Julia Louis-Dreyfus Calls ‘Red Flag’ When Seinfeld and Other Comics Complain About PC Comedy

What’s so funny about trashing tolerance?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus Calls ‘Red Flag’ When Seinfeld and Other Comics Complain About PC Comedy

Count Julia Louis-Dreyfus among the people who get the heebie-jeebies when Jerry Seinfeld and other comedians complain about political correctness killing comedy. (Quick recap: On Seinfeld’s burn-it-all-down Unfrosted publicity tour, he told the New Yorker that the death of sitcoms is “the result of the extreme left and PC crap, and people worrying so much about offending other people.”) 

“When I hear people starting to complain about political correctness — and I understand why people might push back on it — but to me that’s a red flag, because it sometimes means something else,” Louis-Dreyfus told the New York Times Magazine. “I believe being aware of certain sensitivities is not a bad thing. I don’t know how else to say it.”

What is the “something else” that the red flag signals? 

Louis-Dreyfus didn’t elaborate, leaving us to fill in the blanks. She was extremely careful around the subject, even telling the New York Times that she needed more time to give a considered response about political correctness and comedy. When the interviewer followed up in part two of their conversation, the Veep star tiptoed through her answer. 

“Political correctness, insofar as it equates to tolerance, is obviously fantastic,” she said. “And of course I reserve the right to boo anyone who says anything that offends me, while also respecting their right to free speech, right? But the bigger problem — and I think the true threat to art and the creation of art — is the consolidation of money and power. All this siloing of studios and outlets and streamers and distributors — I don’t think it’s good for the creative voice.”

Louis-Dreyfus refused to jump on the “You couldn’t make Seinfeld today!” train but did weigh in with more nuanced observations about changing attitudes toward comedy. “The lens through which we create art today — and I’m not going to just specify it to comedy, it’s also drama — it’s a different lens. It really is,” she said. “Even classically wonderful, indisputably great films from the past are riddled with attitudes that today would not be acceptable.”

That’s how change works, she added. Forty years ago, she argued, the interview for which she was sitting wouldn’t have been conducted by a woman. In that way, things shifted for the good. Her bigger point? Society shifts, and nothing ever remains the way it always was.

That goes for Louis-Dreyfus as well. She continues to play women with sharp edges — “I don’t play girls who behave a way that a good girl should behave; if they do, they do it with bitterness and anxiety” — but her sense of humor has evolved over the years.

“I’ve been in the presence of so many people from whom, through osmosis and watching them work, I have learned things about physical comedy, about the nuance of comedy, about the smallness of comedy,” she explained. “But there’s always room to learn more, and for me, that is an incredibly joyful adventure.”


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