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. Accepting an "apology" from J.A. is like advocating for clemency in the Clementi-Ravi case. How different is this from Brett Ratner's "Rehersal Is For Fags" comment? Jason Alexander is no small-town rube just out of community college. Stop enabling him.

    Posted by: mikeflower | Jun 3, 2012 7:38:27 PM


  2. Bob got burned. He hooked the yard sprinkler up to a fire hose. Is Everyone going to watch he family money bought? I think the kids came down like on "Star Trek" They are so cute, but they can't leave until they are old enough to run away from home -- which in Hollywood could be 10.

    Posted by: Bob | Jun 3, 2012 7:39:38 PM


  3. Somehow, it looks like my comment is not going through.

    -----------------------

    "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."

    Why did he have to say this? It invalidates everything else.

    Posted by: Lance | Jun 3, 2012 7:47:39 PM


  4. No apology was necessary. If someone has to apologize for everytime they tell a joke with 'gay' inter-twined, it show a low tolerance for comedy in the gay community. His joke was not hurtful nor demeaning. I watch Craig Ferguson every night after work, he tells gay jokes about his robot Geoff, has lesbian row, etc., I am surprised no one has hollered about that. While I will agree, gays being the punchline of a joke can sometime hurt, this was not the case with Jason Alexander. If everytime a joke containing 'gay' becomes an attack that requires an apology, then WE DO become the stereotypical 'fey' and 'whiners'.

    Posted by: CB | Jun 3, 2012 7:54:37 PM


  5. The experiment has begun. Watch how it's going with Oprah tonight. The only drawback is that the twins accidentally saw the parental units showering, and they think the parents are twins.
    These kids may write a "Daddy Dearest" someday. It will be in two volumes of course. One of them asked what "nursing" was, but these issues will be worked out.

    Posted by: Chad | Jun 3, 2012 7:55:39 PM


  6. "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."

    Hrmmm, ya don't suppose he really meant gentle or is because Jason Scott Greenspan aka Jason Alexander is Jewish?

    Posted by: Joseph Singer | Jun 3, 2012 8:18:26 PM


  7. Jason Alexander has been a longtime ally of LGBT causes. His apology - which really, all he had to do was point at his past, and his role choices in times when it was not as acceptable to play gay, as evidence he's not homophobic - was eloquent and moving. It seems to me that anyone who doesn't "accept" this apology is just looking to be offended.

    Worse, for the poster accusing him of being closeted after saying his message was only "fair enough" is juvenile at best and despicable at worse, and it is certainly an embarrassment to everyone who participates on this board. I think that poster is trying to be ironic - or at least I hope so - but "jokes" like that are completely self-defeating.

    There are real fights out there that we need to focus on. When one of our closest friends slips up, and then writes a tremendous apology for it, we need to say "thanks for correcting that" and move on to the real issues marriage equality and bullying, and international gay acceptance and rights.

    This is a done deal. Thanks, Mr. Alexander.

    Posted by: CJS | Jun 3, 2012 8:19:15 PM


  8. Sadly, the Germans exterminated many Jews and Gays in WWII. From the sound and tone of a lot of these "no mercy" comments, many gays echo an unforgiving tone. Maybe it's the years of oppression. This is an apology, not a confession. No punishment required.

    Posted by: Cliff | Jun 3, 2012 8:32:46 PM


  9. @CHAD/CLIFF/MARK/and the next name you come up with: Actually, who crowned you the wiseman? You spout off with no actual knowledge about anything. I don't give a rats patooty about Jason Alexander. He made a bad joke, apologized, we can all move on. I was over it before it began. I'm now over you. Why did I get pulled into your garbage again?

    Posted by: BOB | Jun 3, 2012 8:50:38 PM


  10. I'm with Andrew. No apology was necessary.

    Posted by: DavidH | Jun 3, 2012 9:23:10 PM


  11. While long and full of self-examination, this still isn't a complete apology. He should have said in his last paragraph that he was sorry for adding to the suffering members of our community must endure and will never do it again. And then he could ask for suggestions on how he could rectify what he had done. Instead, he used the old "if I offended anyone" approach, putting the reponsibility on us and not on his behavior. Good try, but a simplier, more direct statement would have sufficed.

    Posted by: barryearle | Jun 3, 2012 9:49:43 PM


  12. See a doctor. There are a multitude of medications available to ease your discomfort. If you flip out over comments in a comment section, you may need to examine other aspects of your life It will be okay Bob. No need to talk back to nothing.

    Posted by: Cliff | Jun 3, 2012 9:52:02 PM


  13. You're right, you are nothing.

    Posted by: BOB | Jun 3, 2012 10:00:42 PM


  14. @barryearle...Really it wasn't good enough for you? Not enough? You had to find something to else to fault? You needed more?

    He apologized. Case closed. He made a stupid joke, he didn't burn down an orphanage! Let it go.

    Posted by: WHATEVER | Jun 3, 2012 10:04:54 PM


  15. Apology accepted.

    Posted by: Robert | Jun 3, 2012 10:18:13 PM


  16. Poor Bob. Good luck in the real world. Nothing certainly got you worked up.

    Posted by: Cliff | Jun 3, 2012 10:50:49 PM


  17. Abolutely! He hit the nail on the head. THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is what a well thought out, apology less for the sake of apologizing, looks like.

    Posted by: Solomon | Jun 3, 2012 10:54:29 PM


  18. I don't believe Jason's apology at all. I think he's a creepy liberal New Yorker with masculinity issues.

    Posted by: jason | Jun 3, 2012 11:00:47 PM


  19. Troll alert!

    Posted by: WHATEVER | Jun 3, 2012 11:01:51 PM


  20. Jason's apology looks as if it was written by his agent. He's a typical liberal who mocks gays when it gets a laugh for him. These liberals are into getting cheap laughs at our expense. Remember that other idiotic liberal comic who said he'd stab his son if he were gay?

    Ha, ha, ha...oh, how delirious...ha, ha, ha (makes sour expression of face as if one has swallowed vinegar).

    Posted by: jason | Jun 3, 2012 11:04:49 PM


  21. Sooooo Jason. First - thank you..and Second...when will you be back on Craig's show to read this apology in its entirety?

    Posted by: Robert | Jun 3, 2012 11:31:58 PM


  22. Terrific! Just Terrific

    Posted by: Donald | Jun 3, 2012 11:39:58 PM


  23. Wow, that apology was so... Jewish!

    (j/k)

    #irony

    Posted by: johnny | Jun 3, 2012 11:58:57 PM


  24. Good luck pleasing queens. They are like old ladies on steroids.

    Posted by: Dirk | Jun 4, 2012 1:47:28 AM


  25. NOTE TO ALL, and to Brandon: Andy Towle didn't post this original story. Andrew Bellonsky did. There's a very big difference, since Andy Towle generally writes without a Fox-Esque judgmental bite. Andrew is a sensationalist. I think Andy's original post on this would have had a different slant.

    That being said, I don't feel an apology was necessary, and I do think the reaction was way too oversensitive.

    Having sat next to Jason on a plane for 6 hours, I can tell you there isn't a more humble, approachable, non-judgmental person in Hollywood. He's a friend to us.

    Posted by: Steve | Jun 4, 2012 6:30:01 AM


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