In the 90’s, my house was often filled with the plunky, poppy sounds of the “Seinfeld” theme. My dad loved that show. And I loved spending time with my dad, so I’d often be in the room as he watched it. And while my father would be in stitches, hollering at the antics of George Constanza, I would be wondering what the hell I missed.
To be fair, I did find some of the jokes chuckle or smile worthy. Everyone has to react when you see Kramer slide into Jerry’s apartment. Still, I just assumed that they were tapping into some kind of elusive, adult humor I wouldn’t understand until I was much older. I mean there were plenty of shows my dad watched that I just couldn’t get with. “Sanford and Son,” “All in the Family,” “Cheers,” “Frasier.” None of them moved me. No doubt, “Seinfeld” was just one of many.
But as I got older, and watched those same shows with my new, “adult” experiences, I realized some of them were actually hilarious. I could do without “Sanford and Son” but “All in the Family” is absolutely brilliant. And today, “Frasier” makes me laugh until I cry. Literally. My sister and I actually had to call my father and thank him for putting us on to this greatness. I love “Frasier” so much that I cried watching the series finale from 2004. Not just because the last episode tugged at all of my heart strings but also because I was sad my sister and I wouldn’t be able to watch it on Netflix anymore.
Having developed such a fondness for “Frasier,” I assumed that perhaps I had misjudged “Seinfeld” as well. So when my boyfriend asked to watch it, I begrudgingly agreed. Watching the show, I was able to understand the scenarios a little bit better and even what might have made them funny to someone else. But still, all I could manage was a chuckle or a limp smile, no teeth. It just didn’t speak to me.
That wasn’t the last time my boyfriend and I watched the show. And while it’s far from boring, I just can’t understand why it had such a cult following. And especially why my father, a forty-something (at the time) Black man living in the Midwest, would find it so relatable and humorous. What did he have in common with the twenty-something Jewish man living in New York City? Furthermore, why did my boyfriend, who was born in South Africa, and raised partially in California, still Black, find it so funny?
I’ve been so plagued by this question that one day, on my way out of my office, I asked a room full of my coworkers, “Do y’all notice that Black men have a thing for “Seinfeld”?” As soon as the question left my mouth, I thought perhaps it wasn’t such a common occurence. Surely, it was just my father and boyfriend who shared this strange obsession. But my first mind was right. One coworker talked about her ex boyfriend’s love for the show. She, like me, didn’t exactly get it either. Then my other coworker talked about how her Guyanese cousin would watch the show while on the phone with his Trinidadian friend, cackling at the jokes.
The love of “Seinfeld” covered the diaspora.
I mean, we can’t forget about rapper Wale, born in D.C., with his Nigerian roots. He had an entire mixtape that paid homage to the show, The Mixtape About Nothing. And the love affair with the actual Jerry Seinfeld grew from there.
What is it?!
Finally, my coworker and friend said that she, a Black woman, thought the show was quite funny too. She explained that the show’s appeal was that these White people were being portrayed differently. So, often we see White people portrayed in the media as rich, together and morally sound. But the characters on “Seinfeld” were anything but that. They weren’t rich, they were all over the place, and often quite shady in the way they handled conflict and even each other as friends. That’s what was so different about the show. That’s what was so groundbreaking about it. I get it…but I still don’t get it.
Are my coworkers and I the only one confused by the hype?
Have you noticed that Black men have an affinity for “Seinfeld”?
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