Seinfeld’s 1993 O.J. Simpson Murder Joke Aged Horribly

In 1993, Seinfeld season 5 featured Elaine wittily distancing O.J. Simpson from murder, which may go down as one of the worst-aged jokes in history. Running from 1989 to 1998, Seinfeld was known for its many pop culture references of the time that clearly date it in its specific era, whether it be references to actress Loni Anderson, stand-up jokes about Ovaltine, or the cultural significance of Elaine fawning over JFK, Jr. One season 5 Seinfeld episode, in particular, will remain a product of its time for eternity, not necessarily because its core joke is offensive, but because of ironic events that would soon transpire in real life.

Seinfeld’s episode “The Masseuse” follows Elaine as she begins dating a new guy she really likes - the only issue is that he shares a name with the prolific serial killer Joel Rifkin. Elaine is truly interested in Joel but, in typical Seinfeld fashion, she can’t keep dating him with that name. Throughout the episode, Elaine tries to convince him to change his name to something “cool” and less connected to murder. While looking through an NFL Gameday book, Seinfeld's Elaine Benes unknowingly suggests a name that would soon become subject to one of the most infamous murder trials in American history.

Related: Seinfeld: The Season 9 Controversy & Banned Episode Explained

Ironically to anyone paying attention to the news in 1994, Elaine would recommend that Joel change his name to O.J. (after O.J. Simpson) as something less associated with murder. At the time of Seinfeld’s episode in November 1993, the writers had no idea what events would transpire only a few months later to make the name O.J. almost synonymous with murder. In June 1994, only 7 months after Seinfeld’s episode aired, O.J. Simpson was arrested and charged with the double murders of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. The international publicity of the O.J. Simpson murder trial was insurmountable, leading many to describe it as “The Trial of the Century.”

Serial killer Joel Rifkin was timely for Seinfeld’s episode because he had been apprehended the same year but, ironically, most people today have no idea who he is compared to the notoriety of O.J. The Joel Rifkin reference certainly grounds Seinfeld's episode in its own time, but it’s the idea that O.J. Simpson wouldn’t be associated with murder that truly makes it one of the worst aged jokes in sitcom history. While sitcoms of the 1990s that still retain their immense popularity today are accused of poorly-aged jokes due to insensitivity and offensiveness - including Seinfeld itself - this specific quip by Elaine Benes’ character is terribly aged simply due to its profound irony.

Seinfeld would never specifically amend their early joke that O.J. wouldn’t be associated with murder, but the ex-football player was still referenced several more times throughout the series. Keeping up with the cultural conscience of their day, Seinfeld’s season 6 episode “The Big Salad” parodied the infamous O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco car chase that occurred in June 1994, only a few weeks before the episode aired. The episode saw Kramer play golf with ex-MLB player Steve Gunderson, only to find out he murdered a dry cleaner later that day. Feeling that their altercation on the golf course may have incited Steve’s murder, the eccentric Cosmo Kramer takes him to see his pet fish by driving him in his white Ford Bronco, which quickly becomes subject to a low-speed car chase on the New Jersey Turnpike. Seinfeld would later parody O.J. Simpson’s murder trial in season 7, with Kramer losing a trial after Sue Ellen is acquitted by trying on a bra that doesn’t fit, just as O.J. infamously had with the glove.

Next: Seinfeld: What's With The Candy? Why Junior Mints Are So Funny



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