I watched a few episodes of Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee this week. The show is really about nothing, so it sort of ends up being about everything. The episodes are short, usually between 15 and 20 minutes a piece. The format is conversational and more similar to a podcast than a traditional TV show or anything else I can think of. It seems like there is very little effort put into the whole thing, and maybe that is partly intentional, but I do think a lot of it probably came together somewhat by chance. It feels like a show that Jerry genuinely wanted to do, more than it does a formula that he pieced together because he thought it would resonate well enough with a few key demographics to make good money. He has plenty of that already. Regardless, Jerry’s short-form, star-studded, open-ended, subjectlessly conversational show just works, and I like watching it. The cool and old-school cars and New York / Los Angeles coffee shops also do not hurt as the setting.
One of the episodes that I watched last night was the one with Bill Burr. Bill is one of the more politically incorrect comedians I have heard. He is also one of the funnier comedians in my opinion, and more objectively one of the most successful ones on the circuit today. In the episode, Jerry and Bill talked about the way that comedians are increasingly dealing with scandals and controversies regarding their jokes. Bill asks how the audience members who spark these controversies with their backlash can possibly assert the comedian’s intention when he or she says and knows he or she was joking. That is what comedians do. They joke. No joke will be funny to everyone but most jokes will be funny to someone. The comedians whose jokes are funnier to more people theoretically become more popular and eventually famous. I do not think that it is fair to then “cancel” these people who have become popular by our own demand because of one joke that some person or group of people does not like or finds offensive. That person or group of people can certainly tune them out. There is tons of messed up humor on Instagram for example that millions of people choose to follow and like that I choose not to. This sort of stuff usually goes much further than a comedian would go on stage because of the anonymity afforded by the online presence. If there is a limit on the range of things that some people in the world make jokes about these days, I have yet to discover it. That is why I believe that the high standards of political correctness imposed by the media (incentivized by our clicks) is as due for a correction as the S&P 500 (i.e. it seems due for a reversal of the ongoing trend).
In short, society as represented by the media thinks it is degrees of magnitude more proper and “correct” than the actual people comprising it really are these days (while we are still in seriousness probably more proper than ever), and so it holds people to this ridiculous standard where certain jokes and even mistakes (which everyone makes) are no longer tolerated, and opinions that high society has agreed among themselves are wrong are now intolerable and shameful, embarrassingly ignorant. While the level of civility in social conversation (especially online & mobile) continues to find new lows, the media-enforced societal expectations for political correctness have never been higher. I have been saying this for a few years now already. Something has to give.