Jerry Seinfeld: "Men Need to be More Supportive to Their Women"
The legendary comedian hosts a star-packed luncheon to raise funds for the Fatherhood Initiative of his wife's Baby Buggy nonprofit.
“It’s a man thing. It’s a dad thing."
Standing in front of a packed house at white-hot Beverly Hills eatery The Palm with a mic in his hand, that’s exactly how Jerry Seinfeld summed up the focus of a fundraising luncheon he hosted on Wednesday afternoon that drew Gwyneth Paltrow, Jay Leno, Kevin Hart and longtime Seinfeld colleagues Jason Alexander and Michael Richards.
Seinfeld also called it “a new thing,” and what he’s referring to is actually called the Fatherhood Initiative, a recently unveiled program launched by his wife Jessica Seinfeld’s Baby Buggy, a well-known nonprofit that takes an innovative, child-focused approach to curbing generational poverty. Launched in 2001 and devoted to mothers and children, Baby Buggy has embraced an expansion to include programs, goods and services that help low-income fathers in their efforts to become more active parents in the lives of their children.
“I do this thing in my act about when a baby is born — for the female, the instincts kick in but for the man, nothing kicks in. That’s true no matter what kind of father you are. Especially if you are in a challenged economic environment, it’s even harder to figure out what am I supposed to do,” Jerry continued at the lunch, which raised nearly $250,000 to support the org’s ongoing efforts on behalf of fathers in need. “We couldn’t help but have our hearts go out to these guys who were trying to figure this out."
Several women in attendance couldn’t help but express their gratitude in receiving an invite to the Seinfelds’ inaugural Los Angeles luncheon. A similar event, held in New York in September 2014 also at The Palm, featured an all-male guest list that drew Hugh Jackman, Michael Strahan, Marcus Wainwright, Neil Patrick Harris, Mark Consuelos and Nigel Barker. Jessica told THR that Paltrow gets credit for the expanded guest list and the positive female energy in the room.
"Gwyneth has been really helpful in putting this event together because she knows Los Angeles a lot better than we do and she had the most wonderful father and this mission really speaks to her,” she relayed on the red carpet following the lunch, which was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, rag & bone and United Talent Agency and underwritten by Bruce Bozzi and his Palm Restaurant. “It started with her coming … and she’s also like a dude. I don’t really think of her as a female friend — she’s the androgynous friend. She can do everything! Men love her, women love her."
Judd Apatow, Jason Bateman and Dax Shepard looked like they loved it when Paltrow stopped by their table to say hello before entrees were served. Seated nearby were Michael Eisner, Seth Green, Bill Maher, Bob Saget, Michelle Trachtenberg, James Van Der Beek, Kimberly Van Der Beek, George Wallace, David Walton, Eva Amurri, Spike Feresten, Stacey Bendet Eisner and rag & bone's David Neville. (For the record, both Seinfelds were decked out in rag & bone threads with Jerry asking THR if he was pulling off his ensemble from the always-fashionable designer label. The answer: Yes.)
Also in attendance were three fathers whom the initiative has supported, said Alan-Michael Graves, director of Project Fatherhood at The Children’s Institute, Inc., a Baby Buggy partner. “We’ve never met a man who didn’t want to be a father, there were just reasons why they weren’t in their children’s lives,” Graves told the Palm crowd, informing guests that his program serves 900 fathers through 22 different groups. “We work with those fathers in breaking down those barriers. There are two rules coming into the program: We don’t bash women and we don’t bash the systems but we teach fathers how to navigate those systems."
Following the luncheon, Jerry told THR that the most major area men need help navigating is support. “Men now in this cultural moment need to be more supportive to their women — the mothers or the wives or both because women are at a point in culture when it’s one of the most difficult in their history,” he said. “They have more opportunity than they’ve ever had but that doesn’t necessarily make your life easier. … Stress on them is a lot higher. When you first get married and have kids you don’t realize the stress that is on a woman. It takes you awhile to figure that out and be helpful."
Jerry has been helpful himself, according to his wife. “Mothers have tons of access to social services and men don’t. We’ve been watching that happen for years and years and years,” detailed Jessica. “What else would we do but help? It really spoke to us in a primal way because everyone has had a father of some sort — whether they’re present or not, whether they’ve known them or not, and whether they are in their life in a good way or a negative way. Fatherhood has a presence in everybody’s life. That resonated with Jerry in a very deep way and he raised his hand and said, ‘I want to do this. I want to make this bigger.’ And so we figured out a way to make it bigger."
Their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“What Baby Buggy does is invest in (fathers) and gives them tools and tips and pointers and resources that they need to be a part of their kids’ lives, which is a huge investment in the future in untold ways,” explained James Van Der Beek.
Jerry had one more note about how to be helpful, but this one is best described as a joke.
In closing his remarks during the luncheon, the comedian instructed his famous friends to do their part before heading home. “The other way you can be helpful to us is on your way out, if you could take a quick picture with the press there, that’s really helpful too,” he requested. “The well known people of course, are particularly important in this regard. Everybody else can just hand your ticket to the valet."