Take two recent observations, and see if you can tell where they’re headed.
First, there’s the news that comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld won’t perform at college campuses because they’re too politically correct. Actually, I suspect Seinfeld doesn’t play campuses because they can’t offer him enough money to get out of bed in the morning. But the point is that if they could, he wouldn’t.
Then there’s Ben Domenech’s observation that in the new culture wars, the left “seeks to govern the nation as if it were a college campus.”
I think you see where this is going.
If Seinfeld won’t come to the campus, the campus—and its PC mentality—will come to him. Hence Kevin O’Keeffe in Mic complaining that “Jerry Seinfeld Just Made His Worst Joke Yet—And It’s About Trans People.”
The joke is neither terrible, nor terribly funny: “Isn’t it just a matter of time before transgender is an airline? You just get on one sex and you get off the other one.” It’s a pun on “trans,” I guess. Nor is it all that transgressive. In fact, O’Keeffe offers no explanation for why it should be offensive. But it’s clear that it should be, because he gives us this hilarious follow-up: “To Colbert’s credit, he seems utterly unamused by the joke, basically ignoring it entirely before the shot is edited away to the next.” Colbert really dodged a bullet there by not being amused inappropriately.
It’s not the content or manner of the joke, but the fact that anyone could joke at all about this forbidden subject matter. Nothing other than dull and obvious boosterism is permitted.
When Seinfeld first talked about political correctness, I was immediately reminded of the episode of “Seinfeld” in which Jerry and George are mistakenly “outed” as a gay couple. They spend the rest of the show trying to correct the error—while adding the reflexive disclaimer, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
It’s funny because it’s clear that they do think there’s something wrong with it. They’re mortified. But they feel the need to say the opposite. It was a bit of gentle satire of the rules of PC hypocrisy.
And that’s the problem. This cannot be permitted any more.
For decades, the left has ruled unopposed from their miniature quasi-totalitarian utopias on college campuses. Now they’re attempting to assert their campus rules as the new regime for everyone. All of America has become a giant campus, with speech codes, sex regulations, mandatory gender-neutrality, mobs of hysterical enforcers demanding the shunning of heretics—and no sense of humor whatsoever.
Humor is an unreliably destructive element. It tends to expose absurdities and tear down pompous pretensions. The Soviet Union, which was full of both, was an endless wellspring of sardonic jibes from its inmates.
So rejoice, because it looks like we’re going to have no shortage of new material.
Follow Robert on Twitter.