Al Jolson


Jerry Seinfeld is stuck in time. His brilliant, long-running TV show was so universally appreciated that it has left the language replete with Seinfeldisms:

Elaine: I don't see how you guys walk around with those things'

George: I think it moved... I was in the water – there was shrinkage – If ou believe it, it IS the truth

Jerry: You said, "Cigars;" they're real Cubans!

Kramer: I ran out of butter, so I used yours; any other questions, Mr. Nosey?

Jerry has announced that he will no longer perform on college campuses, that the college crowd is too P.C. for his taste. He says they take offense at the slightest mention of ethnicity, sexuality, etc. What Jerry probably is not taking into account is that the bulk of his campus audience probably was born during the original run of Seinfeld. The re-runs are still coming, and it is a good bet that they are being re-seen by the now doddering, original televiewers. The human sensitivity of the millennial has shot ahead light-years from that of Seinfeld fans in the confines of a comedy club. Even kind, sensitive Jerry Seinfeld can be considered a crude old dude in this 1.5th decade of the new millennium.

Al Jolson was still alive when Larry Parks portrayed him on screen, in blackface. Even Jolson, who filmed the first talking musical around the time this writer was born, was aware that he could no longer do blackface in public.

(BTW: Larry Parks lip- synced to Jolson's recordings – did you hear that, Queen Latifa?! You ain't no Bessie Smith.)

Al Jolson based his blackface performance on the old, White, minstrel bands, who did cakewalks to purloined African American music. Here is great irony: In the 20s, African American Bert Williams was a star on Broadway. He was accepted only because he appeared in blackface! Doubling the irony: Ben Vereen, the star of Roots and Pippen, did a blackface version of Bert Williams on TV. He was ostracized, lost his career, went into drugdegration and suffered a crippling accident. He seems to be mending spiritjually and physically.

Although it was well known the radio actors were Jewish, Amos and Andy was a big hit among African Americans in the 30s and 40s. African Americans took over those roles on TV, sans blackface. In the early days of the movies, African Americans could get on the screen only by portraying demeaning roles. Steppin Fetchit, slow-moving, wide-eyed: Yassuh, boss, I'sa comin' – feets, don't fail me now! Even more wide-eyed was Mantan Moreland, equally as terrified as Mr. Fetchit by the slightest ghostly suggestion. Mae West also contributed to black employment: Beulah, peel me a grape! Even when the striking Lena Horne was allowed to appear in White musicals, she had to perform by herself, in scenes that easily could be excised when the films were edited for southern audiences. Even on the set, Lena was subjected to snubbing by makeup artists. On one occasion, one of the Westmores took over when a racially recalcitrant regular refused to attend to Miss Horne. Additionally, Lena Horne was required to eat by herself in the commissary.

The vacation resorts in New York's Catskill Mountains were a training ground for many Jewish comedians who gained fame on radio and TV. Translating the Eastern European humor into English, they could get away with castigating Jews as much as they wished. On radio and TV, they had to tone it down a bit, but it was still there. Everyone knew what they were doing.

So, there you are, Jerry. Just make Jews the butt of all of your jokes. That's the way it's done these days. Black comedians can say anything they want about Blacks; Latinos, the same. Asians, Arabs and Eurotrash, women, LGBT – today, anybody can be the butt of a joke, as long as it's kept in the family – by one of the family. 

Jerry Seinfeld

***** ***** *****

There was an old geezer named Jerry.

His trips to the campus were hairy.

One day, he said, "Gay",

And, there, right away,

The kids said, "You can't say that, Mary!"

Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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