'Seinfeld' actor John O'Hurley talks being a conservative in Hollywood: 'You feel everybody is moving in lock-step'

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

It isn’t easy being a conservative in Hollywood, at least that’s what actor John O’Hurley said Monday during an appearance on Fox News.

O’Hurley, who’s best known for playing Elaine’s pompous boss J. Peterman on Seinfeld, was discussing Will & Grace stars Debra Messing and Eric McCormack, who called for a list of people attending an upcoming Beverly Hills fundraiser for President Donald Trump. (O’Hurley obviously isn’t a fan of their controversial stance and referred to their comments as “lunacy.”)

John O'Hurley attends the 2019 Festival of Arts Celebrity Benefit Event on Aug. 24 in Laguna Beach, Calif. (Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach)

In a phone interview Thursday, he tells Yahoo Entertainment more about what he meant.

“You just feel like your ideas are not welcome, that everybody is moving in a lock-step,” O’Hurley says. “It creates a very uncreative atmosphere, and I don’t think it’s something that’s healthy for Hollywood. I believe that all ideas should be welcome, that’s the nature of creativity. The artistic expression is the act of the infinite possibility. And in order to have that, you have to have all the colors available on the palette. You have to have all perspectives of what you’re working with, and for people to want to cancel each other out because of the way that they feel, is just a dangerous and unhealthy atmosphere.”

O’Hurley’s suggestion for remedying that is for people to approach everything with civility.

“All ideas are welcome. Whatever my political thoughts are are really nobody else’s business and... they don’t deserve to be celebrated just because I’m a celebrity,” O’Hurley says. “I don’t feel as though I have an additional pulpit, that I’ve earned that because I’m a so-called celebrity.”

O’Hurley reveals he received “an enormous amount of support” on social media in response to his comments. Both Trump and The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg also went in on Messing and McCormack, who have since said their comments were misinterpreted.

As for O’Hurley, he’s focusing on the Los Angeles debut of his one-man show, A Man With Standards, on Sept. 20-21 at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s in Studio City, Calif. It’s his part in bringing back the supper club, where audiences enjoy dinner and entertainment in the same place, making for what he considers an elegant evening, the way it was when going out for dinner was still an event.

“It’s just basically the stories of my life, and I use the music of the ‘50s and ‘60s — Sinatra, Mancini — to underscore and accompany these kind of wacky periods of my life,” O’Hurley explains.

John O'Hurley played J. Peterman, the boss of Elaine Benes, portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, on a 1998 episode of Seinfeld. (Photo: Joey Delvalle/NBCU Photo Bank)

So, of course, his most famous character makes an appearance in the show O’Hurley has performed for the past four years. Although he was only on Seinfeld from 1995 to 1998, the so-called show about nothing is still going strong in reruns today and he continues to be recognized by fans.

He has nothing but fond memories of his time there.

“There was a level of excellence on the show, and that was created by the four of them and the producers and the writers. Because the show was so different. This was a different style of comedy,” O’Hurley says. “I remember getting up out of the first reading for the first show, and I called my manager and I said, ‘This is the No. 1 show on television?’ And I said, ‘It’s not funny.’ The point was it doesn’t read funny, it plays funny. So you play the scenes as honestly as you can and the comedy will take care of itself when you put all the scenes together, and that’s what made it funny. These were funny scenes, rather than funny lines. It took me a while to learn that.”

More than 30 years after Seinfeld first aired, O’Hurley remembers the entire cast was impressive — “the four smartest actors I’ve ever worked with” — but especially Julia Louis-Dreyfus, his partner in most of his scenes. He’s still a big fan.

“Julia is hands down the smartest and most versatile comedic actress we have in entertainment right now, as evidenced by all of her success including and after Seinfeld,” O’Hurley praises. “You’d have to go back to someone like Lucille Ball to find somebody that has not only the intellectual capacity to make people laugh but the physical capacity to make people laugh. She will go down with the ship for the laughter.”

He calls her “one of the most enjoyable people I’ve worked with.”

Tickets for O’Hurley’s one-man show, A Man With Standards, are on sale now.

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