Last Friday night in New Orleans, the Saenger Theater, one of the last of the city’s cultural landmarks to be shuttered by Hurricane Katrina that had yet to get back up and running, re-opened to great fanfare, A 4000-seat Broadway style house that opened in 1927, the Saenger has not only been re-opened, but extensively restored to look much like it did when it originally opened. To mark the occasion, the theater booked Jerry Seinfeld to perform at the grand re-opening.
“Oh, my God, New Orleans…welcome back to the new Saenger Theatre. We’re back in business,” the comedian said after taking the stage. “Holy cow. That didn’t take too long!”
Going into the evening, I expected Seinfeld to be funny. What I didn’t expect was for him to be laugh out loud, tears streaming down the face, gasping for air in between laughs funny, which he was. His riff on breakfast cereals — namely pop tarts and how their arrival on the breakfast scene changed EVERYTHING, a bit he described creating here — in particular had me in stitches, as did his bit on “the phone company” choosing the number 69 for the *69 feature. (“Didn’t anyone at the phone company go to junior high?”) His material was all standard Seinfeldian stuff, just done expertly. I left the theater feeling as though I’d just watched a master craftsman performing at his best. I doubt I’ll ever forget it.
Prior to taking the stage at the Saenger last Friday night, Seinfeld was gracious enough to spend a few minutes on the phone with us. He was playfully dickish, just as he was recently in an interview with Stephen Colbert. (I was told beforehand that he’d been in the studio editing the Louis C.K. episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but when I asked him about it he wouldn’t tell me who’s interview he was editing. He also gave me sh*t for calling him on a cell phone and told me that I lacked the “prestige” to get an answer to a question I posed.) Along the way we talked about his aforementioned web show, his stand-up shows at the Saenger, Bryan Cranston going from playing Tim Whatley on Seinfeld to Walter White on Breaking Bad, his favorite moment from Seinfeld (it’s not a moment from “The Contest” episode we reflected fondly on yesterday) and how he takes his coffee, among other things.
UPROXX: Hi Jerry. How are you?
Seinfeld: I’m great.
UPROXX: I hear you’re in the editing room today?
Seinfeld: Yes I am.
UPROXX: Which guest are you editing today?
Seinfeld: It’s a secret. I can’t tell you.
UPROXX: So you can’t say anything about it?
Seinfeld: It’s great.
UPROXX: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, as I understand it, has become successful enough to where it’s now sponsored and is actually profitable. Was that something you envisioned or hoped for from the get-go or was it just a fun experiment for you?
Seinfeld: It was an experiment. I wouldn’t have gone any further than the first ten if I wasn’t able to turn it into a logical show business enterprise where you make something and it has a revenue stream. I thought the internet was ready for that.
UPROXX: Did you ever fancy yourself as a talk show host, which is essentially what you’re doing with this?
Seinfeld: No. Because I’m not interested in most people. (Pause) Can you hear me?
(ED. NOTE: At this point, some sort of background interference briefly interrupted the conversation.)
Seinfeld: Are you on a cell phone?
UPROXX: Yes, I am.
Seinfeld: This is exactly how I imagined an interview with UPROXX would go. Completely unprofessional. Using a cell phone and a recorder.
UPROXX: It’s 2013.
Seinfeld: So anyway, I could never be able to be a talk show host because you have to be able to feign interest in other people to be a talk show host and I don’t have that skill. I only do a show when there’s somebody I want to talk to.
UPROXX: This weekend you’re performing at the grand re-opening of the Saenger Theater in New Orleans. I’ve been told that these shows are very important to you personally and that you pushed hard to be the performer this weekend. What’s the story behind that?
Seinfeld: The total opposite of what you just said. They wanted me to be there to help open the theater and I was happy to oblige, but it all came from them.
UPROXX: Do you have any personal connection to New Orleans and have you spent any time in the city previously?
Seinfeld: I don’t have any personal connection other than being an American and wanting to preserve this wonderful and unique place.
UPROXX: Changing the subject…are you a fan of Breaking Bad, by chance?
Seinfeld: I have not seen Breaking Bad yet. Though I am a fan. Other people like it and I’m a fan of anything that other people like.
UPROXX: I ask because the series finale is one of the more anticipated finales in television history, like Seinfeld was, and there’s an odd synergy between the two shows. Besides Brian Cranston, there are a number of other people who have appeared on both shows.
Seinfeld: Oh really.
UPROXX: Has that never been brought to your attention?
Seinfeld: No, it hasn’t.
UPROXX: About Cranston, when you guys cast him to play Tim Whatley, twenty years ago or whatever it was, did you have any inkling he’d go on to become arguably the biggest star on television?
Seinfeld: I’d have had no trouble believing that. He’s one of those guys that when he walks in the room you go, “This guy’s got a lot of tools.” And I love that character by the way — Tim Whatley, the dentist.
UPROXX: Breaking Bad aside, are there any other shows, any other comedies that are currently on the air that you’re a fan of?
Seinfeld: Well, obviously Curb. I love Curb. And I really loved 30 Rock. I like Veep. I think Mad Men is funny. I know it’s not supposed to be a comedy but it makes me laugh a lot. I’m a regular SNL watcher. And I watch the Mets postgame show.
UPROXX: There’s a Modern Seinfeld Twitter feed that imagines Seinfeld set in the modern era. Are you aware of it?
Seinfeld: I am.
UPROXX: Have you ever thought about what it would be like to do that show in this era, what with smartphones and computers and social media and whatnot?
Seinfeld: Well, single life is single life, so, I mean, it’s not the technology, it’s being single. I couldn’t do a show about being single now because I don’t know what it’s like. But if I was single now I could do it. We could do it now. I just don’t know the language at the moment.
UPROXX: Something I’ve always been curious about: what’s your favorite personal episode of Seinfeld?
Seinfeld: If I gave that to you it would be such a scoop and I don’t feel that you have the level of prestige to get that scoop. Because I get asked that question almost every day and I do have a favorite but I just can’t give it to you.
UPROXX: Well, I appreciate your honesty.
Seinfeld: But I will tell you this: my favorite moment of the show is George pulling out the golf ball at the end of the marine biologist episode. That’s my favorite moment from the entire series. He pulls out that ball and Kramer says, “Is that a Titleist?”
UPROXX: How do you take your coffee?
Seinfeld: I like it with sugar and half & half and then on the refill just cinnamon.
UPROXX: Are you a Starbucks guy or are you and New York City corner deli kind of guy?
Seinfeld: Both. Whichever’s closer.
This interview was condensed and edited for length.
(Lead pic via Getty. Pull quote pic via LovelaceMedia/Shutterstock.com. Saenger marquee pic via Uproxx)