Summary: Danny Hoch tells his story of almost appearing on the hit sitcom, Seinfeld, which ran successfully for nine seasons until finally ending in 1998. In the clip, Hoch explains that he was cast as Ramone, "the pool guy," a character who awkwardly attempts to befriend Jerry Seinfeld, gets rejected, and eventually exacts his revenge by stuffing dirty towels in Jerry's locker. On the set, Hoch was unexpectedly asked to play his character as a stereotypical Latino with a heavy Spanish accent. Much to the chagrin of his agent, Hoch ultimately denied the request and never appeared on the show. Still his story serves to illustrate the way stereotypes continue to find their way into popular comedies. Upon refusing to act the stereotype, Hoch recalls Jerry Seinfeld's exasperated response, "Why? Is it derogatory?" While Hoch leaves this question unanswered, instructors can usefully press students for their answers. As I have argued in other posts, racialized stereotypes have a particularly troubling history in American cinema (e.g., here, here, here, here, and here), making it worthwhile to investigate why they are so persistent. Hoch's backstage account of his experience on the set of Seinfeld is a rare look at how racist stereotypes are reproduced in popular sitcoms. Among other things, the clip illustrates a form of institutional racism. Although Hoch ultimately walked away from the project, one can see how well meaning individuals often reproduce such stereotypes because they are pressured to conform to the demands of institutional patterns.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist