So yeah, I was one of the lucky few who made it to the Jerry Seinfeld secret set at the Comedy Store on Wednesday night. Heard a whisper, bought a ticket, got the hell down there. Absolutely amazing. The comedy equivalent of seeing Led Zeppelin at Hoxton Bar & Grill. The gasps of joy as he took to the stage for his set (literally NOBODY knew he was going to be there) confirmed this.
But some may be wondering why there’s so many laudatory things being written about this chap: “What,” to coin a phrase, “is the deal with Jerry Seinfeld?”
As a young UK resident, this is perfectly acceptable. Because while the “show about nothing” in which he starred and gave his name was and is a giant success in America (70 million people tuned in to the finale in 1998, and repeats are on ridiculously frequently to this day), in the UK, it never quite happened.
Why? Because the BBC are idiots. Initially giving it a timeslot of 9pm on BBC2, they soon moved it to a graveyard shift, and there was no marketing (plus this was long before anyone had iPlayer, of course). Then Friends comes along, ripping off and watering down the show completely, and pretty soon you cannot move through the Channel 4-related channels without seeing Ross’s annoying lost puppy face. Again. And then Frasier. And Everybody Loves Raymond, and even fucking Joey, all in decent major network timeslots.
Seinfeld, meanwhile, in the UK became a – yuck! – “cult classic”. Not the fault of the public, because there was simply no way of watching it. The DVD box of the later seasons only came out in 2007, and it’d been given up on by broadcasters.
Personally, I didn’t even get into it until about 2005, and that was through Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. But oh boy, when you go with Seinfeld, you go. Eventually, gradually, Seinfeld has risen in the UK to being a household name, at least in the households you would actually care to visit.
Now, this is not snobbery. Seinfeld is not a highbrow show. It exists very much within the world of the mainstream sitcom – accessible, breezy, feelgood (on the surface, anyway), easy to watch – but without shouting about it, is sooooo much, much more clever and sophisticated and subversive than Mad Men, The Wire or any of the other “gritty” “authentic” TV shows that people now bleat on about.
As well as the absolute brilliance of the storylines (I won’t spoil it for the uninitiated), through the show, you get into Jerry as a stand-up comic.
And a brilliant one he is, too: forever questioning the minutae of life, from TV remote hierachy in the home (“Men definitely hit the remote more than women… men don’t care what’s on TV, men only care what else is on TV”) to airport security (“How’s about this crack squad of savvy, motivated personnel?”). All of this was in evidence on Wednesday, with time not having deadened his sharpness one bit, and will doubtless fill the O2 Arena tonight no problem.
But yes, for the uninitiated, here’s five video moments that should convince you that Jerry Seinfeld is a bona fide legend (do your best to ignore the slap bass).
1. Predicting how Facebook/Twitter would change social convention
Jerry is bemused by Twitter (“Why say something to somebody, when you can say nothing to everybody”), and this stretches way back. Look at this bit from all the way back in October of 1992. Replace the words “answering machine’, with ‘Facebook’, and watch the below clip.
2. Not taking any shit off anyone
Here he is doing what he does best, mocking an idiot, only this time the idiot is Larry King, and it’s to his face.
3. Giving Larry David to the world
Well, they kind of gave each other to the world, but it was Jerry who was offered the chance to front a TV show. As writer and co-creator, Larry David’s neuroses clearly made it as brilliant as it was, and as Curb… arrived on our screens, people began to credit him as ‘the brains’. But it’s the two’s chemistry, as amazingly displayed in this scene from the last Curb… series, that fuels it.
4 Banging on about Porsches all the time
Jerry Seinfeld owns 47 Porsches, which is an amazing thing to own 47 of. He says of this, “I have my adult life, but when I get in the car, I feel like I did when I got a great marble.” At the Comedy Store show the other night, at the end of the set, Jerry asked for questions from the audience. The first one was bellowed out by my friend Alan: “How many Porsches do you have?” Jerry: “I got enough. What do you drive?” Alan: “A Honda.” Jerry: “I think that’s probably the end of this conversation, don’t you?” Zing!
5 Making the show about nothing
Just WATCH IT!