Jerry Seinfeld Admitted to Taking Scientology Courses: "It Was Very Helpful"
The comedian dabbled in the controversial religion in the '70s.
Over the years, a number of celebrities have become famous—or infamous—for their connection to the Church of Scientology, from Tom Cruise to John Travolta to Kristie Alley. And as scandals involving the religion have gained more attention, particularly in the wake of the departure of high-profile whistleblowers like Leah Remini, it's understandable that some public figures would rather not have their names associated with the church. That list may include Jerry Seinfeld—for decades, the comedian has been questioned about his affiliation with Scientology.
In a 2020 episode of the podcast WTF With Marc Maron, the comedian set the record straight about rumors that he is a practicing member of the controversial church. Read on to learn the truth about his status, the high school teacher who got him started with it, and why he says it helped his career in a big way.
Seinfeld explored the controversial religion in the mid-'70s.
In the episode, Marc Maron addressed the rumors head-on, asking Seinfeld, "Why does everyone say that you were a Scientologist once?" The sitcom star shared that he had dabbled in the religion as a 21-year-old in New York.
"I did do a course in Scientology in like '75," Seinfeld explained. "I found it very interesting, never pursued it." He added that he found its "emphasis on ethical behavior" appealing, but that he wasn't into what Maron called its "avoiding negative people trip."
A high school teacher introduced him to Scientology.
Seinfeld had previously addressed his dabbling in Scientology in 2008, telling Parade that a high school teacher got him started. "I actually got to it from my auto mechanics teacher in high school, who was into it, and he was telling me about it," he said, before elaborating on why he was initially attracted to it. "Believe it or not…it's extremely intellectual and clinical in its approach to problem-solving, which really appealed to me…They have a lot of very good technology. That's what really appealed to me about it. It's not faith-based. It's all technology. And I'm obsessed with technology."
He said it helped his career in comedy.
Seinfeld went on to say in Parade that the courses helped advance his career as a comedian—but in a different way than some might expect.
"In my early years of stand-up, it was very helpful. I took a couple of courses," he said. "One of them was in communication, and I learned some things about communication that really got my act going." Admitting that he was not "a natural performer at all," Seinfeld said he gained valuable lessons about communicating and modulating the volume of his voice from the course.
Another comedian started the rumor Seinfeld was a practicing Scientologist.
While it's not entirely clear why Seinfeld has been dogged by rumors about Scientologist leanings, the association may stem from a feud with comedian Bobcat Goldthwait (Police Academy, Scrooged). Back in 1994, when the 38-year-old Seinfeld made headlines for dating 17-year-old Shoshanna Lonstein, Goldthwait took to The Arsenio Hall Show to call him "the devil" and "a spooky, weird Scientologist guy banging teenage girls."
A year later, Goldthwait was quoted in The Spokesman Review reiterating this view of Seinfeld: "Here is this creepy Scientologist guy [dating] teenage girls—which I don't care about one way or another. What I find creepy is that people are convinced he lives in that apartment, and those are his wacky friends. They don't like each other; they're actors paid to pretend they like Jerry Seinfeld. He's a weird guy. But everybody thinks he's normal and I'm weird."
Interestingly enough, Goldthwait was a cast member on Maron, a sitcom in which Maron played a fictionalized version of himself, but this fact didn't come up during Maron's podcast interview with Seinfeld.
He doesn't consider himself a religious person.
Setting the record straight, Seinfeld clarified on WTF that he is not a Scientologist but Jewish. Although he shared that his mother was born into a large family of Syrian Orthodox Jews, he admitted to not being particularly religious himself. "I'm Jewish and we celebrate some of the big ones, you know," he said of his spiritual leanings.
While not religious, he did confirm that he is what Maron characterized as "a spiritual guy." Asked to elaborate, Seinfeld said he found deeper satisfaction through his work. "Comedy is very spiritually satisfying. You're risking your own personal comfort to make total strangers happy, make them feel good, for just a moment. That's a spiritual act," he said, adding of his spirituality, "I try and be good to people all the time…I'm always trying to be generous to people."
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