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Jerry Seinfeld is back, with a new show | Off Kilter

 

Last updated 9/9/2020 at 2:03pm



Jerry Seinfeld has been producing (and starring) in a “made for streaming” television program called “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” on Netflix.

As if Seinfeld needed any additional net worth (his current net worth is reportedly near $1 billion – most recently fueled by the syndication of the Seinfeld TV series also onto Netflix. However, the “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” which just completed its 11th and probably final season, is sponsored by LaVazza coffee. The company purportedly paid Seinfeld about $800,000 per episode. Each episode is typically under 20 minutes long. The premise is Jerry calls up a well-known comedian, picks him or her up in a very fancy and usually highly collectible older sports car. They drive somewhere to get coffee and talk about comedians.

One of the things I find most interesting is how special and difficult Seinfeld thinks being “funny” is. He talks about it with great reverence. It is almost as if he’s comparing being a funny successful comedian akin to being a Nobel Prize winning scientist. I like how he talks about being funny. He often says: “there is no need for judging in comedy. You know whether you’re funny during and just after you perform. The audience lets you know, in no uncertain terms, whether you have talent or you don’t. And Seinfeld doubles over with laughter as each guest does some of his “shtick.”

What precipitated this column was the passing last month of Carl Reiner at age 98! Reiner is father of an also famous comedian, actor, and producer Rob Reiner, who played the character Meathead in the 1970s sitcom “All in the Family.” Rob Reiner played son-in-law of Archie Bunker.

Carl has done so much great work over six decades in show business that simply reading his obituary takes you a while. One of my favorite bits he does is, in fact, in one of Seinfeld’s episodes of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Seinfeld has coffee with Carl, then later on has dinner with both Carl and Mel Brooks (a lifelong friend and equally famous and accomplished comedian and producer).

Carl says deadpan to Jerry: “First thing when I get up is read the obituaries in the newspaper. If I’m not in it, I go down and have breakfast.”

In fact, this episode is just as much about Mel Brooks as about Carl. Mel seems to be performing as if he is on stage in the episode. Jerry mentions that it is 2012 – when this episode was made. Mel looks at his watch, bolts up from his chair and says – “I thought it was 2002. I’ve got appointments that I missed over the past few years, I’ve got to go” and he dashes for the front door.

He talks about his hit Broadway play: The Producers (musical) (also a great movie). He talks about writing one of the songs: “Springtime for Hitler” as he hums the tune. Then about how the play received a top award in Germany. Then he adds: “I don’t know if the play was appreciated as art or whether it was simply German guilt.

Woody Allen wrote a movie (1989) called Crimes and Misdemeanors. In it, Alan Alda plays a pompous documentary filmmaker who is making a film about comedy. In it he talks about when tragedy can be made fun of. He says: “tragedy plus time equals comedy.”

Here are some of the greats who, like Reiner, are no longer with us:

Don Rickles. The king of insults. He used to hang around with Frank Sinatra when both were headlining in Las Vegas. I still can’t watch him on YouTube without cracking up.

David Brenner. I still love his one liner: “Did you ever notice that when you’re looking for something it’s always in the last place you look.”

Robin Williams. As “manic” as any comedian. He revered Jonathan Winters who was equally as manic.

Richard Pryor. One of the greatest stand-up comedians. Made fun of race in a way that only a Black comedian could.

I guess Carl Reiner won’t be having breakfast today (forgive me if this is “too soon”).

 

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