Jerry Seinfeld stopped by the Reddit office today to promote the latest season of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and answer some user questions over — of course — coffee.
The AMA (Ask Me Anything) covered a little bit of everything a Seinfeld fan could possibly care about. From his personal life (the best part of his day) to his relationship with Larry David (how they met, what he’s like in real life, etc.) Seinfeld (too many nuggets to mention) to standup and beyond. In true Seinfeldian style, Jerry was thorough and precise, and the result was one of the finest AMAs to date.
Click through for the best of Jerry Seinfeld’s Reddit AMA.
Hey Mr. Seinfeld. Im a huge fan of your comedy and my dream is to be a comedian like you someday. My question is, what made you decide to do comedy as a career? Anyone have doubts?
I chose comedy because I thought it seemed much easier than work. And more fun than work. It turned out to be much harder than work, and not easy at all. But you still don’t have to ever really grow up. And that’s the best thing of all.
What, above all other things, is the neatest most fascinating and cool thing you get to do on a daily basis?
WOW. First of all, GREAT question.
That I get to do on a daily basis? Probably walk to work. I think that’s about the coolest thing that there is. Or take my bike. If you can walk to work or take your bike on a daily basis, I think that’s just about the coolest thing that there is. Every morning I listen to the traffic on the radio, and they talk about how they are jammed and I just laugh. I love traffic. I love traffic reports because I’m not in any of them.
Please tell us about the first time you met Larry David and what was your initial impression of him?
The first time I met him, that’s a long story… I actually was eavesdropping on him talking to another comedian, and I wasn’t even in comedy yet. But he was leaning on my car in front of the Improv on 9th Ave and 44th Street, and this would be probably 1975. That was the first time I ever saw him. But we didn’t talk. But him and this other comedian were leaning on the fender of my car, and I knew that they were real comedians and I was still just flirting with it. So I don’t know if that answers the question.
Then when we finally did talk in the bar Catch a Rising Star on 1st Ave and 78th Street 2 or 3 years after that, we couldn’t stop talking. We were both obsessed with the smallest possible issue.
Which comedian have you not interviewed that you would like to?
There are so many comedians that I love that I haven’t yet talked to! Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Bill Burr on YouTube, I really like him and I’m going to try to get him on the next round of shows.
If you weren’t doing comedy, what would you want to do?
Hi Jerry, big fan. Any stories that you can tell about your most memorable heckle? Or how did you handle your first when doing stand-up?
Very early on in my career, I hit upon this idea of being the Heckle Therapist. So that when people would say something nasty, I would immediately become very sympathetic to them and try to help them with their problem and try to work out what was upsetting them, and try to be very understanding with their anger. It opened up this whole fun avenue for me as a comedian, and no one had ever seen that before. Some of my comedian friends used to call me – what did they say? – that I would counsel the heckler instead of fighting them. Instead of fighting them, I would say “You seem so upset, and I know that’s not what you wanted to have happen tonight. Let’s talk about your problem” and the audience would find it funny and it would really discombobulate the heckler too, because I wouldn’t go against them, I would take their side.
What was your favorite episode of Seinfeld to film?
Well, I’ll give you two. One was the The Rye, because we got to shoot that at Paramount Studios in LA which was the first time that we thought “wow this is almost like a real TV show.” We hadn’t felt like a real TV show, the early years of the TV show were not successful. We had this idea of a Marble Rye and we had to shoot it in an outdoor set, and this was a very expensive thing to do, it’s like a movie place there at Paramount in LA. Their standing set for New York looks exactly like it, and we thought “this is where the ADULT shows are, the REAL shows like Murphy Brown.” We felt like we were a weird little orphan show. So that was a big deal for us.
And that was very exciting, we were up all night shooting it on the set of paramount and it was very exciting.
The other one that was really fun was in the episode The Pothole, Newman drives his mailtruck over a sewing machine and his mail truck burst into flames. It was really fun to shoot, and it was fun to set Newman on fire. And he screamed “oh the humanity” like from the Hindenberg disaster. It’s one of my favorites.
How did you cope emotionally, socially, etc, after Seinfeld was over?
That’s a good question. It’s kind of the same answer. Going back into doing standup was very grounding because there’s no faking standup. There’s no coddling in standup. There’s no preciousness in standup.
what if sienfeld still on tv today?
Everything would have had to change. The character would have gotten married and started families, I suppose. But I still think everything has its life cycle and if you respect it, people enjoy it longer. And if you disrespect it – look at THE HANGOVER movie. If you made just one, the movie would be a comedy legend. Because they made 3, it isn’t.
You’re on a desert island, and can only bring 5 of your favorite cars. Which 5 do you bring?
This is an absurd scenario. First of all, cars and desert are a bad combination. I would only bring one car to a desert island and that would be a VW Dune Buggy. No other cars are fun in the desert.
Were there ever story ideas that you had to scrap for Seinfeld because you felt they pushed the limits too far?
Yes. There was one episode where Jerry bought a handgun. And we started making it and stopped in the middle and said “this doesn’t work.” We did the read-through and then cancelled it. A lot of other stuff happened, but trying to make that funny ended up being no fun.
… I’m always annoyed by people who describe Seinfeld as a show about nothing. Even in the later years when you guys strayed from the “how a comedian gets his material” formula, it was still about social faux pas and ridiculous social customs.
FINALLY I have met someone that understands the show. Thank you for your rare and perceptive analysis.
What was it like working with your fellow cast members and crew on the set of Seinfeld?
Working with the cast was pure heaven for me. We were as well suited to each other as it seems when you watch the show. We enjoyed each other’s company enormously. That was one of the big things that made the show work, I think.
Hi Jerry. My question has to do with one little moment in the Soup Nazi episode. Wayne Knight walks out of the restaurant, looks at his bag and says “ummm…Jambalaya”…and then does this little dance down the sidewalk. It was hilarious. But not because of the line…because of the way he delivered it and what he did physically. So my question is…how did this happen? Did the script just have the line leaving it up to him on what to do with it? was it an ad-lib? Did the script describe the dance? Describe the process of getting this little golden moment on the screen. Thanks.
Very very well observed, first of all, let me compliment you on that. That moment, which I remember crystal clearly, is the enormous talent of an actor like Wayne Knight. And the script said “Newman looks in the bag, and says Jambalaya” but the delivery and the dance was all his.
Where did the idea of, in Seinfeld, your character being a comedian for a profession, but be the straight man for your friends, come from? I always thought that juxtapositioning for the show was genius.
Very good observation and analysis on your part, Baxter. You are truly exhibiting a good comedic eye. The reason I would play straight was it was funnier for the scene. And very few people have ever remarked on this, because it was a conscious choice of mine, only because I knew it would make the show better, and I didn’t care who was funny as long as somebody was funny and that the show was funny. So you have hit upon one of the great secret weapons of the Seinfeld series, was that I had no issue with that.
So my question is, if you could grab a coffee with any comedian no longer with us, who would it be and in what car? Thanks!
Great, great question. Wow. I probably would have to say Charlie Chaplin in a Duesenberg.
Is Larry David anything like he is on Curb Your Enthusiasm?
I have heard this question many times. And I find his character on Curb to be the most reasonable and logical person. And I’ve never understood why people think of him any other way. To me he is one of the most intelligent and perceptive people, and our minds are very synchronous. So I think he is very much like that character, maybe not as nice all the time.
Oh this is a very painful subject. As you can probably imagine, over the 9 years of doing the show, Larry David and I sat through hundreds of ideas that people wanted to do on the show. And most of the ideas are not good. Which I saw Larry say the other day on some show, somebody asked him the same question and he said “I know you think it’s funny, but it’s really hard.” The ideas that Larry and I would respond to, I don’t even know, they just need to be very unique. It’s just a lot harder than it seems to come up with. And particularly for that show, where we tried to do things that were unusual, and you had to go through a lot of ideas to find the ones you like.
What’s the deal with airline food?
The deal with airline food is they, everything is miniaturized, as if we’re in Gulliver’s Travels. I used to do a bit about the tiny airline world, about how everything is miniaturized, there’s always a short delay, a little problem, we’re going to be a tiny bit late.
How do you feel about laugh tracks on sitcoms?
This was something we struggled with quite often on Seinfeld. Because we had real laughs on the scenes that were shot in front of an audience, but then we would shoot other scenes that were not in front of the audience (which didn’t have any laughs) and then it felt like a bit of a mismatch, so we tried to compromise and put in a subtle laugh track. I think that one of the fun things of a sitcom is feeling like you’re in an audience even though you’re home, watching it by yourself. I have to say I like some sitcoms with them and some without. Depends on the show.
In some scenes, it’s apparent that you’re ready to crack up, and of course there are the famous outtakes like Kramer’s “look away, I’m hideous” scene in which you completely lose it. Is there a scene in particular you remember as being funniest to you in the moment as you were acting it out?
That’s an excellent choice, the one that you mentioned, because I can still remember how brutally funny that was to me. The thing about the show is that you have to realize that I had to look into the faces of those people, six inches away, so 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.
After creating arguably the most successful sitcom in the history of television, do you think modern comedy shows(How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, or even Comedians in Cars getting Coffee) live up to the precedent Seinfeld set? If not, do they have the potential?
I think the fans of every show love that show as much as anybody loves any show, that’s why they make lots of shows because there are lots of people and everybody has their own opinions. I don’t think there’s anything like a “best show” I kind of hate that concept. I think awards are kind of stupid, there is no best movie or best actor, what you like is best for you. If everybody liked the same thing there would be just one dish. That’s why they have a menu because everybody likes something different.
What is the most mundane thing you and Larry have obsessed over?
We never obsess over anything that isn’t mundane. Most recent was intentional mumbling. We wrote this script for this thing that you will eventually see but I can’t reveal what it is at this time. All I can do is tell you is that it’s big, huge, gigantic. Even bigger than that Amazon package.
How happy were you with the Seinfeld Finale? In hindsight would you have changed anything?
I was happy with the Seinfeld finale because we didn’t want to do another episode as much as we wanted to have everybody come back to the show we had so much fun with. It was a way to thank all of the people who worked on the show over the years that we thought made the show work. I don’t believe in trying to change the past but I’m very happy with it.