Jerry Seinfeld has gently spoken his piece on the matter-saying very little.
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Seinfeld treats the monologue in vague but clearly allusive terms. “I thought the comedy was well executed, but I think the subject matter calls for a conversation that I don’t think I’d want to have in this place,” Seinfeld says.
At issue is Chappelle’s invocation of multiple anti-Semitic tropes throughout the set, where he discussed Kanye West’s recent descent into public bigotry and his relationship with the Jewish community. The monologue drew criticism from, among others, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who slammed Chappelle and SNL for the normalization of anti-Semitism.
When asked if the monologue made him uncomfortable, Seinfeld again focused on the possible positive consequences of the monologue, saying, “It provokes a conversation that hopefully is productive.” (Club AVTrae DeLellis called the monologue “best and worst moment” of the evening show.)
Although Seinfeld says he and Chappelle are “friends,” he describes their relationship as “not a close relationship” — and not one that would yield a nuanced conversation about anti-Semitism between the two.
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Seinfeld isn’t the first stand-up comedian he’s spoken to Chappelle in recent days. Jon Stewart also had his say during a guest appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Tuesday night. Stewart’s stance on the matter also leaned toward dialogue—as he sees it, censorship is not the right way to deal with deep-seated prejudice.
“I don’t believe that censorship and punishments are the way to end anti-Semitism or not to gain understanding,” Stewart said. “I don’t believe in that. I think it’s the wrong way to approach it.”
He continued: “We have to overcome this in the country. People think Jews control Hollywood. People think Jews control the banks. And to pretend they don’t and not deal with it directly, we’re never going to gain any kind of understanding with each other.”