Splitsider

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Jason Alexander Offers Up a Particularly Thoughtful Apology for Anti-Gay Comment

Last week, on the Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Jason Alexander joked that cricket was "a bit gay." This caused a bit of a stir and didn't really make any sense because sports, regardless of their often personifications, are not living things that have sexual preferences. What is most compelling about this story is instead of rushing to offer some quick apology, Jason actually thought about his actions. He could have easily had his publicist issue a statement yet he chose to write a very long and thoughtful "message of amends." Read the whole thing below:

A message of amends.

Last week, I made an appearance on the Craig Ferguson show – a wonderfully unstructured, truly spontaneous conversation show. No matter what anecdotes I think will be discussed, I have yet to find that Craig and I ever touch those subjects. Rather we head off onto one unplanned, loony topic after another. It’s great fun trying to keep up with him and I enjoy Craig immensely.

During the last appearance, we somehow wandered onto the topic of offbeat sports and he suddenly mentioned something about soccer and cricket. Now, I am not a stand-up comic. Stand up comics have volumes of time-tested material for every and all occasions. I, unfortunately, do not. However, I’ve done a far amount of public speaking and emceeing over the years so I do have a scattered bit, here and there.

Years ago, I was hosting comics in a touring show in Australia and one of the bits I did was talking about their sports versus American sports. I joked about how their rugby football made our football pale by comparison because it is a brutal, no holds barred sport played virtually without any pads, helmets or protection. And then I followed that with a bit about how, by comparison, their other big sport of cricket seemed so delicate and I used the phrase, “ a bit gay”. Well, it was all a laugh in Australia where it was seen as a joke about how little I understood cricket, which in fact is a very, very athletic sport. The routine was received well but, seeing as their isn’t much talk of cricket here in America, it hasn’t come up in years.

Until last week. When Craig mentioned cricket I thought, “oh, goody – I have a comic bit about cricket I can do. Won’t that be entertaining?”. And so I did a chunk of this old routine and again referred to cricket as kind of “gay” – talking about the all white uniforms that never seem to get soiled; the break they take for tea time with a formal tea cart rolled onto the field, etc. I also did an exaggerated demonstration of the rather unusual way they pitch the cricket ball which is very dance-like with a rather unusual and exaggerated arm gesture. Again, the routine seemed to play very well and I thought it had been a good appearance.

Shortly after that however, a few of my Twitter followers made me aware that they were both gay and offended by the joke. And truthfully, I could not understand why. I do know that humor always points to the peccadillos or absurdities or glaring generalities of some kind of group or another – short, fat, bald, blonde, ethnic, smart, dumb, rich, poor, etc. It is hard to tell any kind of joke that couldn’t be seen as offensive to someone. But I truly did not understand why a gay person would be particularly offended by this routine.

However, troubled by the reaction of some, I asked a few of my gay friends about it. And at first, even they couldn’t quite find the offense in the bit. But as we explored it, we began to realize what was implied under the humor. I was basing my use of the word “gay” on the silly generalization that real men don’t do gentile, refined things and that my portrayal of the cricket pitch was pointedly effeminate , thereby suggesting that effeminate and gay were synonymous.

But what we really got down to is quite serious. It is not that we can’t laugh at and with each other. It is not a question of oversensitivity. The problem is that today, as I write this, young men and women whose behaviors, choices or attitudes are not deemed “man enough” or “normal” are being subjected to all kinds of abuse from verbal to physical to societal. They are being demeaned and threatened because they don’t fit the group’s idea of what a “real man” or a “real woman” are supposed to look like, act like and feel like.

For these people, my building a joke upon the premise I did added to the pejorative stereotype that they are forced to deal with everyday. It is at the very heart of this whole ugly world of bullying that has been getting rightful and overdue attention in the media. And with my well-intentioned comedy bit, I played right into those hurtful assumptions and diminishments.

And the worst part is – I should know better. My daily life is filled with gay men and women, both socially and professionally. I am profoundly aware of the challenges these friends of mine face and I have openly advocated on their behalf. Plus, in my own small way, I have lived some of their experience. Growing up in the ‘70’s in a town that revered it’s school sports and athletes, I was quite the outsider listening to my musical theater albums, studying voice and dance and spending all my free time on the stage. Many of the same taunts and jeers and attitudes leveled at young gay men and women were thrown at me and on occasion I too was met with violence or the threat of violence.

So one might think that all these years later I might be able to intuit that my little cricket routine could make some person who has already been made to feel alien and outcast feel even worse or add to the conditions that create their alienation. But in this instance, I did not make the connection. I didn’t get it.

So, I would like to say – I now get it. And to the extent that these jokes made anyone feel even more isolated or misunderstood or just plain hurt – please know that was not my intention, at all or ever. I hope we will someday live in a society where we are so accepting of each other that we can all laugh at jokes like these and know that there is no malice or diminishment intended.

But we are not there yet.

So, I can only apologize and I do. In comedy, timing is everything. And when a group of people are still fighting so hard for understanding, acceptance, dignity and essential rights – the time for some kinds of laughs has not yet come. I hope my realization brings some comfort.

Thanks,
Jason

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  • Tylerevan86

    I feel like this apology basically boils down to "The world just isn't ready yet for my hilarious 'Cricket is gay' material… and I apologize for doing it now rather than when we can all appreciate it."

    Which is kind of grating, given how meh the bit was anyway.

  • Victor

    Anti-Gay in the headline is very over the top. Calling something 'gay' is something people do; in this day and age it's something we should get past, but to describe what the man said as anti-gay is too much. He's not anti-gay, he just said a silly thing in public without thinking through what the impact of it might be.

    • humbaba

      I'm actually amazed that you were able to read through an elaborate apology that carefully spelled out exactly why the pejorative slang term "gay" is anti-gay and still miss the point so hard. The dude broke it down into tiny words and everything.

  • Ctorrans361

    Anti-gay? I suppose, that's one way to increase your views, even if it is dishonest. It's a dumb joke, perhaps offensive to some, but not particularly anti-gay. You get points though for not bringing up Micheal Richards and his actually anti-black statements. Wouldn't want people thinking there's some bigot ensemble behind one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.

  • Matthewsouthworth

    @c934ea2be370390983ccfe46fd76a8d6:disqus : no, it doesn't. Your intentional reading of the apology may boil down to that, but his point is not "hey, I'm funny, get over it", his point is he made a joke that he didn't realize was offensive, so he did some investigation to try and understand how he could be hurtful, and now he realizes he was. 

    The hilariousness of the joke itself is beside the point, whether it's funny or not, and he is saying as much. Sorry the guy can't write something heartfelt enough to make you read what he actually meant instead of just activating your boring old "snark" response.

    • Tylerevan86

       Apology accepted.

  • Carson

    The apology was nice and all, but why is Jason Alexander wearing a rug?

    Honestly, it looks pretty gay.

    sorry.

  • Jon O.

    Do you see, Michael Richards? Do you understand now, how an apology works?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/OGENRJSCQS5GJQ5NFQYRRI3NIM Hilarie

    "Genteel," not "gentile." Otherwise, not a bad apology.

  • Lightenup

    Gay people need to learn to take a joke. Gay is a stereotype. It will be used in jokes. Fat people deal with it. Tall people deal with it. Black people, well some of them deal with it. Lighten up. Seriously.

  • thepantweaver

    The worst part is how decidedly un-funny the "bit" (I wouldn't go so far as to call it that) was. I think that probably made it seem more in bad spirits, since it just seemed like an opinion the man had, rather than some sort of comedy routine.

  • JoshUng

    Not sure if the backstory is necessary.  Not that it's right, but until recently, calling something gay mean calling something a wussy.  Quite frankly, I don't there has been a good word to replace it, and sometimes you use "gay" without thinking.  When you think about it, you realize it was the wrong word to use, but the point is, you didn't really think about using that word.  A simple apology should be fine, the intention is what's important, and I don't think anybody thought Alexander was trying to denigrate all homosexuality.

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