Six Things I Learned From Jerry Seinfeld’s Reddit AMA

The night I ended my year long run at the greatest sitcom of all time, I scoured the internet like a jaded old man for anything that could make me feel like I was watching a new episode. This led me, of course, to the Seinfeld subreddit where I ran into an informative “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) Jerry Seinfeld did back in January. Some questions had to do with Jerry’s personal life or Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but the bulk of them were about Seinfeld. In keeping with the internet’s affinity for numbered lists, I’d like to offer six things I learned from Jerry’s AMA.

1. Jerry as comedian but straight man to his friends absurdity is genius

Jerry as the straight man

Jerry may not always function as a typical straight man, but his antics are often tempered in comparison to his three closest friends. A man who makes people laugh for a living but takes a back seat to his friend’s comedy is not only ironic, it’s brilliant. This seems like an obvious obvious thing looking back, yet, as Jerry said, “Very few people have every remarked on this,” and I was not able to articulate it until I read this. My friend often describes Jerry as “the glue that holds the show together.” This is true in many respects but especially from the standpoint of comedy.

2. Seinfeld was not a “show about nothing.” 

“…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.”

show about nothingWhenever I told someone I was watching Seinfeld straight through, it was not uncommon for them to mention it being a “show about nothing.” I didn’t understand why until I reached season four when Jerry and George decide to pitch “Jerry,” their “show about nothing” to NBC. At first I thought they were responding to criticism about the show. When I learned that wasn’t true, I struggled to apply that phrase to Seinfeld as it seemed so many people had. At the bare minimum, we have to admit that something happens in each episode, and while there may not always be much of a plot, there is certainly substance. Most of this substance has to do with hilarity of relationships and social customs. Although they are often stretched into a caricature, we can all resonate with, for example, interacting with a low talker or close talker. I propose that from now on we make it a goal to refer to Seinfeld as “a show about something.”

(Just to be clear, this is what Seinfeld would look like if it was about nothing:)

3. Kramer’s “look away, I’m hideous” scene was funniest to Jerry in the moment

“…if you think Kramer is funny on TV, imagine his real face six inches from your nose, how funny that is. You can’t imagine. It’s impossible not to laugh. So I would.”

Jerry laughingJerry often attempts to bottle up his laughter, but the resulting grins aren’t fooling anybody. It seems he had a particularly difficult time with Kramer’s “look away, I’m hideous” scene. Watch the outtakes, and then the full scene, where Jerry half snickers the whole time and turns away from the camera to conceal his laughter at the end:

4. Jerry was happy with the finale

finale

I was glad to read that Jerry was happy with the finale, and I more or less agree with him. The only other way I could think to end it would be for Jerry to close the door to his apartment after all the characters walked out. I had no issue with the ending as they did and thought it was great that so many of the supporting characters got to come back for the finale. I also enjoyed Jerry and George repeating the opening dialog from the first episode.

5. Newman was Jerry’s favorite supporting character 

Newman arch enemy

It doesn’t bother me that the show never explains why Jerry and Newman are at odds or his often villainous demeanor for that matter. I never thought of Newman as Jerry’s arch enemy, but I love that he celebrates that.

6. Superman is not in every episode.

superman

We can officially catalog this as urban legend and all stop talking about it.

 

Tuesday “News:” 90s Media I Discovered Last Week

Well, I had quite a week of 90s exploration:

1. Independence Day

For all my 90s naïveté, Independence Day is one movie I have loved since childhood and watched almost every July 4th. This year I was fortunate to join the company of two friends who had never seen it before, making the experience all the better. I was glad to see Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum save the planet from aliens again this year:

HT: Seth Putnam, Katie Stipanovich, Anthony Flora

2. The End of Seinfeld

As the credits for Independence Day began to roll, my friends and I discussed what we should do before it was dark enough for fireworks. Somehow we all decided that I must finish Seinfeld. Soon we had plowed through the remaining three episodes, and my year-long run at the greatest sitcom of all time had ended. It was bitter-sweet, the satisfaction of taking a big step toward catching up with my generation but knowing I could never watch a new episode again. In many ways, Seinfeld was the backbone of my 90s exploration, and I don’t think anything else can replace it.

The Seinfeld crew during the final days of shooting. Via huffpostTV.

        The Seinfeld crew during the final days of shooting. Via HuffpostTV.

As for the finale, I’ve heard a lot of people who were disappointed by it. In my ideal ending, the gang walks out of Jerry’s apartment to go see him perform, and he closes the door behind them. The screen fades to black, and a final scene shows a few of his jokes. However, I took no issue with how the finale actually played out. I enjoyed seeing all the minor characters give testimony in court which served something of a tribute to their work in the show.

The last lines of the show are a reference back to its first dialog. During the final scene, Jerry looks across the jail cell to George and makes a comment about the buttons on his shirt. I thought it seemed awkward but must refer to something:

Jerry: See, now, to me that button is in the worst possible spot.

George: Really?

Jerry: Oh yea! The second button is the key button. It literally makes or breaks the shirt. Look at it. It’s too high. It’s in no man’s land.

George: Haven’t we had this conversation before?

Jerry: You think?

George: I think we have.

Jerry: Yea, maybe we have.

Jerry repeats the first line of the show almost word for word, bringing it to an end where it began:

3. National Geographic’s 90s Special

On Sunday night, National Geographic aired the first of the three part special called: The 90s: The Last Great Decade? The first episode, Great Expectations, begins with America’s involvement in the Gulf War and discusses how it, along with public obsession over celebrities like Anna Nicole Smith, and televised trials (Lorena Bobbitt/Jeffery Dahmer/Clarence Thomas) laid the groundwork for reality TV shows like The Real World. The episode also chronicled socio-political events like Bill Clinton’s rise to the presidency and the bombing of the World Trade Center, as well as Microsoft and the beginning of the internet.

“Great Expectations” covered a fair amount of pop culture from Vanilla Ice (who’s hit “Ice Ice Baby” was originally a B-side) to Rosanne. Ironically, during a segment on Nirvana, the special doesn’t play any of their music (perhaps they didn’t get the rights). While the narrator discusses “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” some unknown riff of power chords plays in the background without vocals. It was almost hilarious. Despite that fact, I thought the special was informative and well done, and I plan on watching the last two episodes before the end of the week.

Here are the videos for episodes two (“Friends and Enemies”) and three (“Politically Incorrect”) which aired Monday and Tuesday respectfully. View episode one above.

HT: Adria Lambert

4. Matthew Perry & Jennifer Aniston’s Windows 95 Instructional Video

First of all, stop for a minute and appreciate that this exists: Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston star in a bizarre sitcomish attempt at an instructional video for Windows 95. Their Microsoft adventure lasts for the first half hour before the video dips into more formal instructions for using the new software which you can safely ignore.

The video features the following gems from Jennifer:

“Look Matty, I’m computing!” 

“Taskbar? Is that anything like a Snickers bar? Does that have nougat?” 

“So you mean I can plug and play every printer in the world?” 

“Would you like a side of bacon with the egg on your face?”

And this dialog:

J: “We don’t have any CD’s or flappies.”

M: “I believe those are called floppies.”

J: “That’s what I said.”

M: “No, no, you said flappies.”

J: “I did not!”

But seriously, Windows 95 was revolutionary. Here are some of its new features we now take for granted:

-Creating file names larger than 8.3 characters.
-Plug and play installation for devices.
-Right clicking for “power user features.”
-Drag and drop file moving.
-Loading items onto the taskbar.

Do yourself a favor and carve out a half hour for this 90s gold:

Tuesday “News:” 90s Media I Discovered in the Last MONTH

Tis’ the busy season for those of us in the hospitality industry (since writing currently pays 0% of my bills), and I have been so exhausted that it takes all my energy to drink a beer while sitting down. I have not written a word since June 4th which is a travesty, sham, and a mockery. However, it does mean I have A MONTH’s worth of 90s exploration to catch you up with.

1. Seinfeld Tracker

When I last wrote, I was beginning season 9. Since then, I have watched over half the season: “The Blood,” “The Junk Mail,” “The Merv Griffin Show,” “The Slicer,” “The Betrayal,” “The Apology,” “The Strike,” “The Dealership,” “The Reverse Peephole,” “The Cartoon,” “The Strongbox,” “The Wizard,” “The Burning,” and “The Bookstore.”

It’s all too much to summarize now, but I think there are more standouts in the first half of that list than the second. In “The Merv Griffin Show,” Kramer finds the trashed set from-duh-the Merv Griffin Show and sets it up in his apartment. He hosts, and the rest of the gang appears as guests each time they enter Kramer’s apartment.

“The Betrayl” worked backwards from end of the episode Momento-style. I’m not sure why Jerry Seinfeld wanted to try that for one episode, but I thought it worked well. In “The Apology,” George never got the apology he hilariously insisted on throughout the episode:

In “The Strike,” I finally beheld the glory of Festivus, and I was in awe. With a bit of additional research, I discovered a website summarizing the Festivus traditions and another selling Festivus Poles. Here are some handy party favors for the holiday as well. All this left me in the Festivus spirit, and I have decided that I must celebrate it this year. December 23rd can’t come soon enough!

2. Simpsons Tracker

I am embarrassed to say that in the last month, I have only watched six Simpsons episodes: “Treehouse of Horror,” “Two Cars in Every Garage And Three Eyes on Every Fish,” “Dancin’ Homer,” “Dead Putting Society,” “Bart vs. Thanksgiving,” and “Bart The Daredevil.” My favorite of these was probably “Dancin’ Homer,” which is set at a baseball game for the Springfield Isotopes. Excited and fairly intoxicated, Homer dances on top of the dugout, excites the crowd, and wills the ‘topes to a win. He is subsequently hired as the team mascot and becomes known as “Dancin’ Homer.”

"For the first time in my life, people weren't laughing at me; they were laughing towards me!"

“For the first time in my life, people weren’t laughing at me; they were laughing towards me!”

And how about this national anthem.

3. The Cranberries

At some point last month  I listened through the first few Cranberries‘ albums: “Everybody else Is Doing it, So Why Can’t We,” “No Need to Argue,” “To The Faithful Departed,” and “When You’re Gone.” I had already seen their Unplugged session and recognized some of their hits (“Dreams,” “Linger,” “Zombie,” and “I’m Still Remembering”). The Cranberries have such a soothing sound. Probably the best song I discovered was “Free to Decide:”

Listening through these albums got me thinking about other rock bands with female lead singers that I need to check out as well: Hole, Garbage, No Doubt etc.

4. Glengarry Glen Ross

Last week I finally got back to watching 90s movies with Glengarry Glen Ross, starring Alec Baldwin, Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, and Ed Harris. The film is based on the David Mamet play, making it naturally dialogue-heavy. It follows three under-performing real estate salesmen’s attempts to generate clients using a list of bad leads. Since this film amounted to 100 minutes of intense dialogue (mostly the characters screaming and calling each other “cocksuckers”), I understand why anyone would walk away feeling like they wasted their time. However, I did appreciate the film’s attempt to deal with themes of jealousy and greed, but I probably wouldn’t see it again. Also, Alec Baldwin’s profanity-laced rant in his single scene appearance is something:

5. Clear and Present Danger

A day later, I watched Clear and Present Danger, a summer 1994 movie starring Harrison Ford, Ann Archer, Willem Defoe, and James Earl Jones. I have not read any Tom Clancy novels, and this is the first of the five Jack Ryan movie I have seen. The movie reminds us throughout that it is set in the 90s with the tv news fonts, the car phone, and the computer operating systems. I enjoyed it and would see again. Just based on the cast, you should already know what’s going to happen: stuff going to blow up, and Harrison Ford wins.

6. Spotify 90s Playlist

I opened Spotify a while ago and saw this:

spotify

I think Spotify finally figured me out. These playlists are great because they have one hit wonders that would have been difficult for me to find otherwise: 90s Pop Radio Hits, 90s Alternative Rock, 90s Jamz, and 90s Smash Hits.

7. The Discovery Channel’s 90s Special 

This Sunday night at 9 PM EST, The Discovery Channel will air part one of a documentary called “The 90s, The Last Great Decade.” The second and third parts are playing Monday and Tuesday nights respectively, also at 9 PM. The series will cover everything from arts and entertainment to news and politics, and I’m sure it will be worth a watch.

 

HT: Luke Helm, Linda Dennison