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Jason Alexander Apologizes For Gay Jokes

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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. That what you call a real mentsch.

    Posted by: Jeff NYC | Jun 3, 2012 4:12:10 PM


  2. Comments about the jokes themselves aside, this guy obviously gets it now...
    Andrew, nobody cares what you have to say.

    Posted by: rapscallion | Jun 3, 2012 4:12:48 PM


  3. @Rapscallion: Do you really speak for everybody?

    Posted by: andrew | Jun 3, 2012 4:23:08 PM


  4. I am not interested another "apology" from another loser homophobe who realized he just sh!t on his career. He can take his financially motivated self-preserving convenient apology, fold it until it is all sharp corners and shove it up his homophobic a$$hole. Only a truly filthy homophobe would ever think to say those things in the first place.
    We saw into your unedited heart, Mr. Alexander. We know how your tiny little closed-minded brain works. I am not fooled by your self-serving apology. Got get kidnapped by someone who tortures you to death slowly beggining by burning of your genitals with a blow-torch.

    Posted by: NullNaught | Jun 3, 2012 4:26:32 PM


  5. @Andrew
    I think Rapscallion did speak for everybody that time.

    Posted by: NullNaught | Jun 3, 2012 4:28:13 PM


  6. @Andrew
    When I said he spoke for everybody, obiviously I meant about nobody cares what you think. clearly I am in opposition to him on the apology thing. Sorry about the confusion. :)

    Posted by: NullNaught | Jun 3, 2012 4:29:25 PM


  7. @Nullnaught: Are you as evil as that post makes you sound?

    Posted by: andrew | Jun 3, 2012 4:30:42 PM


  8. Andrew: yes. STFU. We all get it, you've commented twice that everyone is just "too thin-skinned" and that you weren't offended. Good for you. Now realize that not everyone is you. Apparently you should go back and read Jason Alexander's apology again, because he actually addresses this. Get a clue. I realize it's difficult: you're an insensitive oaf, and it's very hard to understand the concept that other people are more sensitive than you because your insensitivity blocks your understanding, apparently. Judging someone for being "too sensitive" is pretty effing rich, frankly. I'd much rather live in a world with overly sensitive people than with people who are just insensitive sociopaths, thanks very much. But we're lucky: we get to live in a world where there's a broad mix of sensitivities: those of us who are sensitive to other people, their feelings, the world around us, and who aren't easily hurt; those of us who are very sensitive and are easily hurt; and insensitive clods who just think everyone should "get over it" all the time, and that people who struggle with abuse and kill themselves because of societal pressure are just "too sensitive". As a member of the latter group (by all evidence) good luck in finding sympathy when bad sh!t happens to you and you actually shed some tears. But don't worry: your insensitivity will protect you from actually feeling your feelings for too long, and you can go back to being a complete and total a$$hole. Ta-Ta!

    Posted by: wtf | Jun 3, 2012 4:31:02 PM



  9. I could care less what Jason Alexander says. Standing next to me, he looks like a weeble wobble. So he apologized. Good for him. Let's move on.

    Posted by: Alan | Jun 3, 2012 4:31:38 PM


  10. @WTF: In my opinion, no apology was necessary.

    Posted by: andrew | Jun 3, 2012 4:37:14 PM


  11. Never was a Seinfeld fan or watcher but always found Jason thoughtful and smart in interviews and on politics, so I was surprised about the gay comments. Agree with those who think this apology is how apologies should be done--the offender took time to think about his mistake, took time to craft an actual apology, and an articulate one at that, and seemed to have learned something of value in the process. Well done.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jun 3, 2012 4:44:05 PM


  12. DAVID IN HOUSTON.... I will start laughing at gay = feminine jokes told by straight people as soon as African Americans start laughing at black = shiftless, tap dancing, fried chicken eating jokes told by white people. Ain't gonna happen.....

    Posted by: Tim NC | Jun 3, 2012 5:09:32 PM


  13. @Andrew
    I am surprised that you don't remember me. We tried to have a discussion on Moral Philosophy recently when I said I hoped that Russian daredevil would die doing something that stupid. You gave up on the conversation telling me that we shouldn't talk about it because we would get no where. Are you re-opening the conversation?
    Lets make it brief. Am I as evil as that post makes me sound? I stand by my words passionately. I suppose by your standards, I would have to say yes, I am that evil and more. I was understating how I felt because I know I hate him so much he unballances me. I can't be fully rational while talking about a straight man who has laughed at gay men because they are "effeminate." He is as hateful and homphobic in his own way as Littlekiwi is.

    Posted by: NullNaught | Jun 3, 2012 5:20:04 PM


  14. This is how it is done.

    Posted by: Randy | Jun 3, 2012 5:21:34 PM


  15. Prior to the gay rights movement, that joke would have framed cricket as a woman's sport. Somewhere along the way, 'gay' became the go-to word for 'not man enough'. Ultimately the joke is about cricket versus rugby, but should be reworked not to include marginalized groups that have nothing to do with either sport.

    The concept of masculinity is so intangible and fleeting folks ought to let go of it altogether and go with un/civilized and rough/gentle (which is what he meant to say I think, there are grammatical errors here and there in his statement). Anyone who thinks man/woman gay/straight has anything to do with 'masculine' behavior has never been to a Walmart on Black Friday to witness ALL people check their civility at the door. Aggressive behavior is encouraged in boys and discouraged in girls; mystery solved (yes testosterone does give men a boost). I am an aggressive female and I've gotten negative reinforcement all my life while boys do the same things and are rewarded. It confused me as a child, but now I just see the blatant double-standard.

    Posted by: Laura | Jun 3, 2012 5:40:47 PM


  16. The thing, for me, is that he thought to make a joke with gay. Had he made the joke about straight, that would not be funny at all, and nobody would understand what that was all about. When same sex orientations is accepted and viewed as normal in society, a joke about gayness should also just be not funny at all. So in fact there should not be a 'gay' joke. Pretending that in a more tolerant society he will be able to make a gay joke is therefore a contradiction.

    Posted by: oakpope | Jun 3, 2012 5:44:32 PM


  17. @Andrew...I wish that I could agree with your comment. I sometimes question the offense I take in, what might seem to some, minor blips on the screen. However, when comments like these are made spontaneously, almost unconsciously, I think that they are almost as dangerous as the hate spewed out of the mouths of the Evangelical loons. There is no doubt in my mind that Jason meant what he said and that he does support our community...I've witnessed said support up close and personal. That said, I'm glad that he took the time to think about his words. They were damaging to at least one person who heard them.

    Posted by: Michael | Jun 3, 2012 5:47:01 PM


  18. So much nicer said with some thoughtfulness and not in 140 characters.

    Off topic, he was in "The Rink"? I have too look that up. I saw it just before Liza left and went into rehab, and it showed.

    Posted by: Alan | Jun 3, 2012 5:53:53 PM


  19. The world has gone flacid. I'm gay, but reading these prissy. entitled, robotic, responses comes the realization that today's gay's are not worth defending. May you all be locked in JCPenney's. You can survive on the cheap merchandise. Sad when your people are such assh--es. It's generational, believe me. But so pervasive it's too late.

    Pounce bitches.

    Posted by: Chad | Jun 3, 2012 6:30:21 PM


  20. (better than pounce: ignore

    doesn't make sense anyway)

    Jason Alexander did the wrong thing, then did the right thing.

    To err is human; and to acknowledge and own when one has done wrong is awesome.

    Posted by: regarding the person just above | Jun 3, 2012 6:42:21 PM


  21. While I think that Jason is probably a nice guy, sympathetic to the gay man's plight; I find it hard to believe that he had to poll his gay friends who "couldn’t quite find the offense in the bit". Any gay man immediately recognizes the offense of being called effeminate, by word or pantomime. He might as well have dangled his wrist and swished mincingly about the stage. Maybe it takes such exaggerated mocking to illustrate that we (gay men) CAN pick up on subtle insults as well as overt.

    Posted by: g | Jun 3, 2012 6:44:42 PM


  22. Chad = Mark/Todd/Cliff. Just ignore him

    Posted by: BOB | Jun 3, 2012 6:46:42 PM


  23. PersonJustAbove: Who crowned you the wise man? I have to laugh the way you dish out knowledge. Sorry you didn't understand my comments. You are my comments. And what can you deem, right or wrong in his response? On one hand he acknowledged being offensive (Wrong) and then made an apology (right) That was awesome? Who cares? You're gay. Accept the fact that gays will always be the most despised minority. Our sex acts do not engender dignity and respect in world cultures..

    Posted by: Chad | Jun 3, 2012 7:02:42 PM


  24. @Michael
    I am emotional and do myself more damage than good. Thank you for saying so eloquently what I feel so deeply and am unable myself to express rationally. I only disagree with the sentiment that it was nice that he thought about his words.
    I wish, since he believes what he said and does not support our community, that he would stand by his words. I think offering an insincere apology to save is own a$$ financialy/socially is more insulting than doubling down; but I love you just the same because your compasion makes you a better person than myself.
    Thank you again.

    Posted by: NullNaught | Jun 3, 2012 7:03:22 PM


  25. I'd hate to see how long his apology would be if he actually said something really offensive.

    Posted by: ed | Jun 3, 2012 7:21:48 PM


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