As Dave Chappelle’s controversial 15-minute monologue on last weekend’s Saturday Night Live seeps through the cultural membrane, Jerry Seinfeld has gently said his piece on the matter—by saying very little at all.
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Seinfeld addresses the monologue in vague yet clearly allusive terms. “I did think the comedy was well-executed, but I think the subject matter calls for a conversation that I don’t think I’d want to have in this venue,” Seinfeld says.
The subject matter in question is Chappelle’s invocation of multiple anti-semitic tropes throughout the set, wherein he discussed Kanye West’s recent descent into public bigotry and his own relationship with the Jewish community. The monologue received criticism from, among others, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who slammed both Chappelle and SNL for normalizing anti-semitism.
When asked if the monologue made him uncomfortable, Seinfeld again focuses on the monologue’s potential positive aftermath, sharing: “It provokes a conversation which hopefully is productive.” (The A.V. Club’s Trae DeLellis called the monologue “the best and worst moment” of the evening’s show.)
Although Seinfeld says he and Chappelle are “friends,” he describes their connection as “not a close relationship”— and not one that would lend to a nuanced conversation on anti-semitism between the two.
Seinfeld isn’t the first older-guard comedian to talk to Chappelle in recent days. Jon Stewart also said his piece during a guest appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night. Stewart’s stance on the matter also leaned towards dialogue—as he sees it, censorship isn’t the right way to grapple with deep-held prejudices.
“I don’t believe that censorship and penalties are the way to end antisemitism or to not gain understanding,” Stewart shared. “I don’t believe in that. I think it’s the wrong way to approach it.”
He continued: “We have to get past this in the country. People think Jews control Hollywood. People think Jews control the banks. And to pretend that they don’t and to not deal with it in a straightforward manner, we’ll never gain any kind of understanding with each other.”
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