The state of free speech on college campuses is no laughing matter.
So, it’s funny that one of the most frank discussions on the subject in the media occurred between two comedians.
The discussion appeared on legendary comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The premise of the show is in its title—Seinfeld invites one of his friends in comedy to join him for a ride in one of his vintage cars to grab a cup of coffee.
In one particular episode, Seinfeld chatted with comedian and actor Zach Galifianakis about speech restrictions on college campuses.
“It’s so weird that colleges have become these places where, of restricted thought, as opposed to thought freedom,” said Seinfeld.
“Well, there’s nothing liberal about shutting someone up,” replied Galifianakis. And he’s exactly right.
Currently, on campuses throughout the country, some administrators would rather shut down opposing views than allow students to hear viewpoints they may disagree with. This is contrary to a culture of learning as well as the very principles set forth in the Constitution. And the examples are endless.
Here are just a few.
In 2017, a professor at Fresno State University erased a pro-life group’s chalk messages simply because he disagreed with the message.
In September of the previous year, at Kellogg Community College in Michigan, volunteers were arrested for handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution after administrators told them it might “upset” some students.
And it isn’t just political speech that some administrators are shutting down. It’s comedy.
In December, a former Saturday Night Live writer was yanked off stage after event organizers at Columbia University found some of his jokes offensive.
Performing on college campuses with many speech restrictions is a tough act for anyone. That’s why Seinfeld will not perform his famous stand-up at universities. “I hear a lot of people tell me don't go near colleges — they're so PC (politically correct),” he said in an interview last year.
And he’s not alone. Many comedians are avoiding colleges for the same reason. And comedians who do perform the college circuit struggle to tone down their jokes and strip their sets of any jokes that may be even remotely offensive to anyone. The result? Lackluster comedy that makes no one laugh.
It’s just not funny anymore.
Today’s university students are being taught that the answer to speech they find offensive—including jokes—is to shut it down. But this is false. The answer is more speech. Opening up a dialogue between opposing viewpoints is how we learn and—better yet—how we practice real tolerance.
That’s why it’s so ironic that university campuses try to shut down free speech in the name of “tolerance.”
“The problem with not allowing intolerant talk is now you’re intolerant,” Seinfeld said in his conversation with Galifianakis.
It would be laughable if it weren’t such a widespread problem.