News of the Week: Seinfeld, Summer, and Sharknado 3

The Jerry Seinfeld controversy, top summer reads, stars of the Sharknado trilogy, and more in this week’s pop culture roundup.

Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld (Debby Wong/

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What’s the Deal with Jerry Seinfeld?

Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld (Debby Wong/

If you were to make a list of the 1,000 most controversial comedians, Jerry Seinfeld would come in at 1,001. But apparently a lot of people are irritated by the veteran comic lately. During interviews with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd and Seth Meyers on Late Night, Seinfeld remarked that he no longer performed at colleges because of a “creepy PC thing.” Seinfeld has discovered that younger people — including his daughter — “just want to use these words. That’s racist, that’s sexist, that’s prejudice. They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

Of course, many people (mostly on the left) have jumped on Seinfeld’s comments and declared him “bizarro” and “sad,” “cranky,” and they’ve even said that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he’s just a rich white guy. They’re saying that he’s getting this push back because his jokes just aren’t that funny, which isn’t true and also really misses the point. He even got a lesson in comedy (yes) from a college student. Because it’s up to someone in their early 20s to not only tell Jerry Seinfeld how to be a comic these days, but how to be a comic in the right way for the right reasons.

The world’s gone mad. What is so wrong about what Seinfeld is saying? And is it even a big deal to begin with? Has Seinfeld ever even been political in his humor, either in his standup or his TV show? He’s not coming from the right on this (and it’s funny that the right is suddenly trying to adopt Seinfeld as one of their own, as if Seinfeld had been a “liberal icon” or something). Not everything has to be “political,” even if the “P” in “PC” stands for that word. He’s simply making a personal observation, the same one fellow comic Chris Rock made not too long ago. I don’t even think that Seinfeld was being incredibly specific in his criticism. There’s a bigger point to be made — even if Seinfeld doesn’t realize he was making it — about how the world is now in general. And all of those articles I linked to above and the TV commentaries and all the snark being thrown at Seinfeld on social media right now simply prove his point. And I wonder if the critics even understand that.

This isn’t the first time Seinfeld has been involved in a controversy like this. Last year he was criticized for not having enough women and minorities on his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee series. Never mind that the criticism was instantly made ridiculous by simply watching the show. Seinfeld said at the time that he didn’t do comedy “by census,” as if everybody had to be represented all the time, like a checklist. He got the people he knew and the people he thought were funny, saying he had “no interest in gender or race or anything like that.” There was no agenda behind it at all. Of course, the nuttier regions of the Web twisted around what he meant and went after him for that too.

So much yada, yada, yada.

The First Day of Summer

Boy at beach holding two ice cream cones
Joys of Summer
Norman Rockwell
July 13, 1940

Summer is the only season where it feels like the season before it even officially starts. It’s already been rather warm, I bet you’ve either had a cookout or gone to the beach, and we’ve put in our screen doors and air conditioners already. You don’t really get that with fall, winter, and spring. They don’t “feel” like their seasons fully until the seasons actually arrive.

Anyway, the first day of summer is this Sunday. And if you’re keeping track and like countdowns, the exact time it starts is 12:38 p.m. EDT.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Turn On Your TV …

… comes another Sharknado flick. The third one is set in Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Florida, and it’s called Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

The cast lists for these movies are getting bigger and more elaborate. Sure, this one has Ian Ziering and Tara Reid (who were in the first two), but we also get David Hasselhoff! Frankie Muniz! Penn & Teller! Kathie Lee & Hoda! Mark Cuban! Ann Coulter! Jerry Springer! Dame Judi Dench! Okay, she’s not in it. But there is Bo Derek!

At this point these movies are strictly being made for people to have a ball with on Twitter. Please note that in this movie, Mark Cuban and Ann Coulter play the president and vice president of the United States. That might be a more unrealistic scenario than killer sharks inside a tornado. It premieres July 22 on Syfy.

Robot Wakes Up on Comet, Phones Home, Tweets

The robot Philae, which landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko back in November, surprised scientists this week by waking up and sending a transmission back to Earth.

After a harder-than-expected landing on the comet, the battery lasted for 60 hours and then ran out of juice. Turns out, the robot has a solar-powered backup battery that finally got enough sunlight. Now scientists are rushing to get information from the robot because they don’t know how long it’s going to stay active.

Monica Lewis: 1922–2015

You might not be able to place the name right away, but you knew Monica Lewis. Besides being the voice of Chiquita Banana for many years, Lewis was an acclaimed singer and actress. She was one of the guests on the very first episode of The Ed Sullivan Show in 1948 (along with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis), performed at The Stork Club, sang with Frank Sinatra, turned down Ronald Reagan’s marriage proposal, and appeared in such movies as Earthquake, Charley Varrick, and Airport ‘77 and TV shows Make Room For Daddy, Peter Gunn, Remington Steele, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Lewis passed away last week at the age of 93. Her autobiography, Hollywood Through My Eyes, came out in 2011 and might be a book to add to the summer reading list below.

Lewis was very active online too. Just a few weeks ago, I exchanged messages with Monica on Twitter. It’s always sad when the years go by and more and more of classic Hollywood is going away. RIP, Monica.


New Books

Woman Reading Book of Poetry by Harrison Fisher from August 5, 1911
Woman Reading Book of Poetry
Harrison Fisher
August 5, 1911

Is there really a difference in the books we read during the summer and the books we read in the winter? There’s this common wisdom, almost a default position, that the books we bring to the beach or vacation or read on our decks should be “lighter” or “less serious” than the books we read other times of the year. I don’t know if that has to be true, though. I mean, I’m not going to drag a giant Webster’s Dictionary to the beach (if you’d even find me on a beach in the first place), but just because it’s summer doesn’t mean we have to put our brains on vacation too.

Some new books you might want to check out:

  • One Man Against the World, Tim Weiner’s look at the life and political career of Richard Nixon.
  • David McCullough has a look at The Wright Brothers.
  • Jeff Shaara’s The Fateful Lightning, the final book in his Civil War trilogy.
  • Neal Stephenson speculates on what would happen if we knew when the world was going to end in his new novel, Seveneves.
  • Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, about the sinking of the Lusitania, is out tomorrow.
  • Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, the prequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, comes out on July 14.
  • And Sue Grafton is up to the letter X in her Kinsey Milhone private-eye series, and the new novel, actually titled X, will be released on August 25.

Oh, and if you do want something you don’t have to think about that much, the newest Fifty Shades of Grey book came out yesterday.

Today is National Martini Day

Martini illustration

Sure, you could make the classic James Bond martini, but the original martini was made with gin. You can also try a Dirty Martini, a Chocolate Martini, or an Earl Grey Martini, made with Earl Grey tea.

You could try a variation on the martini, created by Bond himself in the 1953 novel Casino Royale (and in the 2006 movie of the same name). It’s called the Vesper, named after Vesper Lynd, the woman Bond works with in the story.

Like his traditional martini, it’s shaken, not stirred.

Upcoming Anniversaries and Events

Father’s Day (June 21)
It’s this Sunday, so don’t forget! There’s even an official Father’s Day website set up by the U.S. government.

U.S. Constitution ratified (June 21, 1788)
Wikipedia has a detailed timeline on how the Constitution was drafted and ratified, including pictures of the original document.

President Franklin Roosevelt signs the G.I. Bill (June 22, 1944)
SEP Archives Director Jeff Nilsson has a look at the bill FDR signed during World War II, originally called the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act.

George Orwell born (June 25, 1903)
The Guardian has an intriguing look at how Orwell’s classic novel 1984 was written.

Pearl Buck born (June 26, 1892)
You can read Buck’s most famous novel The Good Earth for free at the Internet Archive.

President Truman orders troops to Korea (June 27, 1950)
The New York Times On This Day section has the front page story on Truman’s ordering of U.S. troops to Korea.

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  1. Very interesting observations, and very true. It is amazing how those that attacked what Seinfeld said (and the way they did it) just proved his point. I’ll look into those books you mentioned, some sound very interesting.


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