Students Walk Out on Jerry Seinfeld’s Duke Commencement Speech

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty

A slew of students walked out of Duke University’s commencement ceremony on Sunday to protest Israel’s war in Gaza just as the university’s commencement speaker, Jerry Seinfeld, was set to speak.

Videos posted on social media—but omitted from the university’s livestream—showed students walking out as Duke President Vincent Price introduced the comedian, who received an honorary doctorate. Other students erupted into dual jeers and cheers of “Jerry!”

Seinfeld’s speech largely steered clear of his recent public scuffles, focusing instead on jokes surrounding the students, AI, and his honorary degree. In a riff on the idea of privilege, though, he made specific mention of his heritage to loud cheers.

“I grew up a Jewish boy from New York,” Seinfeld said. “That is a privilege if you want to be a comedian.”

Seinfeld has uncharacteristically courted controversy in recent weeks since the Netflix debut of his film Unfrosted. He claimed to The New Yorker last month that “the extreme left and P.C. crap” killed comedy on television, despite various comedies airing on T.V. since his last cited example—All in the Family—last aired in 1979. While right-wing commentators like Elon Musk and Sean Hannity praised his comments, comedians and T.V. critics largely considered them out of touch.

His public comments on Israel’s war in Gaza have also caused strife for their ambiguity, particularly for a traditionally apolitical comedian staunchly opposed to tackling weighty topics. Seinfeld has repeatedly posted publicly since the Oct. 7 attack about his support of Israel, traveling to a kibbutz in December to meet with hostages’ families and discussing how he had to seek shelter during a missile attack. His wife, Jessica, has also publicly confirmed that she funded pro-Israel counterprotests on college campuses.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect the date that All in the Family last aired.

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