God, how much do we miss Seinfeld? There’s not been another show on TV like it since. The problem with television shows, especially comedies where you have a goal to make people laugh—because once you find the key to making people laugh, it’s hard not to keep using it—is that eventually, you’re just doing the same thing over and over. Even great shows tend to hit the cycle of rinse and repeat. Friends: seven seasons too long; The Office (American, not British, because if there’s one thing I really believe the Brits have over us, creatively, it’s knowing when to make a well-timed exit): seven seasons too long—and counting; The Simpsons: a thousand seasons too long. One of my perennial favorites, South Park, only works after sixteen years because the length of seasons has been cut down to six episodes at a go, decreasing the amount of funny that has to be generated at any given time.
Seinfeld has always been an exception to this rule, as it is to so many others. Seinfeld was a show that only ever got better, staying sharp and fresh over nine years, and exiting stage left as the wave crested and the show was more popular than ever. With the kind of money NBC was offering and all the power being handed to Jerry Seinfeld, I cannot imagine what it took to look his co-stars and creative partners in the eye and say—enough. But he did, and instead of resting on his laurels, or diving into another network job to add to his already considerable wealth, Seinfeld went back to his roots, back to the stand-up clubs in New York and busted his ass to build a new routine (featured in 2002’s Comedian).
This is why all comedians respect Jerry Seinfeld. Even if his sense of humor, delivery or style isn’t a comic’s particular bag, he is a touchstone for everyone because of his work ethic, and because after achieving the pinnacle of success, he stuck to the clubs and the touring, gigging like everyone else. (For the record: The Marriage Ref never happened. IT NEVER HAPPENED.) He just never stops pushing, never stops looking for new ways to deliver his comedy.
His newest way is an internet show called “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”, and it features Seinfeld plus one of his comic buddies pal-ing around in a classic car (the debut episode features an adorable 1952 VW Beetle)—and getting coffee. It is, as Larry David, episode one’s guest, says, truly a show about nothing. This first episode has its moments, but overall, it isn’t knocking my socks off with hilarity. There’s a little too much in-humor between Seinfeld and David—we the viewers are left out of some punchlines. But it is a great look at how comedians talk to one another. The only thing I really miss about stand-up is sitting around with other comics after a gig and cracking each other up. And that’s the camaraderie Seinfeld is displaying on his show.
If you’re looking for straight laughs—eh, probably not going to be your thing. If you want to see how a comic builds material, this is an interesting—potentially fascinating—look at how comedians think and relate. The exchanges about hot food and especially the bit at the end about cigarettes versus cigars feel like the genesis of very Seinfeldian bits. My only question is how spontaneous was it? It feels pretty organic, just like two old friends shooting the sh*t, but I always wonder how much people like Seinfeld and David really leave to chance. Comics who excel at scripted series are usually the most controlling, least likely to wing it among us. Either way, though, Jerry Seinfeld is still pushing, still looking for new ways to make people laugh. Is it working?
Click here to watch.