Seinfeld plays Duke

Jerry Seinfeld delivered the commencement address at Duke University’s 2024 university-wide commencement ceremony in Wallace Wade Stadium yesterday. Seinfeld took the occasion to make the case for comedy and humor, both by example and by advice (starting at about 11:45).

Seinfeld is a man not entirely in tune with the times, either in his defense of humor or otherwise. He urged the graduates to take advantage of their privilege. As a comedian, he cited the privilege of growing up Jewish in New York.

I was hoping Seinfeld would mock his commencement attire and he didn’t entirely let me down: “I now have an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Duke University. And if I can figure out a way to use that, I will. I haven’t figured anything out yet. I think it’s pretty much as useful in real life as this outfit I’m wearing.” In conclusion he puts it in the form of a thank-you: “Thanks for the phony degree and the ridiculous outfit.”

Some of the humor fell flat. Some of the advice was uninspired. However, it must be an above-average commencement address in the sense that the audience might actually remember something of it.

Quotable quote: “You’re never going to believe this, but Harvard used to be a great place to go to school.”

Reuters reports that dozens of students walked out on Seinfeld in protest. Seinfeld supports Israel. Seinfeld is Jewish. Enough said, although Reuters has more. By contrast, the Hollywood Reporter adds: “Elsewhere in the crowd, audiences cheered enthusiastically and chanted ‘Jerry! Jerry!’”

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