Film and TV | GLAAD | Sports

Jason Alexander Apologizes For Gay Jokes

Jason-alexander-06

Andy reported Thursday on Jason Alexander's unfortunate recent appearance on the Craig Ferguson Show, in which the former Seinfeld star called cricket an unmanly, "gay" sport. The imputation bugged a lot of gay people. (Weirdly, it didn't seem to bother many cricket players.)

After several days of consideration, Alexander released the below apology, which I'm posting in its entirety because it's probably the best such apology I've ever read.

Read AFTER THE JUMP ...

(H/T: GLAAD)

Last week, I made an appearance on the Craig Ferguson show – a wonderfully unstructured, truly spontaneous conversation show. No matter what anecdotes I think will be discussed, I have yet to find that Craig and I ever touch those subjects. Rather we head off onto one unplanned, loony topic after another. It’s great fun trying to keep up with him and I enjoy Craig immensely.

During the last appearance, we somehow wandered onto the topic of offbeat sports and he suddenly mentioned something about soccer and cricket. Now, I am not a stand-up comic. Stand up comics have volumes of time-tested material for every and all occasions. I, unfortunately, do not. However, I’ve done a far amount of public speaking and emceeing over the years so I do have a scattered bit, here and there. 

Years ago, I was hosting comics in a touring show in Australia and one of the bits I did was talking about their sports versus American sports. I joked about how their rugby football made our football pale by comparison because it is a brutal, no holds barred sport played virtually without any pads, helmets or protection. And then I followed that with a bit about how, by comparison, their other big sport of cricket seemed so delicate and I used the phrase, “ a bit gay”. Well, it was all a laugh in Australia where it was seen as a joke about how little I understood cricket, which in fact is a very, very athletic sport. The routine was received well but, seeing as their isn’t much talk of cricket here in America, it hasn’t come up in years. 

Until last week. When Craig mentioned cricket I thought, “oh, goody – I have a comic bit about cricket I can do. Won’t that be entertaining?”. And so I did a chunk of this old routine and again referred to cricket as kind of “gay” – talking about the all white uniforms that never seem to get soiled; the break they take for tea time with a formal tea cart rolled onto the field, etc. I also did an exaggerated demonstration of the rather unusual way they pitch the cricket ball which is very dance-like with a rather unusual and exaggerated arm gesture. Again, the routine seemed to play very well and I thought it had been a good appearance.

Shortly after that however, a few of my Twitter followers made me aware that they were both gay and offended by the joke. And truthfully, I could not understand why. I do know that humor always points to the peccadillos or absurdities or glaring generalities of some kind of group or another – short, fat, bald, blonde, ethnic, smart, dumb, rich, poor, etc. It is hard to tell any kind of joke that couldn’t be seen as offensive to someone. But I truly did not understand why a gay person would be particularly offended by this routine.

However, troubled by the reaction of some, I asked a few of my gay friends about it. And at first, even they couldn’t quite find the offense in the bit. But as we explored it, we began to realize what was implied under the humor. I was basing my use of the word “gay” on the silly generalization that real men don’t do gentile, refined things and that my portrayal of the cricket pitch was pointedly effeminate , thereby suggesting that effeminate and gay were synonymous. 

But what we really got down to is quite serious. It is not that we can’t laugh at and with each other. It is not a question of oversensitivity. The problem is that today, as I write this, young men and women whose behaviors, choices or attitudes are not deemed “man enough” or “normal” are being subjected to all kinds of abuse from verbal to physical to societal. They are being demeaned and threatened because they don’t fit the group’s idea of what a “real man” or a “real woman” are supposed to look like, act like and feel like. 

For these people, my building a joke upon the premise I did added to the pejorative stereotype that they are forced to deal with everyday. It is at the very heart of this whole ugly world of bullying that has been getting rightful and overdue attention in the media. And with my well-intentioned comedy bit, I played right into those hurtful assumptions and diminishments.

And the worst part is – I should know better. My daily life is filled with gay men and women, both socially and professionally. I am profoundly aware of the challenges these friends of mine face and I have openly advocated on their behalf. Plus, in my own small way, I have lived some of their experience. Growing up in the ‘70’s in a town that revered it’s school sports and athletes, I was quite the outsider listening to my musical theater albums, studying voice and dance and spending all my free time on the stage. Many of the same taunts and jeers and attitudes leveled at young gay men and women were thrown at me and on occasion I too was met with violence or the threat of violence. 

So one might think that all these years later I might be able to intuit that my little cricket routine could make some person who has already been made to feel alien and outcast feel even worse or add to the conditions that create their alienation. But in this instance, I did not make the connection. I didn’t get it. 

So, I would like to say – I now get it. And to the extent that these jokes made anyone feel even more isolated or misunderstood or just plain hurt – please know that was not my intention, at all or ever. I hope we will someday live in a society where we are so accepting of each other that we can all laugh at jokes like these and know that there is no malice or diminishment intended.

But we are not there yet. 

So, I can only apologize and I do. In comedy, timing is everything. And when a group of people are still fighting so hard for understanding, acceptance, dignity and essential rights – the time for some kinds of laughs has not yet come. I hope my realization brings some comfort. 

Thanks,
Jason

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Comments

  1. I do believe Jason Alexander is probably a nice guy and isn't homophobic. With that said though, we are way too late in the game for comedians to be playing dumb. Anyone in show business, especially someone like him with decades of experience, should know better.

    Gay jokes are stupid and we're tired of them. They're not clever or witty, and they're very rarely funny. There are plenty of ways to be funny without targeting gay people.

    Posted by: Nathan | Jun 3, 2012 2:23:59 PM


  2. Pfffft!

    Posted by: doodlebok | Jun 3, 2012 2:25:53 PM


  3. Politicians, please take note. This is an apology.

    Posted by: Dave | Jun 3, 2012 2:29:36 PM


  4. Hopefully, the time when homophobia will be considered funny will never come.

    Posted by: calvin | Jun 3, 2012 2:31:06 PM


  5. You know what? After years of comedians and politicians' non-apology apologies (i.e. saying "I'm sorry if you were offended by my brilliance, you didn't get it, etc.") I would say that THIS is a real apology.

    Well said Jason.

    And from this 'mo, at least, apology accepted.

    Posted by: Strepsi | Jun 3, 2012 2:34:18 PM


  6. I really love this apology. And as for him knowing better, I really think sometimes we make mistakes, or misjudge situations. Sometimes our mouths move faster than our brains. It happens, we are human. It would make him an ass if he didn't think about what he said and apologize. But he did, and I for one accept his apology and forgive him.

    Posted by: Robert | Jun 3, 2012 2:36:53 PM


  7. Finally -- a REAL apology. Speaking for myself, I say, Mr Alexander, apology accepted; I'm still a fan. I hope others can examine this apology and make up their own mind. A sincere and well-thought-out apology must not be rejected out-of-hand.

    Posted by: Alex Parrish | Jun 3, 2012 2:37:24 PM


  8. Well said Sir! I greatly appreciate this apology... Powerful, articulate, and sincere. (seeing him in The Rink with Chita and Liza years ago, the guy has class and comes from good show biz stock!)

    Posted by: Dr. C | Jun 3, 2012 2:40:42 PM


  9. I think that was a perfect apology. Remember, Jason is an actor, not a comic. It was clearly a stumble, and the apology feels very very sincere.

    Posted by: russ | Jun 3, 2012 2:41:23 PM


  10. "The problem is that today, as I write this, young men and women whose behaviors, choices or attitudes are not deemed “man enough” or “normal”..."

    Fair enough as an apology.

    This too, however, should be understood: Sexuality is not just a behavior, or a 'choice' or an 'attitude'. For the overwhelming majority of GLBTs, and particularly teens, it's an innate part of their being--they don't learn it, choose it, or adopt it. Many do, however, end up having to repress it.

    And FWIW, I have always been under the impression that Jason Alexander was homosexual. Have I been wrong? If so, and to the extent that such misperception might have caused any pain or distress or misunderstand for him and/or any alleged wife and/or alleged children he might claim, I apologize.

    Posted by: New Man | Jun 3, 2012 2:42:01 PM


  11. I still love him. Phenomenal talent, lovely man. He messed up a bit, apologized profusely for it while explaining himself gracefully, I'm ready to move on.

    Posted by: Dback | Jun 3, 2012 2:45:38 PM


  12. Mabye cricket players have a better sense of humor than gay people. Oh how thin skinned so many of us are.

    Posted by: andrew | Jun 3, 2012 2:46:25 PM


  13. He could have been a bit briefer. But who cares, he made a mistake (like much of the Seinfeld cast) and covered himself.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jun 3, 2012 2:58:55 PM


  14. I accept Jason's apology. But I am perplexed as to why it should have taken him and his gay friends five seconds, let alone long discussions, to figure out where the offense was in the comments.

    Would it help to replace the word "gay" with some other minority group descriptor and listen to how ot sounds?
    If Jason had watched footage from the era of black civil rights struggles in which a comedian had said that Cricket seems like a sport made for black people (because of the way they run aimlessly back and forth with no apparent rhyme or reason, throw like they're dancing and then laze around for snack breaks), would the offense have been more obvious? Are such jokes funny now that blacks have equal legal rights, as the gay jokes apparently will be "someday" when there are no longer gay teens in small towns who are forced to quit school for their own safety?

    Well, anyway, I'm glad he's "got it" now, and I've regained some of my respect gor him.

    Posted by: Gregv | Jun 3, 2012 3:02:54 PM


  15. Thank goodness he apologised or we would have had to send him off to some re-education camp.

    Posted by: andrew | Jun 3, 2012 3:07:31 PM


  16. That was a lovely apology.

    Posted by: Miguel | Jun 3, 2012 3:11:36 PM


  17. @ Paul R. you KNOW that if it was any briefer that the politi-tard nellies on here would be whining that it "wasn't good or sincere enough".

    Posted by: hashfag | Jun 3, 2012 3:13:50 PM


  18. Wow... that's quite an apology. In all honesty, I don't think the joke merited an apology. But it was nice that he went the extra mile and made one anyway. Intent is everything; and their was no malice in that joke. I think we're capable of laughing at a joke that uses 'gay' as a reference to femininity.

    Posted by: David in Houston | Jun 3, 2012 3:15:32 PM


  19. I wish he could have "gotten it" before that garbage spewed forth, but it's also true that that was a thoughtful, candid, well-crafted, and appropriate apology. (Much better than Dharun Ravi's.) I was not put off by the length: It implies thought, and respect for the issue. A quick Twitter nonpology can be like, "I don't actually care about the content of the complaint; let's just settle out of court to get past this as fast as possible."

    I do wonder some about the psychology behind his choice of that bit. It was truly surprising. He had seemed gay-friendly before. Is it the case that now that he presents himself with a full head of hair, he's drawn to taking on the persona of an in-group a-hole?

    And I really hope there were no gay kids, or their straight peers, out there watching that bit.

    Posted by: Steve C.L. | Jun 3, 2012 3:19:06 PM


  20. I was not offended by the joke, but then again I've a got a fairly thick skin. That said, I thought his apology was lovely (too "gay" a word??) and extremely well writen.

    Posted by: Frank | Jun 3, 2012 3:31:47 PM


  21. Another example of where Jason stands on LGBT issues...this is pretty darn great. He 'tweeted' this just before the Amendment One Vote in North Carolina...he is on the right...ummmm, I mean, CORRECT...side of things.


    "This will be a very sensitive area... the vote against same-sex marriage in North Carolina today. I realize and respect the sensitivity.

    Many voting against are doing so out of religious conviction that same sex couples are an abomination. The fact that homosexuality runs throughout all of nature and certainly throughout all human history does not seem to dissuade them. Even though the Almighty must have some reason for such an abundant creation. However, I learned long ago that arguing faith is unproductive. The very essence of faith is that there is no other way to support it other than faith. And so, poking at it only serves to aggravate those who hold faith near and dear. And I do not wish to aggravate anyone.

    In recent history, I have perceived a move toward understanding and accepting homosexuals. My personal encounters around the country and world have allowed me to be constantly surprised by the evolving generosity toward the gay community. And I am so deeply pleased by that.

    Gay men and women have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. They have played important roles in my education and my career. They are leaders in my chosen field. And, here's the cliche - some of my very dearest friends are gay men and women. While I understand the differences between them and myself and my other straight friends and family - the differences have never felt significant to me, even when I was a child. Homosexuals are not "other" to me. They are simply part of my world.

    As someone who has closely held bonds with many homosexuals, I can only wish them a full, joyous, successful life. I have wonderful relations with gay couples and gay families. I must tell you, they are some of the most loving and most successful couples and families I know. Maybe because they must work so much harder at times to survive.

    When the subject of marriage comes up for them, I cannot but understand, sympathize and fully support their wish and their right to marry. As I would for any mature, adult, loving, dedicated people.

    Marriage has two components - spiritual/religious and legal. It is my understanding and my belief that no religious institution can or should be forced by any government or law to condone or support anything that is antithetical to its core beliefs and practices. Hence, no church or temple or mosque or religious group with spiritual authority should ever be forced to perform a marriage they cannot support.

    But likewise, the legal contract of marriage is a binding document between two adults (usually) who have made a commitment to each other and are seeking both the rights and responsibilities of marriage. No marriage is legal without it. Few rights can be conferred without it. And it seems to me that constitutionally, this contract cannot and should not be withheld based on gender. Just as rights of employment, education, security, housing and others cannot be withheld due to gender or sexual preference. This part of marriage is a binding contract. There is no basis with which to withhold it from these couples.

    Even if I were to lay aside my personal relations with the gay community, I would still have to believe that by the founding laws of this nation and our constitution, we cannot withhold these rights.

    Now, I understand this is not a universally held view. I have already received some pretty nasty responses from my urging North Carolinians to not vote for regressive measures on this subject. But why do our differences always have to be met with nastiness and cruelty? You don't have to agree with me and others who are like-minded, but why respond with profanity, character assassination, juvenile jibes, etc? It seems to me that these are the tools of the inarticulate, the petty and weak-minded. Surely we can disagree without resorting to that.

    Lastly, there are those who say "celebrities" should stick to entertaining and shut up about their opinions. That somehow being recognizable means also being uninvolved and muted. Telling someone else, anyone else to "shut up" is the essence of immaturity. It's like putting your fingers in your ears and going, "Nyah, nyah, nyah". I didn't ask for celebrity nor do I flaunt it. I just go through my life, trying to do good and decent things, and making people laugh for a bit or at least occasionally distracting them from the less enjoyable aspects of daily life. But it doesn't mean I surrendered my right to be a member of society or a complete human being at the door. If you disagree with me, fine. You have every right to do so and say so. You can enter the conversation with respect and decency and maybe we'll learn from each other and affect each other. Or for those who cannot even tolerate the thought that someone might believe differently than they, they can ignore me. I'd say those are a pretty good range of choices.

    So, to end a long winded tweet -- I fervently hope that North Carolina does not go down this path of discrimination. Not only are they trying to prevent a right that I think is deserved but they are seeking to undo settled law and break asunder committed, loving and decent people's hearts and lives - people who have done them no harm and pose no threat. It is a hateful legislation. It is on the wrong side of nature and the wrong side of history - in my opinion. And regardless of the outcome, I want the gay community to know that those who would support such legislation, though vocal when challenged, are an ever-diminishing minority.

    I wish everyone reading this - regardless of sexual preference - love and joy and a full life with the person of their choice.
    Thanks, JA."

    Posted by: Larry | Jun 3, 2012 3:39:10 PM


  22. It is a thoughtful, considered, and beautifully written response, and, as others have noted, as an apology an excellent example to practitioners of the "I'm sorry if I offended anybody" school. It's what I would have expected of Jason Alexander.

    That said, somebody needs to school the poor man on the distinction between "gentile" and "genteel"...

    Posted by: Muscato | Jun 3, 2012 3:41:20 PM


  23. A nice apology, but it's still astounding that a person as sophisticated as he should be would make a joke based on such an old, tired stereotype.

    Posted by: Kip | Jun 3, 2012 3:51:21 PM


  24. memo to Tracy Morgan: this is how you apologize for being an ignorant buffoon, not via a press release from your agent

    Posted by: Jmac | Jun 3, 2012 4:00:48 PM


  25. In my opinion, no apology was necessary.

    Posted by: andrew | Jun 3, 2012 4:07:15 PM


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