Jerry Seinfeld Chatted With Bill Maher About Punishing Sex Offenders After Dating a 17-Year-Old

The first episode of ‘Politically Incorrect’ began on an awkward note
Jerry Seinfeld Chatted With Bill Maher About Punishing Sex Offenders After Dating a 17-Year-Old

Today, Bill Maher is best known for hosting HBO’s Real Time, and for playing the character of “Bill,” the borderline-alcoholic futilely attempting to cling to the scraps of his youth and relevance in YouTube’s bleak existential drama Club RandomBut back in 1993, Maher was still a young comedian (and an occasional shitty actor) when he landed the job of hosting Comedy Central’s new panel show Politically Incorrect.

For the very first episode of Politically Incorrect, Maher assembled a panel that included comedian Larry Miller, Howard Stern’s sidekick Robin Quivers, conservative political strategist Ed Rollins and Jerry Seinfeld. Seemingly, Maher was able to call in a favor with his old comedy club buddy, who was, at that point, one of the biggest stars in the world. 

The first topic discussed on the show was the issue of publicly shaming ex-convicts. Maher’s example involved sex offenders who were ordered to put lawn signs up in their yards in order to alert the neighbors. “Maybe if you’re a sex offender you should still be in jail, instead of getting a sign on your lawn,” Maher claimed. Seinfeld suggested, “What if they have to wear their hat at a jaunty angle? Not so severe.”

Seinfeld’s reticence to offer any serious suggestions on how to adequately punish sex offenders is understandable, considering that he was embroiled in a major controversy at the time. Just a few months before Politically Incorrect debuted, Seinfeld, who was 38 at the time, started dating a 17-year-old girl after randomly approaching her in Central Park. 

Of course, the age of consent in New York is 17, and even in states where the age of consent is 18, such as California, a “conviction for statutory rape, alone, does not require sex offender registration.” So we’re definitely not saying that Seinfeld did anything illegal, or is in any way considered a sex offender, but his actions were certainly ethically questionable. At the very least, one can see why the subject of sex crimes was a very weird topic for Seinfeld to weigh in on in the summer of 1993, when the tabloids were still referring to him as a “cradle-snatcher.”

And Seinfeld himself was very defensive about all this at the time, arguing that he wasn’t actually dating his girlfriend until she had turned 18“We just went to a restaurant, and that was it," Seinfeld stated in an interview. Yup, just a 38-year-old TV star taking a high schooler he picked up in a park to a restaurant. Nothing untoward there. 

No one was harder on Seinfeld than Howard Stern, who convinced Janis Ian to perform a parody version of her song “At Seventeen,” with new lyrics about Seinfeld’s predilection for teenage girls, complete with footage of a Seinfeld lookalike cruising by playgrounds in his limo.  

Seinfeld himself tried to joke about the scandal in an interview with Playboy, and just made himself look way worse in retrospect, quipping: “The great thing is you can go out on a date and pick up a little babysitting money on the side.” He also attempted to liken his creeptastic moves to the fight against racism proclaiming, “When I like someone, I don’t care about her race, creed or national origin. If I like her, I don’t care. I don’t discriminate. If she’s 18, if she’s intelligent, that’s fine.”  

Even funky bass licks between each sentence wouldn’t make that sound not terrible. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).


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