After Louis C.K. told him “great things about reddit,” comedian Jerry Seinfeld decided to give it a go, fielding questions from die-hard fans for about three hours on Monday afternoon. Though he was celebrating the third season of his web series “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee,” the “Seinfeld” creator answered a wide array of questions, including the random (the weirdest story he’d ever heard about a plane), the ones everyone wants to know (what do you think of the modern-day “Seinfeld” Twitter accounts?) and the ones only true “Seinfeld” fans could appreciate (what was it like to be a comedian who played the straight man in his own show?). Below, some of the best of Seinfeld’s AMA.
How he met Larry David (who apparently doesn’t know this story):
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.
On the “Seinfeld” Twitter accounts SeinfeldToday and Seinfeld2000, which throw out jokes imagining “Seinfeld” plots in the 2000s.
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.
(For the record, his response was far nicer than Larry David’s)
How “Seinfeld,” a show “about nothing,” came to be:
The pitch for the show, the real pitch, when Larry and I went to NBC in 1988, was we want to show how a comedian gets his material. The show about nothing was just a joke in an episode many years later, and Larry and I to this day are surprised that it caught on as a way that people describe the show, because to us it’s the opposite of that.
On whether he, being a comedian, minded playing the one normal guy among a group of neurotic people on “Seinfeld”
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.
Jerry’s favorite episodes:
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.
On whether any material pushed the limit 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.
On his favorite backstage moment and coping with life post-”Seinfeld”:
1) I do kind of like in the documentary I did in 2002, called Comedian, there’s one point where I’m performing at Governor’s in Levittown at the absolute height of Seinfeldmania. And the club owner comes in the dressing room and says to me “I need you offstage by 9:15.” And I said “what?” And I was performing there to create a new act. It was kind of a big deal that I would come to that small club, and the owner of the club just treated me absolutely the same as everybody else, and I just thought that was so funny. That was one of my favorite moments in that documentary. That’s why I wanted to go back into doing standup comedy, because as the star of your own TV show you don’t get treated like that but as a standup performer you do get treated like that. It was hilarious, and absurd, but standup is a life of just brutal reality which is the opposite of the life I had been leading in LA and that I missed.
People are eating chinese food here in the reddit office, with chopsticks.
2) 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.
When asked by an aspiring comic why he went into comedy 40 years ago, Seinfeld wrote, “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.”
And if he wasn’t doing comedy, this is what he’d do instead: “Die.”
Watch the preview for the upcoming episode of “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee,” featuring Patton Oswalt: