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Money For Nothing
April 15, 2014 1:55 PM   Subscribe

At first, the new Jerry Seinfeld show seemed reassuringly like the old one. Spontaneous coffees with friends. Mindless chatter that occasionally verged on the hilariously brilliant. But look closer and you see that this show isn’t that show, and that new realities are upon us in America. Anand Giridharadas editorializes about Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Seinfeld, His Show, and Inequality. (SLNYT)
posted by Going To Maine (137 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is harsh as fuck, and kind of great.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:01 PM on April 15 [35 favorites]


Really? I'm as guilty of being a class warrior as the next person, but this article kind of smacks of... bullshit. And I've seen the episodes with Letterman and Baldwin, and Mr. Giridharadas' interpretation of the tenor of those conversations is suspect.
posted by stenseng at 2:02 PM on April 15 [15 favorites]


Wow, I haven't seen the Alec Baldwin one, and I'm kind of glad I didn't.

I'm surprised they didn't reference the Lous CK episode where he relates an embarrassing story about getting stranded in his private yacht.
posted by Think_Long at 2:03 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Keanu Reeves on the bus just talking about kung-fu movies.

This is what I really want.
posted by Fizz at 2:03 PM on April 15 [25 favorites]


Am I wrong or did I hear somewhere the entire process/venue of the show was in order to make Jerry's (real life) valuable car collection tax exempt?

That seems relevant to Anand's conceit.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 2:10 PM on April 15 [11 favorites]


I'm glad that someone else feels the way I do about that show. I've watched it a few times, wanted to enjoy it, but always felt kind of ill afterward.
posted by jwhite1979 at 2:11 PM on April 15 [10 favorites]


The democracy of observational humor has become, in Mr. Seinfeld’s reincarnation, an oligarchy of mutual admiration.
"Okay, will they run it if I use the word 'admiration' instead? Okay, fine."
posted by griphus at 2:11 PM on April 15 [97 favorites]


Am I wrong or did I hear somewhere the entire process/venue of the show was in order to make Jerry's (real life) valuable car collection tax exempt?

None of the cars used in the show belong to Seinfeld. They're all loaners.

I find this show endlessly fascinating, and for much the same reason the critic finds it repellant.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:12 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


I did notice the dearth of female comedians, and, when Tina Fey was on, I wondered about the two comedians. I mean, they have both had successful network comedies that they cocreated, that ran for about the same time, and Fey has actually had more film success than Seinfeld, and both have had lucrative commercial contacts. And yet Seinfeld is worth an estimate $800 million while Fey is worth an estimated $45 million, according to the admittedly guessy Celebrity Net Worth.

Maybe the guess is way off and they are much closer in worth. But I still wouldn't be surprised if Seinfeld is worth twice what Fey is.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:12 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


Is this why I don't like this show? Because I really do not like this show. I find the couple episodes I've seen boring and am confused as to why people are still watching it.

On preview: It may also be the lack of women.
posted by maryr at 2:14 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


I've watched it a few times, wanted to enjoy it, but always felt kind of ill afterward.

To be truthful, that's sort of how I always felt about Jerry's first show. There was just a nasty, somewhat-entitled, sense of mean-spiritedness that always turned me completely off to that show.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:14 PM on April 15 [32 favorites]


I'd love to deconstruct this based on gender, class, and race, but I can't because

It's sooooooo boringggggggggg.

Also Jerry Seinfeld is a terrible interviewer.

when Tina Fey was on, I wondered about the two comedians. I mean, they have both had successful network comedies that they cocreated....

Case in point. I had to stop watching this episode because it was so fucking dull. And Tina Fey is one of my favorite people on the planet. I could watch her read the phone book. Or so I thought before watching this. Because somehow Jerry Seinfeld makes her boring.
posted by Sara C. at 2:15 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


And yet Seinfeld is worth an estimate $800 million

I'm curious about this too. Where did Jerry Seinfeld get all his money? I remember him being notorious in the late 90s/early 2000's for having one of the few Black American Express Cards. Tina Fey is wealthy, but I don't get the sense that she's wealthy in a newsworthy sort of way.

Did Seinfeld already have money before he got his show? Did he invest well? Does he own some aspect of Seinfeld that isn't comparable to Tina Fey and 30 Rock?
posted by Sara C. at 2:18 PM on April 15


Isn't Seinfeld representative of someone who made it on talent alone (with a lot of luck)? He creates the product after all, and therefore should own the means of production.

It's not privilege if you are responsible for your own success, and I don't see why Seinfeld should have to apologize for anything.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:18 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


yet Seinfeld is worth an estimate $800 million while Fey is worth an estimated $45 million, according to the admittedly guessy Celebrity Net Worth.

You can't forget the massive audience disparity between the two though, and that Seinfeld has had many many more years of syndication than Fey.
posted by Think_Long at 2:18 PM on April 15 [43 favorites]


It seems like he is criticizing them because their success makes them seem somewhat removed from society. I don't see how that is avoidable. If you are instantly recognizable walking down the street, you really do have to hold yourself apart from society, or risk losing your sense of what is real in life. Otherwise, it's just a constant stream of fame handling.

I enjoy the show. But I don't expect celebrities to act like my next door neighbor either.
posted by Roger Dodger at 2:18 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


For a more diverse alternative, try RuPaul Drives...
posted by oinopaponton at 2:19 PM on April 15 [15 favorites]


30 Rock doesn't have anywhere near the syndication deal that Seinfeld has. It was on 24 hours a day at one point, and still may be in some markets.
posted by rocket88 at 2:19 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Maybe the guess is way off and they are much closer in worth. But I still wouldn't be surprised if Seinfeld is worth twice what Fey is.

well Seinfeld was way bigger than 30 rock and has been in syndication everywhere forever
posted by Greener Backyards at 2:19 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


It seems like he is criticizing them because their success makes them seem somewhat removed from society. I don't see how that is avoidable.

I think this is what makes the show so boring, actually. They can't really go anywhere exciting. They can't really talk about anything that the vast majority of other humans can relate to.
posted by Sara C. at 2:22 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


I like the show, although the most recent season was quite poor. These people have money, obviously, but I, without money, am OK with watching people with money, talking. That Times article was mostly BS.
posted by davebush at 2:22 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod (and on preview, Sara C.), I would guess that probably has more to do with the economics of sitcom syndication in the 90s vs the mid-late 2000s than anything else.

According to Forbes via Wikipedia, he gets paid somewhere between 32 and 260 million dollars a year for syndication fees and standup appearances. 30 Rock (or any show coming out these days, for that matter) isn't going to get a syndication deal like that.
posted by grandsham at 2:22 PM on April 15


30 Rock doesn't have anywhere near the syndication deal that Seinfeld has.

I think this is part of it, but Seinfeld was known to be super rich decades ago, not long after Seinfeld's initial run.

The relative "size" of their shows' reputations may have something to do with it. I don't think 30 Rock was ever on the level of something like Seinfeld or Friends, where actors were making millions per episode.
posted by Sara C. at 2:23 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


If we're sharing other takes on the People Driving Around Doing Stuff phenomenon, there's always the show I'm pretty sure Seinfeld ripped off, Carpool.
posted by Sara C. at 2:26 PM on April 15 [11 favorites]


Re: Seinfeld vs. Fey

I would say a more accurate comparison, in terms of original show ratings and similar TV syndication environment (1990s), would be Seinfeld vs. Roseanne. And what I'm finding upon cursory googling is Seinfeld = $800 million, Roseanne = $80 million.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:26 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


"Okay, will they run it if I use the word 'admiration' instead? Okay, fine."

Not enough favorites in the world.
posted by The Bellman at 2:27 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Did Seinfeld already have money before he got his show? Did he invest well? Does he own some aspect of Seinfeld that isn't comparable to Tina Fey and 30 Rock?

The difference, I think, is that people actually watched Seinfeld. Funny though it may have been, 30 Rock was NOT a ratings success by any measure.

I think this is part of it, but Seinfeld was known to be super rich decades ago, not long after Seinfeld's initial run.

Yeah. He made millions per episode, and a shitload more from syndication. That happens when people watch. More reading.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:27 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


I think Seinfeld can put whomever he wants on his (boring) show, but when asked about the lack of diversity he said:

It really pisses me off."

"People think [comedy] is the census or something, it's gotta represent the actual pie chart of America," he said. "Who cares?"


I mean, do whatever you want with your show, but I don't understand being such an asshole about it.
posted by sweetkid at 2:27 PM on April 15 [20 favorites]


Based on only a couple half-viewings, I'd also submit The Marriage Ref as a Seinfeld production that allowed celebrities to sneer at the horrid lives of the little people.
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:28 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


CICGC is a hit and miss program. When there's chemistry and rapport it's awesome. When there isn't it can be uncomfortable to watch.
The Tina Fey episode was boring, but I find Tina boring in all interviews, even with Jimmy Fallon. She's a very funny writer, but I don't find her to be a funny person in 'real life'.
In contrast, I found the Sarah Silverman episode much more relaxed and funny.
posted by rocket88 at 2:28 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Based on only a couple half-viewings, I'd also submit The Marriage Ref as a Seinfeld production that allowed celebrities to sneer at the horrid lives of the little people.
posted by TimTypeZed


The Marriage Ref was an attempt to commit societal suicide by creating something so massively shitty that it would accrete into a black hole and swallow the planet. Our survival is a miracle.
posted by COBRA! at 2:30 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


...on his private yacht.

Jesus, it's a yacht by definition, but it's just a boat. It's not like he's got a crew or something - as is evident from the fact that he got it stuck in the mud flats.
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:30 PM on April 15 [18 favorites]


And what I'm finding upon cursory googling is Seinfeld = $800 million, Roseanne = $80 million.

I'm not sure that's an apples-to-apples comparison, though, because Roseanne was not the series of creator of Roseanne, which cuts her out of one of the main revenue streams.
posted by Sara C. at 2:31 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Funny though it may have been, 30 Rock was NOT a ratings success by any measure.


Keep in mind that TV revenue streams don't work on a per-viewer/ratings basis.

30 Rock is every bit as syndicated in reruns as Seinfeld was*. I'm sure the deal's not as sweet, but it's not like we're talking about Freaks And Geeks or something, here. 30 Rock hit their 100 episodes and went into syndication just like any other successful network series.

The ratings are incentive for the network to offer larger salaries to stars, or for the syndication companies to offer sweeter deals to series producers. They don't directly translate to money, in the way that film box office numbers do.

*With the caveat that there just isn't the syndication real estate now that there was in the 90s, since so many cable networks are in the business of original series.
posted by Sara C. at 2:35 PM on April 15


The article seems like it's critical of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but if it is, I don't see why it should be. One of the things I like about the show is that it's basically a mobile talk show, but one that forces these celebrities out of the controlled artificial environment of a TV set and into a public space they have to share with regular people. There's no ignoring the economic gulf between these ultra-rich celebrities and the commoners sitting near them or serving them. Once in a while, as with the Louis C.K. episode featuring his (hilarious) yachting story, the show also lets us see the celebrities' own discomfort with their financial status.

It seems weird to criticize this show for not trying to hide or underplay the economic status of Seinfeld or his guests, but putting it right out in front, when there are literally dozens of TV shows that exist for no other reason than to celebrate the wealthy in settings pretty much designed to divert viewers from thinking about economic disparity.

The show that I actually find a lot more offensive, to the point where I had to stop watching it, is The Getaway, the Anthony Bourdain-produced travel series that follows celebrities hanging out in cities around the world. For the most part, it's just about spending an hour pressing your face against the glass and watching famous wealthy people eat and drink in fancy restaurants and go shopping in expensive stores.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:36 PM on April 15 [18 favorites]


What is telling is that his uncommonness is not marshaled on the show to help comedy’s commoners. Mr. Seinfeld, more than most, could use his show to give a platform to comics needing discovery. Instead, he packs it with fellow stars. They reminisce together about the days when they were nobodies and given glorious breaks, and seem almost unaware that there are nobodies today who could benefit from breaks of that very kind.


I think this is a point worth debating-- with great comic wealth comes great responsibility or not so much?

I'd like to see Seinfeld have lunch with up and coming comics and give them a shot at being funny. He wouldn't even have to be nice. He could heckle them at lunch. It could be great.
posted by notmtwain at 2:37 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


But I still wouldn't be surprised if Seinfeld is worth twice what Fey is

That seems about right though?
posted by smackfu at 2:38 PM on April 15


Just yesterday, (during coffee, it so happens, but we were certainly in no position to buy the coffee shop) a friend of mine was complaining about the falsity of successful reality shows in their second season trying to pretend the success of the first season has had no change in their life. They're still hunting gators or making a big deal out of losing $300 from overbidding on a storage locker when they made 100 times that just for showing up.

So he would find it refreshing that when Seinfeld picks a list of successful comedians to have coffee with, the resulting show doesn't shy away from the fact that "successful" means famous millionaires.

I suppose he could have found more up-and-coming comedians, but that would have resulted in a less relaxed dynamic, because instead of two people who can treat each other as equals, you'd have one comedian who thinks this could be their big break and one comedian who could squash the other like a bug.
posted by RobotHero at 2:40 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


What is telling is that his uncommonness is not marshaled on the show to help comedy’s commoners. Mr. Seinfeld, more than most, could use his show to give a platform to comics needing discovery. Instead, he packs it with fellow stars. They reminisce together about the days when they were nobodies and given glorious breaks, and seem almost unaware that there are nobodies today who could benefit from breaks of that very kind.


I think this is a point worth debating-- with great comic wealth comes great responsibility or not so much?


I don't think so. I feel weird defending him considering I hated his stupid pie chart comment but I don't think the claim that he should have made his show about up and comers and not other established comics makes much sense.
posted by sweetkid at 2:41 PM on April 15




I suppose he could have found more up-and-coming comedians, but that would have resulted in a less relaxed dynamic, because instead of two people who can treat each other as equals, you'd have one comedian who thinks this could be their big break and one comedian who could squash the other like a bug.


Yea this too.
posted by sweetkid at 2:42 PM on April 15


The thing is that Seinfeld isn't worth twice what Fey is. He's worth like exponentially more. Someone upthread mentioned that he's making hundreds of millions per year. Which would make him a billionaire, no?

Very, very few successful comedians -- even comedians on the level of having their own network TV show that they both produce and act in, and which eventually goes into syndication -- are literal billionaires.

There's more here than "this guy is a super successful person at the top of his field". He has Plutocrat money, not Hollywood Star money.
posted by Sara C. at 2:43 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I've watched it a few times, wanted to enjoy it, but always felt kind of ill afterward.

Yeah, there's just something about it I can't fut my finger on about it that makes me not as interested in the guest as I was before. I like interesting and classic cars, I like casual conversational interviews, many of the guests I like, and Seinfeld is okay, I guess. It just seems when you put them all together, something just feels 'off' about it.

On the other end of the spectrum you have Marc Maron, with a lot of good guests and diving into often interesting conversation in his garage. Maron's show values an actual attempt at a conversation with substance and ideas, where Seinfeld's thing seems very artificial and more like two people acting out an interview with a side helping of "look at this car I could summon with a phone call" and "let's enjoy our entitlement while we chat for the audience."

I pick Maron's work over Seinfeld's every time. I guess for me it's less about classism and more about actual content and authenticity.
posted by chambers at 2:43 PM on April 15 [21 favorites]


I suppose he could have found more up-and-coming comedians, but that would have resulted in a less relaxed dynamic, because instead of two people who can treat each other as equals, you'd have one comedian who thinks this could be their big break and one comedian who could squash the other like a bug.

That reminds me of the recent episode with Todd Barry, who doesn't appear to be especially wealthy. Unsurprisingly, that episode did have a less relaxed dynamic, and was one of the more awkward installments of the series. (Although I don't know how much this had to do with economic status versus just the fact of Todd Barry.)
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:43 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


One of the aspects of the show is that the car Seinfeld drives is supposed to be representative of the guest. In the Patton Oswalt episode, for example, Seinfeld rolls up in a Delorean ( that breaks down in the course of filming the episode, and, as Oswalt incredulously notes, Seinfeld has a back-up Delorean, ready to go.) Anyway, in the Sarah Silverman episode, Seinfeld rolls up in a slick, sexy, sixties-era Jaguar. At one point, he tells her "This car is you!". With perfect comic timing, Silverman replies, "An elitist douchebag?'

This, plus the Letterman comment, the Baldwin thing, yeah. There's something to this.
posted by KHAAAN! at 2:45 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


30 Rock is every bit as syndicated in reruns as Seinfeld was*. I'm sure the deal's not as sweet, but it's not like we're talking about Freaks And Geeks or something, here. 30 Rock hit their 100 episodes and went into syndication just like any other successful network series.

Yes, and hardly anyone bought it, because why would they when the show died in the ratings the first time around? Again, 30 Rock was not successful. The best it did in the ratings was 69th for the week; usually it was behind the 100th. NBC only kept it around because it was all they had.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:46 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


That seems about right though?

Does it? Considering the minuscule output and medocrity of his recent work, and how much of Seinfeld relied on the high quality of other people's work, compared to the preposterously hard work Fey did on her show and the general excellence of her work, it seems kind of crappy to me.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:46 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


that would have resulted in a less relaxed dynamic, because instead of two people who can treat each other as equals, you'd have one comedian who thinks this could be their big break and one comedian who could squash the other like a bug.

This is something else that makes the show boring, in my opinion.

I don't even need to see Seinfeld bringing in "young, hungry" comedians. I think it would be more interesting if he had established, but not "creator of a network TV series" established comedians. Maria Bamford. Hari Kondabolu. Aziz Ansari. Marc Maron. Chris Hardwick. Margaret Cho. Donald Glover. Tigg Notaro. People who are interesting, and successful in their field, and who probably wouldn't be cowed by the experience of meeting Jerry Seinfeld, but are a little more interesting than "hey look it's these two mega-millionaires talking about whatever boring shit that doesn't apply to my life".
posted by Sara C. at 2:50 PM on April 15 [11 favorites]


a friend of mine was complaining about the falsity of successful reality shows in their second season trying to pretend the success of the first season has had no change in their life. They're still hunting gators or making a big deal out of losing $300 from overbidding on a storage locker when they made 100 times that just for showing up.

My favorite version of this is the Jersey Shore, where they kept sending them to work at that stupid t-shirt shop no one cared about well after some of them were earning more in single appearance fees than that crummy little shop was probably making in total yearly revenue.
posted by Copronymus at 2:52 PM on April 15


This is something else that makes the show boring, in my opinion.

How the fuck have you made so many comments in this thread if you care so little about it?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:55 PM on April 15 [60 favorites]


So we begin with an article criticizing an entertainment product's promotion of the out of touch worldviews and elevated lifestyles of its wildly successful celebrity guests and end up crying for Tina Fey because she's only worth 45 million dollars?
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:56 PM on April 15 [24 favorites]


How the fuck have you made so many comments in this thread if you care so little about it?

Metafilter:
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:56 PM on April 15 [28 favorites]


Nobody is crying. Just puzzling about a disparity. But go ahead and uncharitably characterize the discussion.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:00 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Come the revolution, Jerry Seinfeld will be the first against the brick wall.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:01 PM on April 15


because she's only worth 45 million dollars

Based on a source that is pulling numbers out of thin air, but happens to have good Google juice for "tina fey net worth." It's a rather silly discussion.
posted by smackfu at 3:05 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Okay, why is Acura sponsoring this show, if Jerry hasn't even stood next to one in the show!? If I were a car manufacturer, why am I paying a a huge celebrity to gush and drive another brand of car?(some which are defunct manufacturers, but obviously some like Mercedes are direct competitors)
posted by FJT at 3:08 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


"An elitist douchebag?'

That was definitely the funniest thing that's happened on that show. I love Sarah Silverman.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:09 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


The fact that Tina Fey consistently gets paid less is pretty well established, if you want to juice the goog for more details.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:09 PM on April 15


Seinfeld went to public school. His father worked (hard it seems) for a living. Saying his net worth is a result of "old money" is, frankly, ridiculous.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:11 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


1) I clicked the Baldwin one, and somehow it went to Howard Stern instead.
2) Seinfeld is a dick and Stern seems to be a class act here, at least, you know, relatively speaking. Seriously.
posted by symbioid at 3:13 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


If I had the money to buy a yachtboat, I sure as shit wouldn't get a public one.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:14 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Okay, why is Acura sponsoring this show, if Jerry hasn't even stood next to one in the show!?

It's pretty amusing whenever the product-placement Acura shows up and Jerry makes a sarcastic display of calling attention to it -- "HEY, THERE'S AN ACURA!" I suppose it's worth it to Acura even if Seinfeld subtly insults their car, since it's still putting the Acura name and image in front of the car enthusiasts who watch the show. Also, it's worth noting that the cars Jerry drives are usually classics or rare automobiles, so not in competition with new Acuras. I doubt they'd be amenable to Jerry driving a new Lexus or Infiniti.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:16 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


How the fuck have you made so many comments in this thread if you care so little about it?

The article this FPP was built around is a criticism of the show.

I actually do care about this show. I don't enjoy watching the show, because it has a lot of flaws that I think are interesting to talk about. Starting with the article in the FPP.

But yeah, I care about it, and think a lot about it. I'm a comedy writer. I write, produce, and direct a comedy web series. My boyfriend is a comedian who has a podcast with a similar format to Comedians In Cars..., and collectively we spend a lot of time thinking about what makes something like this entertaining to watch.

Bigger than that, I spend a probably disproportionate amount of time thinking about what makes something funny, why different comedians do what they do, what works, what doesn't work, and why that "off" feeling someone described upthread tends to happen with certain things. You can't really have a conversation about comedy without the awareness that, a lot of the time, comedy fails. And its in dissecting those failures that you figure out what works. That's what makes comedy an interesting art form and not just court jesters or whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 3:17 PM on April 15 [56 favorites]


The thing is that Seinfeld isn't worth twice what Fey is. He's worth like exponentially more. Someone upthread mentioned that he's making hundreds of millions per year. Which would make him a billionaire, no?

I think the hundreds of millions was in reference to his total net worth, not his yearly income. Even so, you don't get to that level of total net worth by cashing checks, even large ones. It's like that Chris Rock bit about how Shaq is rich but the man who pays his salary is wealthy. I can certainly believe that Tina Fey is rich and Jerry Seinfeld is wealthy, and that's pretty much what Giridharadas is getting at. Jerry Seinfeld isn't as relatable as he used to be because at some point in the last 20 years he passed from being one of the rich (who tend to have concerns, interests, and fears that are generally in line with the average American, even if they're more exaggerated) to being one of the wealthy (who tend to have concerns, interests, and fears that are in line only with other wealthy people).
posted by Copronymus at 3:18 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Are you sure he didn't go from being wealthy to being rich?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:20 PM on April 15


I don't even need to see Seinfeld bringing in "young, hungry" comedians. I think it would be more interesting if he had established, but not "creator of a network TV series" established comedians. Maria Bamford. Hari Kondabolu. Aziz Ansari. Marc Maron. Chris Hardwick. Margaret Cho. Donald Glover. Tigg Notaro. People who are interesting, and successful in their field, and who probably wouldn't be cowed by the experience of meeting Jerry Seinfeld,

Fair enough. There probably is a lot of middleground I was overlooking.
posted by RobotHero at 3:21 PM on April 15


None of the cars used in the show belong to Seinfeld. They're all loaners.

The Porsches and VWs in the show are Jerry's. The company that "loans" them, Columbus Something-or-other Productions, is his company. He even mentions on-air that the '73 911 Carrera RS is his.

I really liked the Michael Richards episode, but mainly I don't give two shits about the guests, some of those cars are genuine classics. And the sound guy knows how to capture it.
posted by hwyengr at 3:23 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


I've watched several of these, and have stopped, now. I want it to be Seinfeld series 4 or 5 funny. But more often than not, it ends up being Seinfeld series 8 or 9 funny.

In other words, disappointingly infrequently.
posted by Wordshore at 3:23 PM on April 15


Keanu Reeves on the bus just talking about kung-fu movies.

Adam Sandler farting with his friends in flip flops.

A new episode every summer.
posted by mannequito at 3:28 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Eating the rich, because they stay crunchy in milk.
posted by Cosine at 3:32 PM on April 15 [9 favorites]


1) I clicked the Baldwin one, and somehow it went to Howard Stern instead.
2) Seinfeld is a dick and Stern seems to be a class act here, at least, you know, relatively speaking. Seriously.


It's funny, because Stern is one of the few guests whose personal wealth (~$500 million) is comparable to Seinfeld's, and yet he comes across as an actual human being who relates well with other actual human beings. But Stern has always struck me as someone who, despite his gruff exterior, likes people, while Seinfeld, even when he was a young up-and-comer, has always seemed like an aloof outsider, observing the foibles of humans through a plexiglass window.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:32 PM on April 15 [17 favorites]


What I would watch is Tina Fey grilling Jerry about Shoshonna.

I rather liked the LouisCK one, and Sarah Silverman – even though they, esp. her, are people I’m hot and cold on. So score one for them. Chris Rock was OK. And would only watch Howard Stern if you paid me with one of those cars. (And not the dorky one Louis was in.)

If you are instantly recognizable walking down the street, you really do have to hold yourself apart from society, or risk losing your sense of what is real in life.

Interesting take. I’ve read Jennifer Lawrence saying she worries that she can’t just be out and about anonymously, and how being the observed instead of an observer will affect her acting. Yeah, if your experience of being a “real, normal” person is frozen at age 20 …
I mean, I like to fool myself that so-and-so famous person is “just like us.” But feck, none of them are.

Yeah, there's just something about it I can't put my finger on about it that makes me not as interested in the guest as I was before.

Oh, but don't you have that feeling about, say an actor, appearing on a regular talk show? When they’re not in a tux walking the red carpet or saying other people’s words, you kind of see how they’re just pretty but boring people.
posted by NorthernLite at 3:34 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Jerry Seinfeld isn't as relatable as he used to be because at some point in the last 20 years he passed from being one of the rich (who tend to have concerns, interests, and fears that are generally in line with the average American, even if they're more exaggerated) to being one of the wealthy (who tend to have concerns, interests, and fears that are in line only with other wealthy people).

That's why I'm not sure what the author of the piece is getting at. Seinfeld is doing a show where he presents himself as he is -- a wealthy celebrity. His observations are those of a wealthy person. In this respect it's probably one of the more honest shows out there in terms of the star representing himself authentically. He's not pretending to relate to the regular folk, and he's not a Ray Romano or Seth MacFarlane making shows about the lives of the middle-class (not trashing either of them btw). His choices of guests seem to be more or less driven by whomever he feels like having on, rather than someone flogging a new movie or TV show.

I guess there's an existential question of "why even do this show in the first place," but if people weren't interested in it, Seinfeld wouldn't keep making it.

In a way it reminds me of the early days of the Marc Maron podcast, when the audience was fairly small and there wasn't really much to be gained publicity-wise to be on his show. For the most part I think his guests were just there to hang with Maron, not for the exposure. So I'm not bothered by the fact that Seinfeld isn't focusing on hot, up-and-coming comics, since that's actually what made me increasingly bored with Maron's podcast. There are other venues showcasing those guys. I like it better when Seinfeld has on retired comedy legends like Don Rickles -- again, more authentic to me, because Seinfeld isn't playing the talk show game but just really wanted to hang with Don Rickles.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 3:38 PM on April 15 [11 favorites]


My only dispute with this article is its characterisation of the old Seinfeld series as faithfully depicting the struggles of the everyman.

No, the comedy was focalized through middle to upper-middle class, white, 30-something, urbanites (chiefly men).

The characters who did not fit this description because they were working class, or suburban, or older, or non-white, were either ridiculed (Newman, George's mother), othered (Seinfeld's occasional POC girlfriend) or simply ignored.
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:40 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


(Seinfeld's occasional POC girlfriend)

I must've missed that episode.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:51 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


The Cigar Store Indian
posted by Lorin at 3:59 PM on April 15


I loath coffee. I just felt this part of the show was being neglected.
posted by srboisvert at 4:00 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


It's not like Seinfeld DIDN'T work his ass off for decades to get where he is. He definitely paid his dues on the comic circuit before even stepping foot on The Tonight Show stage, and it was still a while before NBC took notice.. then he worked his ass off on Seinfeld for 9 years, and when it was over he went back to being a standup comic, shows after show, night after night. Add the other film and TV work, comedy albums, production credits, etc.. I'd say he earned it.

30 Rock may be a funny show but culturally? It's nothing compared to what Seinfeld was.
posted by ReeMonster at 4:26 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


I haven't seen it since the first season, but I do remember Joel Hodgson seeming really uncomfortable during his episode, and Seinfeld's complete inability to assuage that discomfort. That might be another reason he tends to have his comedy buddies on there.
posted by maus at 4:34 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


The Joel Hodgson ep was THE WORST. I wanted to die. He's usually pretty chill/amusing in interviews, but it was like Seinfeld had no touch at all. I like Seinfeld, but that was the worst hangout chemistry of all time.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:44 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Actually, Joel and Jerry are old comedy buddies.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:47 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Also, it's worth noting that the cars Jerry drives are usually classics or rare automobiles, so not in competition with new Acuras. I doubt they'd be amenable to Jerry driving a new Lexus or Infiniti.

This NYT article says Seinfeld is also working on a series of commercials (some that are seen before and after these webisodes) that are "deliberately inept". So, I don't know, maybe this is some kind of weird way that Acura is trying to appeal to the audience by trying to be meta-level "in on the joke".

Actually, this whole thing with Acura and CiCGC reminds me a lot of those series of Microsoft commercials Jerry Seinfeld starred in with another rich person, Bill Gates. That particular ad campaign was not very successful.
posted by FJT at 4:55 PM on April 15


while Seinfeld, even when he was a young up-and-comer, has always seemed like an aloof outsider, observing the foibles of humans through a plexiglass window.

I never found his TV show all that funny, but it was an inescapable part of the cultural ambiance for a few years so I ended up seeing some episodes and can catch references that people make. But everything I've read about him since then basically makes him sound like an enormous, entitled dick, which in turn makes me uninterested in seeing anything else he does, even if it was getting great reviews (unlike the comments about this endeavor, for example).

I don't know which is the chicken and which is the egg -- was he always an asshole or did getting rich change something in him? -- but either way the result is the same.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:19 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I happened -- truly, as I don't make a habit of seeing stand-up -- to see him in a fairly intimate venue (Northwestern University auditorium) right after the first run of the sitcom aired. It hadn't fully taken form and was called The Seinfeld Chronicles. There was a roar in the audience when he talked about it because obviously there were people who'd seen it and were here because of it, but it wasn't a universal hit kind of roar, either, and only a couple of people in the group I was with even knew he had a TV show -- he was to them just a fairly successful comic with some late-night appearances to make his name recognizable. And even after that it was a couple of years before the show broke out ratings-wise and became a cultural touchstone (approximately around "The Chinese Restaurant", the end of S2, was when it really developed traction). The Wikipedia eplist has millions of viewers per, if that helps.

BTW, he did his "you want a coffee" routine about how it was always expected when you sit down in an office, et cetera, so I'm amused at the thematic continuity.

I never found his TV show all that funny

Here's thing -- it wasn't conventionally funny. Oh, there were gags, but many were conceptual, and a lot of it was character comedy -- particularly with George, of course, because $SOMETHING would happen and you'd get a beat where you'd get to imagine how he'd react to it, and then he would. That sort of comedy. But yeah, I remember him not being universally liked, either, as so much of his comedy routines were in this slightly whiny, self-involved "you ever think about..." Andy Rooney vein. So, yeah, always a bit of a dick, but I think that also goes with the stand-up territory structurally, so not exactly an outstanding character flaw.

I don't get the comparison with Fey. I mean, not only is she only a couple of years out from her show, as well as the live viewership/syndication differential, she's years younger than he is. Jerry mainly, even in the world of creator-producer-writer-actor comparables, lucked out insanely. There isn't some rule that you have to be vaulted into the stratosphere because you did all those things on a show, and Fey is absolutely doing very well by those standards. As for his revenue streams, there was also a good chunk from Bee Movie, deserved or not.

As to the web show, I've only watched a few -- Tina's and Ricky Gervais's are the ones I remember offhand -- and didn't find them objectionable. Ricky was both hilarious and hysterically cracking up to just about anything Jerry said which I found funny and offputting at the same time. Tina wasn't funny so much as annoyed at much of his production/concept folderol and that was fine as I'm not judging this as "comedy" so much as interview. I did note that the venues seem to be very arranged and set up as promotions, so I don't know what they chip in or get out specifically but they allow all these shots of the menu and the espresso machine and so on, and the principals are seated away from other patrons who are all very quiet and deferential, so my presumption is that the cafe is closed for production and those are insiders -- friends and family -- brought in to provide ambiance but no interference or unexpected incidents. So it's a very controlled environment. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

But I think I'll agree both with Anand here and with El Sabor Asiatico that it's possible to see this as awful and honest at the same time. Certainly Jerry isn't doing it for the money, so it's liberating in a sense, and it certainly breaks the "chair, a desk, and a sofa" mold. I'm able to enjoy it for what it is, but yeah, it's not so much that these people are assholes as it is, in a lot of cases, what do they have to talk about anymore?
posted by dhartung at 5:42 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


No, the comedy was focalized through middle to upper-middle class, white, 30-something, urbanites (chiefly men).

The characters who did not fit this description because they were working class, or suburban, or older, or non-white, were either ridiculed (Newman, George's mother), othered (Seinfeld's occasional POC girlfriend) or simply ignored.


But weren't Jerry and George from the middle of nowhere Queens? Wasn't George chronically unemployed? I don't think it matters anyway - it wasn't even a show where the viewers were supposed to relate to any of the characters. It was four people encountering one absurd situation after another, not about the challenges and anxieties of any given demographic.

Did anyone actually think there were people like Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer walking around in the real world?
posted by crank at 6:01 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Am I remembering things right that Seinfeld was that (in general) it was not cringe comedy? I recall the action would go almost up the point of cringe, but cut away before it happened, so the audience (in relief) didn't have to experience the cringe-inducing moment. At least that's how I remember it, as someone who enjoyed Seinfeld but hates cringe comedy.

(As opposed to Larry David's other show Curb Your Enthusiasm which in the episodes I watched seemed to be nothing but cringe-inducing moments.)
posted by ShooBoo at 6:08 PM on April 15


The Joel Hodgson ep was THE WORST. I wanted to die. He's usually pretty chill/amusing in interviews, but it was like Seinfeld had no touch at all. I like Seinfeld, but that was the worst hangout chemistry of all time.

That episode fascinated me. It wasn't an awkward lack of chemistry that I thought I was seeing, but it struck me as if something inside Joel had died--almost as if he were on meds. I was really bummed to see it and it actually hit me right in the feels when they're in the parking noticing how homogenous all the cars were and Joel says "it's like they've ground all the edges off of them, kind of like they've done to us."

But then after sitting a while they ended up co-developing a "scene" about the CEO of a catsup company that was a brilliant piece of improvisational bit writing. Joel's detail about the cufflinks was my favorite.
posted by sourwookie at 6:12 PM on April 15 [6 favorites]


I watched a few episodes and I have the same vibe many of the rest of you have, which is that not only am I not getting a real peak into the lives of any of these people, but the whole thing is like a reverse Truman show somehow. I'm not sure I even know how to explain what I mean by that.
posted by maxwelton at 6:28 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


And yet Seinfeld is worth an estimate $800 million while Fey is worth an estimated $45 million, according to the admittedly guessy Celebrity Net Worth.

As mentioned, any guesses as to their respective net worths are so based on assumption and guesswork as to virtually useless.

However, Seinfeld (the show) has infinitely more syndication potential than 30 Rock. 30 Rock was great, but tended towards the timely or otherwise period-specific humor that just doesn't relate 10 years after the fact the same way that early Seinfeld does. And most television industry insiders will tell you that the real money is in syndication.
posted by mediocre at 7:11 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


30 Rock is every bit as syndicated in reruns as Seinfeld was*. I'm sure the deal's not as sweet, but it's not like we're talking about Freaks And Geeks or something, here. 30 Rock hit their 100 episodes and went into syndication just like any other successful network series.

It really isn't.

I have 5 television channels.
If I want to, I can watch Seinfeld twice a day and that's, what, 15 years after it went off the air?

But honestly, if we're speculating about the theoretical wealth of people, Julia Louis-Dreyfus probably has Seinfeld beat. She is, after all, the eldest daughter of a multi-billionaire.
posted by madajb at 7:24 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David co-own very significant equity stakes in one of the most commercially successful sitcoms in first run and syndication ever. No one has gotten those deals in a while -- Fey's ownership of 30 Rock is a tiny fraction of Seinfeld's and David's of "Seinfeld" -- and 30 Rock in any event has had a tiny fraction of the former's commercial success.
posted by MattD at 8:26 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Under taunting from Mr. Baldwin, the server relents: “What do you want? We’ll give you what we have.” And this Mr. Baldwin repeats with a snicker, speaking not to the server but to Mr. Seinfeld and us, mocking the help, laughing at and not with. Later, Mr. Baldwin condescends to the woman some more: “You know what I need from you if you don’t mind, if it’s O.K.? May I have a fork, and some napkins?”

Wow, I didn't get that at all from the Baldwin one. This read of it is so very wrong. He was very polite with the server. Even in the episode he talks about how he worked as a kid when his brothers did nothing all day. He is actively conscious of his working class background, as far as I can tell.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:45 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Oh Gawd, I hate rich people so much so I went to watch the Alec Baldwin one but I'm sorry to say I was completely charmed. I feel like a class traitor. He's kind of a jerk, I think, but you know I was kind of sympathetic - I hate cafes that do that shit, you want the yak sandwich? that only comes on white bread - that sandwich should be MADE TO ORDER and I should get whatever bread you have that I want (altho do rich people eat sandwiches with cutlery? Do they not understand the sandwich?). But ahem. He does voices! I laughed! I didn't hate the thing at all, and I was really expecting/hoping to. I thought it was a nice touch they referred to their server by name, instead of saying "the girl" or "whatsherface" or whatever at the end, btw.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 9:22 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]




...on his private yacht.

Jesus, it's a yacht by definition, but it's just a boat. It's not like he's got a crew or something - as is evident from the fact that he got it stuck in the mud flats.


There is another little tidbit though - I looked up the real-life pics of Louie stranded in his yacht, and it was a completely different yacht than the one he took Jerry out on. So he's swapped, or accumulated yachts in a fairly short amount of time.
posted by anazgnos at 9:57 PM on April 15


It's more likely that the show used a different yacht for reasons of privacy. It wouldn't do if every comedy fan in America knew exactly where Louis C.K.'s yacht was moored and what it looked like.

I'm also pretty sure the house where Jerry picked him up and dropped him off is probably not his real home. Because stalkers, you know?

I'm sure Louis C.K. is wealthy beyond my own personal imaginings. But it's silly to get all "OMG FLEET OF YACHTS AMIRITE" about it.
posted by Sara C. at 10:06 PM on April 15


Generally speaking, comedians are a lot like actors, in that a surprisingly large number come from modest backgrounds and work very, very hard (and take all the luck they can get) to achieve success. When I watch CICGC, I'm always struck by the slightly bemused attitude they have, that they actually have money and fame; I think it comes out because a lot of these comedians met each other when none of them were famous, and so the general air of "can you believe we've actually made it this far?" hangs about them. As an example, that's how I read David Letterman's comment about buying the coffee shop, that on some level he still can't quite believe that this is his life.

It's similar to how I feel when I go to lunch with a good friend who always -- ALWAYS -- has tons to complain about, and suddenly their life gets better and they have nothing to complain about, and now what do we actually talk about?

So yeah, they've got the money, but it's nouveau riche money, and given what many of them had to go through to make it big -- with no guarantees -- I enjoy watching when they start interacting as they likely did when they were more or less poor nobodies. Like when Alec Baldwin started acting out how envious he was of Jerry Seinfeld as a kid, since they'd been neighbors, and calling him a "hard-on" like a working class kid would. A reminder that you never really escape the context of your upbringing. Or when Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock get pulled over, and yes, they joke and dramatize it when they're pulled over and Jerry Seinfeld doesn't have his license, but given the conversation that preceded it the implication that "were we not wealthy and famous, we would actually be in a lot of trouble, and primarily because Chris Rock is not white" was very much present, I think.

Plus, you know, nice cars.
posted by davejay at 10:30 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


Can I take this opportunity to complain about the captions? If you click on the little speech bubble icon and enable the captions, you get the captions of the Howard Stern video. For all of them.
posted by Soliloquy at 10:47 PM on April 15


It wouldn't do if every comedy fan in America knew exactly where Louis C.K.'s yacht was moored and what it looked like.

Well that must be nice. If I wanna take my yacht fleet out for a spin I've gotta do it in full view of everyone, lacking a decoy yacht fleet with which to conceal it.
posted by anazgnos at 10:56 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


But weren't Jerry and George from the middle of nowhere Queens? Wasn't George chronically unemployed? I don't think it matters anyway - it wasn't even a show where the viewers were supposed to relate to any of the characters. It was four people encountering one absurd situation after another, not about the challenges and anxieties of any given demographic.

That's because the upper-middle class is unmarked in American film and TV. We do read it as a story about a non-specific demographic, but it's actually about a specific niche of white, able-bodied, heterosexual, upper-middle class life with all its particularities. Like casually running into JFK Junior at your exclusive Manhattan health club.
posted by dontjumplarry at 10:58 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


And while George was frequently getting fired, he was getting fired from white collar and managerial jobs. Not from Denny's.
posted by dontjumplarry at 11:00 PM on April 15


I don't get the disconnect people are having with Fey and Seinfeld's net worth. Seinfeld was regularly pulling in 30-35 million viewers per episode. Its finale was watched by 76 million people! 30 rock barely broke 7 million viewers at its peak which lasted one season. By the season finale it was lucky to break 3 million viewers. The finale didn't even make 5 million.

So Seinfeld's run was almost 40% longer than 30 Rock's and pulled in between 5 and 10x as many viewers on a consistent basis. The show was a juggernaut of cash raining down on everyone involved. IIRC Seinfeld himself turned down 5 million dollars an episode to do one more season. By comparison 30 Rock was a tiny trickle of $1 bills which all but dried up by the end.

It's really not more complicated than that. If Seinfeld is worth 10x as much as Fey it's because his show was more than 10x as successful and he parlayed all that cash into more cash. The easiest way to make $400 million dollars is to start with $100 million dollars.
posted by Justinian at 2:41 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I don't get the disconnect people are having with Fey and Seinfeld's net worth. Seinfeld was regularly pulling in 30-35 million viewers per episode. Its finale was watched by 76 million people! 30 rock barely broke 7 million viewers at its peak which lasted one season. By the season finale it was lucky to break 3 million viewers. The finale didn't even make 5 million.

I'd wager that there will never be a more successful tv show again. The market is just too fragmented.

It was the last hit show of the pre-Tivo, pre-Netflix era. There really isn't appointment television like that any more. They only thing you'll get now with that kind of rating will be gimmicky reality tv shows.
posted by empath at 3:08 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Maybe I'm tone deaf here... but all of these guys are actors, and the conceit of the series is that they aren't acting, even though it is clearly scripted. They all are playing some version of themselves, but it isn't like we hang out with them and can see the difference. Look at the companion piece to this NYT piece on Seinfeld that goes through the process of how Seinfeld develops a joke and try to compare that with the breezy, unscripted feel of Comics in Cars. I'm wondering just how many hours goes into each minute of the series.
posted by BlueTongueLizard at 4:27 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


That's because the upper-middle class is unmarked in American film and TV. We do read it as a story about a non-specific demographic, but it's actually about a specific niche of white, able-bodied, heterosexual, upper-middle class life with all its particularities. Like casually running into JFK Junior at your exclusive Manhattan health club.

But the other thing about Seinfeld is that it was about the mundane, which most people of all classes experience. It was poetry, in that it put words on things that everyone knew but no one had ever articulated. It expanded our vernacular.

Rich or poor, 'regifting' makes sense. 'shrinkage' makes sense. Running into people you went to high school with and lying about how you have an awesome career makes sense. Scratching your nose and having someone think you were picking it can happen to anyone.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:46 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Here's an exercise. Plot the number of times two or more people seek common understanding using one of these two lines:

It's like that episode of Seinfeld where....
It's like that episode of 30 Rock where....

Results should indicate why Seinfeld has been so much more profitable. Note: For the purposes of this test "30 Rock" can be replaced with almost any television show not titled "Seinfeld".
posted by TimTypeZed at 5:48 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


People are oddly focused on my yacht comment. The only reason I brought it up was because it kind of meshed nicely with the article's main thesis that these are not stories that the rest of us are meant to relate to, at least not in the 'everyman' sense where many of these comedians originally made their mark. I actually like Comedians in Cars, and the CK episode.

I think it's reasonable to agree with the article's argument and enjoy the show at the same time.
posted by Think_Long at 6:55 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


even though it is clearly scripted

Cite? Or you just pulling that out of your perception basket with no basis for reality?

And yes, Seinfeld was a cultural phenomenon of a show that was not only hugely successful, but also went out while still extremely popular as well. Comparing nine seasons of a top five sitcom in the 90s vs. seven seasons (two of them abbreviated) of a struggling (no matter how critically adored) single-camera comedy in the 00s is not going to get you anywhere near the same numbers financially.

I mean, Tina Fey has much closer to Friends cast money, even though she was a creator, producer and writer of her show, because the disparity between ratings in just the last two decades is so high.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:06 AM on April 16


I can't find the clip right now, but Liz Lemon has actually made it a point of saying that she didn't look as good as Julia Louis Dreyfus because she didn't have "Seinfeld Money".
posted by Optamystic at 7:07 AM on April 16


(That's from the first live episode where they used Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Liz Lemon for two cutaway jokes. It might never have been Seinfeld-popular, but I sure loved 30 Rock.)
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:13 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Well, speaking of rich, Julie Louis-Dreyfus is a congenital billionaire. Her father is worth 3.6 billion, which makes Seinfeld look like a poor relation in comparison.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:48 AM on April 16


the upper-middle class

Jerry Seinfeld attended Queens College (a CUNY school), and I think show Jerry wears an alumni sweatshirt in some episodes. Yes, the characters are upper-middle class (single, UWS, but without roommates), but I wouldn't say the man or the the show version of him grew up with money.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:04 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm tone deaf here... but all of these guys are actors, and the conceit of the series is that they aren't acting, even though it is clearly scripted.

My impression is more that they're unscripted conversations that are heavily edited to take out the more boring/extraneous bits. Many of the episodes are actually kind of boring/awkward in ways that are convincingly naturalistic given the premise of "I will drive this person I may or may not know well to some sort of establishment that serves coffee, where we will engage in a conversation."

That said, of course we're not seeing these people interact in a completely natural way, since it's not a hidden camera show and everyone knows beforehand and during the shooting that they're going to be recorded. On top of which they're comedians, so they're inclined to be "in character" to some extent. I would also not be surprised if some of them, wanting to be entertaining on camera and in Jerry's presence, prepare some "extemporaneous" jokes ahead of time.

I dunno, I once hung out with a group of local theater actors, and when we were out in public their ostentatiously theatrical behavior kept making me want to look around for a camera. Maybe this is just how showbiz folk really are?
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:22 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


One thing this thread accomplished was to make me like Julia L-D just that little bit less because money. Can I ever look at her again as that pretty, funny woman without first thinking Bajillionairre. [See what I said above about the ongoing error in thinking They are just like us.]
posted by NorthernLite at 9:44 AM on April 16



Well, speaking of rich, Julie Louis-Dreyfus is a congenital billionaire. Her father is worth 3.6 billion, which makes Seinfeld look like a poor relation in comparison.


Poor? Maybe it's true that if you have $800, you're poor compared to someone worth $3,600. But by the time you're a half billionaire, there is almost nothing that is available for sale for personal use that you can't buy. No exotic vacation you can't take, no medical treatment you can't afford, no collage tuition you can't pay, no home you can't buy. (The most expensive home ever sold in the US just went for $120 million, easily affordable by either Jerry, and there are only a handful of homes worldwide that were ever sold for more than that.) So for all intents and purposes other than dick-swinging or corporate chess playing, both men are effectively limitlessly wealthy.

I doubt at this point Seinfeld can truly even recall what it's like to have financial struggles. From an anthropological perspective, it seems to me much more interesting to get a glimpse of the lives and thoughts of the 0.001% of people who have transcended wealth as opposed to yet another condescending and contrived sitcom about the working class.
posted by xigxag at 9:51 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I like when they talk about the nuts and bolts of comedy. I slurp that stuff up wherever I find it.
posted by Trochanter at 11:16 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


The show does not seem any more or less scripted to me than, for example, Maron or The Nerdist long form interview podcasts.

They are all edited, but then every piece of media you ever see is edited, aside from maybe CSpan or something.

Then again, I'm more distracted by all the driving to nowhere. None of the driving shots correspond in any way to the places they are actually going. Louis CK gets picked up in Chelsea and driven maybe half a mile to Chelsea Piers, yet there's a bunch of footage of them going through the tunnel to New Jersey for no reason. And then there's that bit with the Italian guys mocking the car by a beach? Where even is that? There's a similar lack of geographical sense in the Sarah Silverman episode (they pick her up somewhere around Silverlake and the restaurant is definitely Silverlake, but for part of the drive they're on PCH, which is nowhere near there).

Clearly they go on a very long drive in the car in question which bears little or no relation so the destination, just to get interesting footage.
posted by Sara C. at 12:17 PM on April 16


Just FYI re: Louis CK's boat. The one that he got stuck in the mud was lost in Hurricane Sandy. He told the story on a few shows, including Jimmy Fallon.

I think his episode was filmed after Sandy, so they may be on his replacement boat.
posted by elvissa at 12:29 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


That's actually an interesting little article, even though (or maybe because) I like some of the episodes that I've watched. It reminds me of how there's so much talk about how during the depression people loved the escapism of going to see glamorous actors in gorgeous productions as a means of affordable escapism. But those reminiscences tended to be seen in a more positive light, no? Memories that people reviewed with fondness and not bitterness at the great wealth of the upper echelons? I wonder now if I'm committing a sin by enjoying seeing other people in restaurants I cannot afford and cars I will never drive.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:35 PM on April 16


Maybe I'm tone deaf here... but all of these guys are actors, and the conceit of the series is that they aren't acting, even though it is clearly scripted. They all are playing some version of themselves, but it isn't like we hang out with them and can see the difference. Look at the companion piece to this NYT piece on Seinfeld that goes through the process of how Seinfeld develops a joke and try to compare that with the breezy, unscripted feel of Comics in Cars. I'm wondering just how many hours goes into each minute of the series.

Yes. This is the aspect of Comedians in Cars that bugs me, much more than the criticism in the FPP.

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Seinfeld's documentary film, Comedian. It's jam-packed with enough appearances from famous stand-ups to give a fan whiplash. It's got lovely cinematography. It has a stunning soundtrack. I defy anyone to not be entertained by it. But I can't help but to notice the way it's built.

Ostensibly, the whole premise of the thing is to examine stand-up as a craft and to discuss what sort of people want to do it, how they do it, how they relate to the audience, and what is the proper way to comport yourself while doing that work? Jerry is contrasted throughout the film with a young, allegedly up-and-coming comic named Orny Adams. If you've seen this film, you'll never forget that name, so maybe in a sense he did the guy a favor, but in general, the editing is merciless because every time Orny is on screen, he's a perfect example of selfishness, confusion, idiocy, pettiness, insensitivity, pessimism, narcissism or impatience. Orny has an embarrassing set of file cabinets filled with alphabetized jokes he's written that are achingly unfunny, and meanwhile, Seinfeld has made the unique and selfless choice to drop all his old material and go do an improv tour with only about five minutes prepared so that he's forced to bomb again and again until he cooks up new stuff on the spot that works. Orny ends up with one scene in the finished film (where he describes what it's like waiting to go on) that makes him sound clever, but the rest of the time he looks terrible. It's like the film is saying that Orny does everything wrong--don't be that guy, that's not how you do comedy, with this big glossy unspoken implication alongside about Jerry.

Chris Rock practically does an advertisement for the new Cosby performance, then Seinfeld goes to see Cosby and they talk to each other about their respective places in the comedy pantheon. During a montage accompanied by Coltrane's "My Favorite Things," Seinfeld reverently watches film of Richard Pryor performing. He meets Leno backstage somewhere and praises his work, and they talk about how Leno hasn't even touched his Tonight Show money yet.

What I'm saying is that I think there are a ton of similarities between the two projects. I don't think that they're necessarily literally scripted, but sometimes I get the impression that they're very, very judiciously edited, and about as planned as something like a late night TV show appearance, where the anecdotes are chosen in advance of the interview. The combination of those two things, in my opinion, makes the doc and often the show seem to have a thesis.

Unlike a lot of you, I thought the Hodgson interview was fun. I was uncomfortable with the Michael Richards episode. Seinfeld gives Richards a forgiving hand up after he sinned in a way that transcended mere bad comedy to the extent that people began asking questions about what sort of person he is, and he ended up retiring. Yet in Comedian, Seinfeld smears the hell out of some kid he doesn't care about just for a lesson about comedy. This strikes me as a weird contrast. The only way I can make sense of it is to instead believe that Orny was in on his own skewering... which I consider more than just plausible. And that would be potent support for the argument that Seinfeld's later work is much more deliberate than people give it credit for.

If nothing else, his unceasing joyous laughter at the most minor jokes from his guests reads about as sincere as food show hosts who go "mmmmm!" at literally everything they eat on camera. This person describes the "profundity" of the Richards episode, and in doing so, does a better job than I ever could of describing the minute, deliberate decisions that simply must be going into each moment of the show.

I say all this as a fan of Seinfeld and all projects discussed. I think he's funny and smart and he seems to have his shit together in a way I can only imagine. I've probably seen Comedian ten times, and listened to the commentary a bunch of times too, because despite everything, I find this stuff fascinating and thought-provoking on top of being funny.
posted by heatvision at 12:49 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


On Showtime's 'Inside Comedy' Seinfeld is interviewed (the episode with Don Rickles) and he says some things that make it clear he's aware of the problems that success bring to comedy. He says that comedians need to be outsiders who "live lives of loud desperation." When he found success, he saw it as a dangerous thing, he thought ""this is not good, this is not where I belong," so he left LA and "tried to break back into the middle." Comedian and Star are mutually exclusive according to him. He then starts talking about doing standup for Paul McCartney at the White House, which is pretty indicative of the tide pulling him in the wrong direction.

I've also listened to Seinfeld being interviewed on "Here's the Thing", where he says his parents (if I'm remembering it correctly) were poor at showing any affection, and that he himself didn't have a serious relationship until he was 45 because he prioritized his career to that extent. He doesn't strike me as someone who is oblivious to the concerns of the regular people, and where the observational comedy about unimportant nonsense once seemed like a coping mechanism to get through life, now it looks out of touch because it's coming from a super rich guy, even though it's similar (if not as good as it once was). I've also heard Larry David on Jeff Garlin's podcast specifically shut down talk about money "because I'm very lucky in that respect."

The last time I saw criticism of Comedians in Cars on metafilter, I seem to remember reading an opinion about it seeming stretched out even at its very modest length, and I thought the opposite, that I'd much rather see it as an hour long podcast-style genuine conversation. As it is I'm lukewarm on it, and the article's criticism is somewhat legitimate, but if he's going to have a show where he just does what he wants some people will attach a whole lot of feelings towards him based on scant evidence anyway.
posted by dimejubes at 8:20 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Nailed it, dimejubes.
posted by jwhite1979 at 8:48 PM on April 16


I like the show. I liked it enough to go and watch the 1st season of Seinfeld. (cause I'm old enough to have watched some but to young to have watched it when it 1st came out.)

Sure, as someone pointed out above, some of the conversations sound "insincere" but I think it's just them trying to edit a couple of people having a conversation. I hate reality TV shows because they're the opposite of reality while lying about it. I think I like this one because Seinfeld and his guests ostensibly know each other.

And that is the show, it's it? At least it is so far. Maybe after a while, when he runs out of comedian friends, he can interview random up-and-comers like Giridharadas suggests but while the title will be the same, I think I'll be a different show.
posted by Spumante at 3:45 AM on April 17


1st season of Seinfeld

Seinfeld really doesn't hit it's stride until a couple of seasons in.
posted by empath at 6:44 AM on April 17


TimTypeZed: Here's an exercise. Plot the number of times two or more people seek common understanding using one of these two lines:

It's like that episode of Seinfeld where....
It's like that episode of 30 Rock where....

Results should indicate why Seinfeld has been so much more profitable. Note: For the purposes of this test "30 Rock" can be replaced with almost any television show not titled "Seinfeld".


I literally did this yesterday. My girlfriend was trying to explain some sort of purse for men and I said "a European carryall?"

I like Seinfeld and I try to remain very aware of the criticisms of the show, which I agree with. I, however, have a hard time boycotting the show and the comedian. When I was a kid it was my parents' favorite show and I spent a significant majority of my childhood laying in bed with them watching it. When I got older and hadn't watched TV for years and would get grounded from the computer the only show I knew about (other than stuff on Cartoon Network) was Seinfeld. I saw Jerry Seinfeld live and he was hilarious, and I like his act because it's not lewd or dirty at all, it's very clean and I respect that.

What I'd love to see is Dave Chappelle have an interview show. I don't know much about his upbringing other than his family were politically active and he spent time between Washington D.C. and Ohio, but he's been doing standup since he was 15 and certainly seems like he has a way with people.

Dave Attell, too. I loved Insomniac with Dave Attell when I was younger. I feel he'd be an awesome interviewer.
posted by gucci mane at 1:09 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I am getting sort of tired of this whole ethos where we can like entertainers up until we've made them successful, and then they are seen as tainted by the very wealth we've given them.

It would be one thing if rich people were genuinely unfunny, but I feel like half the point of the show is to poke fun at the ridiculousness of themselves. You can't tell me that Alec Baldwin isn't 100% aware of his public persona: he's been lampooning himself on 30 Rock for years.
posted by TrevorJ at 1:47 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


I think it is much more likely that CICGC is Seinfelds reaction to the current state of celebrity affairs. The days where we never really know a celebrity outside of their roles and personas they put on in junkets and talk shows are dead and gone. It's expected, nay, required today that a celebrity have a public persona that is a sort of fictionalized version of themselves that the public secretly realizes is not actually them but it's the best we will get so we'll take it. Larry David in many ways pioneered this concept with Curb Your Enthusiasm. Seinfeld is taking his cue from him, having a semi-scripted show where he hangs out with his celebrity friends. Shoots the shit. Picks and chooses the best bits and puts a show out online. To read much further into than that seems pointless to me. Plus, what someone above said about most of the people he talks with having come up in the business parallel to him so they know what its like to come from nothing.
posted by mediocre at 3:03 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


If you like the nuts and bolts of comedy, Stewart Lee likes to deconstruct things.
posted by asok at 3:56 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


having a semi-scripted show where he hangs out with his celebrity friends.

People keep saying this. Where is the idea that the show is scripted coming from? Because it doesn't seem scripted, to me.
posted by Sara C. at 5:20 PM on April 18


Seinfeld is another data point in my theory that a seemingly horrible person can't be too bad if their friends are good people.
I assume he's an absolute cock, but Letterman seems to have genuine affection for him and so in my eyes he can't be too bad.
posted by fullerine at 6:14 PM on April 18


It's expected, nay, required today that a celebrity have a public persona that is a sort of fictionalized version of themselves that the public secretly realizes is not actually them but it's the best we will get so we'll take it.

Not to nitpick but this has been the state of affairs since , oh, when we started to have Hollywood celebrities. At least the studios don't pick out who you can get married to anymore.
posted by The Whelk at 3:47 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


Because it doesn't seem scripted, to me.

The Louis ck bit about his boat may not have been scripted, but it was certainly rehearsed.
posted by empath at 4:46 AM on April 21


Do you mean the style on the show of the comedian guests sort of using Jerry's prompts to launch into their own material? That's par for the course on anything where comedians are interviewed. For example, if you listen to any comedy podcasts like Nerdist or Maron, it'll happen almost anytime the guest is a standup comedian.

It's sort of disappointing when you realize comedians aren't just naturally hilarious people who exhale jokes like carbon dioxide, but yeah, standup bits are painstakingly written and rehearsed over many hours. And most comedians who are willing to appear on camera as themselves come armed with a bunch of material so as to preserve their public persona as a Person Who Is Funny. Because otherwise it would seem weird if all these hilarious comedians went on talk shows and were just normal schlubs.

It's sort of like expecting really sexy actresses to go on talk shows in sweat pants with no makeup.
posted by Sara C. at 10:25 AM on April 21


Stand-up is written beforehand?
posted by shakespeherian at 3:12 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


It's vastly preferable to improv, which isn't written at all.
posted by The Whelk at 3:15 PM on April 21


Stand-up is written beforehand?

It's not really "scripted", per se, and some people have a more improvisational style, but none of the people Seinfeld has had as guests would have shown up cold and assuming they'd just answer Jerry's questions in an earnest non-comedic manner.

I'm now wondering if this is why Tina Fey came off as so flat in her episode, since she's not a standup and her improv background would probably lead her to expect more back and forth with Jerry.
posted by Sara C. at 3:23 PM on April 21


But sitcoms are still shot in one take and in chronological order, yes?
posted by shakespeherian at 3:27 PM on April 21 [4 favorites]


So, it feels like everyone participating in the last thirty comments or so agree that a great deal of forethought goes into each episode of CINGC -- we are just arguing the nuances of whether it is scripted, semi-scripted, heavily edited, or merely a patchwork quilt of material that was "painstakingly written and rehearsed over many hours." And that all of these comedians are completely aware of their good fortune and are mining it for more material. Meanwhile, if you go back and look at the op-ed piece that Anand Giridharadas wrote (linked by the OP), he seems to be taking jokes like “You realize we have to leave Rebecca a $1,000 tip” at face value to make the point that he wishes the show were something different: "Mr. Seinfeld, more than most, could use his show to give a platform to comics needing discovery" and that this is evidence we (they?) are living in a "caste society."
posted by BlueTongueLizard at 8:58 PM on April 21


This is pure speculation. But I think that there is a good chance that Mr. Seinfeld has had a thought or two about putting forward a platform on which to present comedians that he thinks deserves a choice bit of exposure. However, can you imagine that absolute flood he would experience from people wanting to get that Seinfeld rub? Christ, NBC used to put that WORST CRAP that they had to offer between Seinfeld and ER because shit, it doesn't matter what they put there. People will stick around for whatever is at 9:30 because it's between Seinfeld and ER. His life would become a never ending series of ad hoc auditions from would be performers on his new talent show. Also, I have to imagine there is some level of performer-burnout that occurs with him. Just like the touring musician who gets interviewed and is asked what they listen to in their spare time who answers "I don't listen to music." I'm sure Mr. Seinfeld in many ways doesn't watch standups.

But, as an antidote to speculation about how no one could ever be quite this 100% on and dead hilarious from a cold start. Watch Conan O'Brien on Jimmy Pardo's Never Not Funny. Granted, that is just clips but the full 90 is available if you look around. Conan is there, 100% live and unedited. And he is ON, funnier in many ways then he ever gets a chance to on his show. He does callbacks, he makes running bits, plays off Pardo perfectly. Christ, it's a WONDER to behold Conan in that 90 minutes
posted by mediocre at 4:00 PM on April 22


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