Jerry Seinfeld spoke with Willie Geist for Sunday TODAY about the Academy Awards controversy that resulted in Hart stepping down from hosting duties after old tweets and comedy routines resurfaced that critics called homophobic.
"When you look at that situation, who got screwed in that deal?'' Seinfeld said in an interview airing this weekend. "I think Kevin's gonna be fine. But find another Kevin Hart — that's not so easy. He's a brilliant guy with a movie career."
Hart went right back to the stage following last week's controversy, performing a pair of stand-up shows in Sydney, Australia. Meanwhile, the Academy's board of governors is searching for a new host and mulling over whether to have no host at all.
After initially refusing to apologize for the old tweets and jokes, Hart, 39, tweeted hours later that he was stepping down "because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past."
"Kevin is in a position because he's a brilliant comedian to kind of decide what he wants to do,'' Seinfeld said. "He doesn't have to step down, but he can."
Seinfeld, 64, has been in comedy long enough to know that having to learn what boundaries not to step over can be tricky.
"Most of the time, comedians, we are expected to be the most agile in terms of how we think and construct our thoughts and what comes out of our mouth,'' he said. "We have been navigating these slalom gates forever."
Working around certain constraints is an obstacle that some comedians choose to deal with.
"To go back to the cursing thing, 'Well, if you want to get on "The Tonight Show," if you want to get on TV, you can't use any of those words.' All those words are out. And a lot of us went, 'OK. I'll play,''' he said.
"It's like Lindsey Vonn: Wherever you put the gates, I'm gonna make them. That's the gig."