Bad news for fans of Seinfeld tribute parodies on Twitter: Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t share your enthusiasm for them.
Good news for everybody else: Seinfeld does have his own modern-day idea for something to talk about with Larry David, and he teased it today in his first-ever Reddit AMA chat with the Internet masses.
“Oh this is a very painful subject. As you can probably imagine, over the 9 years of doing the show, Larry David and I sat through hundreds of ideas that people wanted to do on the show. And most of the ideas are not good. Which I saw Larry say the other day on some show, somebody asked him the same question and he said “I know you think it’s funny, but it’s really hard.” The ideas that Larry and I would respond to, I don’t even know, they just need to be very unique. It’s just a lot harder than it seems to come up with. And particularly for that show, where we tried to do things that were unusual, and you had to go through a lot of ideas to find the ones you like.”
That said, he replied to another query wondering about “the most mundane thing” he and Larry David had obsessed over with this:
“We never obsess over anything that isn’t mundane. Most recent was intentional mumbling. We wrote this script for this thing that you will eventually see but I can’t reveal what it is at this time. All I can do is tell you is that it’s big, huge, gigantic.” (EMPHASIS ADDED)
Other revelations by Seinfeld:
The first time Seinfeld met Larry David, David wasn’t aware of it, or him.
“The first time I met him, that’s a long story… I actually was eavesdropping on him talking to another comedian, and I wasn’t even in comedy yet. But he was leaning on my car in front of the Improv on 9th Ave and 44th Street, and this would be probably 1975. That was the first time I ever saw him. But we didn’t talk. But him and this other comedian were leaning on the fender of my car, and I knew that they were real comedians and I was still just flirting with it. So I don’t know if that answers the question.
Then when we finally did talk in the bar Catch a Rising Star on 1st Ave and 78th Street 2 or 3 years after that, we couldn’t stop talking. We were both obsessed with the smallest possible issue.”
Seinfeld was on Reddit to promote his third season of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and said he enjoys all of the conversations he has had with all of the comedians. Why? What’s the secret?
“I like all of them. Todd Barry and I had a little conversation about what do you think about what happens to all those shirts at Macy’s. You walk in there, there are thousands of shirts, where do they go? They don’t sell out. You don’t walk into Macy’s and see thousands of empty hangers, it’s just one of those things that nobody talks about. I could talk about anything with another comedian as long as it’s dumb. That’s the whole idea of the show right there, by the way.”
Any comedians who already have died who he’d love to have driven with, and in which car?
“I probably would have to say Charlie Chaplin in a Duesenberg.”
How about still-living comedians?
“There are so many comedians that I love that I haven’t yet talked to! Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Bill Burr on YouTube, I really like him and I’m going to try to get him on the next round of shows.”
Seinfeld has conducted Q&As at his live theater shows on tour for years, and always gets plenty of questions about his hit NBC sitcom. For those of you who still think Seinfeld was a show about nothing, here’s a reminder that that concept — the “show about nothing” — was merely a meta plotline in the series when George and Jerry approached the fictional NBC.
“The pitch for the show, the real pitch, when Larry and I went to NBC in 1988, was we want to show how a comedian gets his material. The show about nothing was just a joke in an episode many years later, and Larry and I to this day are surprised that it caught on as a way that people describe the show, because to us it’s the opposite of that.”
How does he feel about laugh tracks on sitcoms?
“This was something we struggled with quite often on Seinfeld. Because we had real laughs on the scenes that were shot in front of an audience, but then we would shoot other scenes that were not in front of the audience (which didn’t have any laughs) and then it felt like a bit of a mismatch, so we tried to compromise and put in a subtle laugh track. I think that one of the fun things of a sitcom is feeling like you’re in an audience even though you’re home, watching it by yourself. I have to say I like some sitcoms with them and some without. Depends on the show.”
Seeing Seinfeld buy a gun just wasn’t funny.
“There was one episode where Jerry bought a handgun. And we started making it and stopped in the middle and said “this doesn’t work.” We did the read-through and then cancelled it. A lot of other stuff happened, but trying to make that funny ended up being no fun.”
He made a conscious decision to play it both ways in the sitcom — a stand-up comedian by trade, but the straight man to George, Elaine, Kramer and everyone else on the show.
“The reason I would play straight was it was funnier for the scene. And very few people have ever remarked on this, because it was a conscious choice of mine, only because I knew it would make the show better, and I didn’t care who was funny as long as somebody was funny and that the show was funny. So you have hit upon one of the great secret weapons of the Seinfeld series, was that I had no issue with that.”
As a young stand-up comedian in life, Seinfeld dealt with hecklers by taking their side instead of taking them on verbally from the stage. Reverse psychology FTW!
“Very early on in my career, I hit upon this idea of being the Heckle Therapist. So that when people would say something nasty, I would immediately become very sympathetic to them and try to help them with their problem and try to work out what was upsetting them, and try to be very understanding with their anger. It opened up this whole fun avenue for me as a comedian, and no one had ever seen that before. Some of my comedian friends used to call me – what did they say? – that I would counsel the heckler instead of fighting them. Instead of fighting them, I would say “You seem so upset, and I know that’s not what you wanted to have happen tonight. Let’s talk about your problem” and the audience would find it funny and it would really discombobulate the heckler too, because I wouldn’t go against them, I would take their side.”
A scene from his documentary, Comedian, still provides one of his memorable backstage incidents, reminding him that no stand-up comedian is immune to the perils of the profession.
“I do kind of like in the documentary I did in 2002, called Comedian, there’s one point where I’m performing at Governor’s in Levittown at the absolute height of Seinfeldmania. And the club owner comes in the dressing room and says to me “I need you offstage by 9:15.” And I said “what?” And I was performing there to create a new act. It was kind of a big deal that I would come to that small club, and the owner of the club just treated me absolutely the same as everybody else, and I just thought that was so funny. That was one of my favorite moments in that documentary. That’s why I wanted to go back into doing standup comedy, because as the star of your own TV show you don’t get treated like that but as a standup performer you do get treated like that. It was hilarious, and absurd, but standup is a life of just brutal reality which is the opposite of the life I had been leading in LA and that I missed.”
His preferred post-show routine?
“Somtimes after a show on the road, I will find a place to have a cigar in an alleyway next to the hotel with a friend of mine, and I find that very relaxing. Also, driving relaxes me a lot and listening to music or sports radio.”
Why’d he get into comedy in the first place?
“I chose comedy because I thought it seemed much easier than work. And more fun than work. It turned out to be much harder than work, and not easy at all. But you still don’t have to ever really grow up. And that’s the best thing of all.”
And his strangest situation to be recognized came during a road trip that inspired the webseries.
“One time, a friend of mine and I decided to drive a 1967 VW Bug from Albuquerque to the Hamptons. I bought the car on eBay for $5,000 and flew to Albuquerque and my friend flew from LA, and we decided to do that for something fun to do (this, by the way, is the actual original inspiration for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, the year was 2000 and I did this with my friend Barry Marder, who you may know as the author of “Letters From a Nut” by Ted L. Nancy). ANYWAY, so one time we stopped in this tiny town and somewhere in the Midwest whose name escapes me at the moment, and the town was honestly no more than 2 blocks long, and we are walking on this little sidewalk that they had, and there was a guy there, walking past us, and I was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, and the guy says as we walk by “Hey Jerry” and kept walking. And that, to this day, so blows my mind that not only was he NOT SURPRISED that i was in this town, population 115, but that I just walked by him, he recognized me and he felt the need to say anything more than “hi.” Not “what the hell are you doing here.” I’m sure that guy is out there, somewhere. Probably on reddit.
Where’d the name come from? Something like “you seen this? I already read it.”