Jerome Allen "Jerry" Seinfeld is an American comedian, actor, writer, and television/film producer, best known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the sitcom Seinfeld, which he co-created and co-wrote with Larry David. For the show's final two seasons, they were co-executive producers. In his first major foray back into the media since the finale of Seinfeld, he co-wrote and co-produced the 2007 film Bee Movie, also voicing the lead role of Barry B. Benson. In February 2010, Seinfeld premiered a reality TV series called The Marriage Ref on NBC. Seinfeld directed Colin Quinn in the Broadway show Long Story Short at the Helen Hayes Theater in New York which ran until January 8, 2011. More recently, Seinfeld has been the creator and host of the web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Seinfeld is known for specializing in observational humor, often focusing on personal relationships and uncomfortable social obligations. In 2005, Comedy Central ranked Jerry Seinfeld 12th out of 100 as the greatest comedians of all time in its five-part special The 100 Greatest Standups of All Time.
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Hi, I’m Jerry Seinfeld, I’m very excited to be here to answer your questions.
I am a comedian, and have been for about 40 years, but I also created the show SEINFELD with my friend Larry David, and now I have a web series called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/).
Last week was the start of CCC’s third season, and my guest was Louis CK (who has told me great things about reddit). I'm at the reddit office with Victoria for this AMA having some coffee.
Ok, I’m ready. Go ahead. Ask me anything.
This has been so much fun to meet so many reddits. But now that I did it, I gotta quit it. By the way, here's a preview of next week's episode of CCC, you guys are the first to hear it: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=489893417788675&set=vb.222669577844395&type=2&theater
Thanks a lot guys!
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.
EDIT: Thank you, whoever you are, for the reddit gold!
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.
Hi Jerry, enormous fan. Seinfeld is my favorite show of all time, and I have a question about it.
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.
My all time favorite is in the puffy shirt episode when you can hear a woman in the audience shriek out "OH MY GOD!"
Yeah, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You know what's funny? He doesn't even know that story.
My car was a 1973 Fiat 128 SL.
Is this my coffee or yours?
If you weren't doing comedy, what would you want to do?
Hi. I attended a taping of"the parking spot" in '92. We were seated in bleachers at an outdoor set (Kramer hitting the blinds). The session was proceeding slowly, so cast members were able to take time to mingle with the audience. You were the only member that didn't/ couldn't mingle. It was at that point that I realized you are a really busy/serious guy keeping many things aloft in juggling your daily ongoings. From that point on I always wondered, from 0 to 100%, how much of your serious side rules the day?
WOW. P_ro, you are DEEP. And super-observant. Thank you for understanding that I was busy and not being an a.h. I would say that I am 90% serious in my day. Comedy is no joke.
Hey Jerry, thanks for doing this, love your work. My question: 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.
If you could hi-five anybody in the world right now, who would it be and why?
It would be you. And I would say "That's it!" and that's the end of high-fiving forever.
I’m a car guy like you, and I was recently at a garage in Houston that had some cars. One of which happened to be a 1967 Porsche 906E, which they said was previously owned by you. If true, what made you give this Porsche the boot from your collection? Here are some pictures I took:
I did own that car at one time. Isn't it beautiful? I sold it because I had something that was a little similar, a 907, and I don't like to have too much of the same thing.
Great to hear that, because sometimes it's the opposite: things are funny on screen or stage but just uncomfortable up close. I guess the fact that you guys found each other genuinely funny was part of what made the funny contagious for viewers.
You're absolutely 1000% right. In fact I would go so far as to say that was the key to the entire show, was that we really felt like together we were funny, and then the audience felt it, and that's how you can somehow catch lightning in a bottle.
Who came up with that bass line?
The composer was Jonathan Wolff, and we were trying to come up with something that would not interfere with the standup portion in the beginning of the show. We didn't know how iconic it was going to be.
That's a duzy
That's where that phrase comes from!
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.
Hey Jerry! HUGE fan and love "Comedians in Cars"!
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.
What is the most bizarre/surreal location that you have been to and been recognized?
One time, a friend of mine and I decided to drive a 1967 VW Bug from Albuquerque to the Hamptons. I bought the car on eBay for $5,000 and flew to Albuquerque and my friend flew from LA, and we decided to do that for something fun to do (this, by the way, is the actual original inspiration for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, the year was 2000 and I did this with my friend Barry Marder, who you may know as the author of "Letters From a Nut" by Ted L. Nancy).
ANYWAY, so one time we stopped in this tiny town and somewhere in the Midwest whose name escapes me at the moment, and the town was honestly no more than 2 blocks long, and we are walking on this little sidewalk that they had, and there was a guy there, walking past us, and I was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, and the guy says as we walk by "Hey Jerry" and kept walking.
And that, to this day, so blows my mind that not only was he NOT SURPRISED that i was in this town, population 115, but that I just walked by him, he recognized me and he felt the need to say anything more than "hi." Not "what the hell are you doing here." I'm sure that guy is out there, somewhere. Probably on reddit.
Where'd the name come from? Something like "you seen this? I already read it."
Dear Jerry, thank you for doing this AMA!
In the TV show Seinfeld, Jerry was about to get a deal with the NBC to start producing a show about "nothing", basically making this a selfreference to the very show the characters where in. I have never stopped wondering what similarities there might be between the creation process of "Seinfeld" and the creation process of "Jerry".
How did Seinfeld come to be? What obstacles did you face when pitching your idea of a show about "nothing"? Who supported you and who didn't?
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.
Where do you 'work??'
I work down the street from where I live. In New York City. See ya there.
Do you find yourself often quoting the more popular lines from the show? I use "these pretzels are making me thirsty" as often as I can.
The only line I quote from the show (and I'll be very impressed if anybody out tehre remembers this line) is "If you're one of us, you'll take a bite."
I find myself saying that to my kids a lot. It's a very obscure line, but George was working at some company where they all had lunch together, and he wasn't trying the apple pie, and the boss finally says "If you're one of us, you'll take a bite." A lot of times kids won't want to try certain foods, and so I'll use that line. Sometimes I'll quote Newman in flames screaming "Oh the humanity."
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.
I for one would love to see Kramer on twitter. His analysis of human behavior is amazing. Remember when he almost guessed George's password just by analyzing his character?!
On that note, the real Jerry twitter is also pretty cool!
I know I should tweet more, but sometimes I just can't think of a tweet.
Can you tell us how your white sneaker collection first started?
It started with wanting to be Joe Namath of the 1969 New York jets, who at that time was one of the only football players to wear white shoes. And I wanted to be like him, so I always wore white sneakers. Also, Bill Cosby on I SPY always wore white sneakers. And they were my fashion icons.
Just wanted to say seinfeld is one of my favorite shows. Anyways! Georges voicemail song in one of the episodes is my voicemail message and has been for years. My favorite part watching that is when he does that little shrug when it goes "where could i be? believe it or not im not home~" Was him rocking out to that voicemail part of the script? Who's idea was that to give him a little song like that? Thats' Gold Jerry! Gold!
That really was one of the funniest things we ever did was that voicemail message. And I think I remember whose bit it was, but I'm not sure so I'm not going to say. The shrug of "Where could I be" may be the quintessence of the George character.
How come you decided upon clean humour and to never go blue?
Well when I started out in comedy in the 70s, if you didn't do clean humor you weren't getting on TV, so I started doing that so I could be on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. And then when I saw what other people were doing, I just always wanted to be a little different.
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.
Hey Mr. Seinfeld, who's your favorite minor character from the show?
We had a GREAT bench of semi-regulars. Newman, Frank Costanza, Jay Peterman - do you consider those minor characters? Because I don't. My favorite minor character was the guy who ran the parking lot who when you went to get your car, he said "we can't do it, we can't get your car."
one of my favorite lines in a Seinfeld episode was George's scream of despair after being seen naked, "I was in the pool!"
Who came up with that idea for the show?
I don't remember. A lot of the shows were written by lots of people, different ideas were thrown in by different people every step along the way. So there's a writer listed for that episode, but in many cases they are only responsible for 20% of it because we had a huge writing staff and everybody would help everybody every week because it was very challenging.
How hard is it to push and stay motivated and active on all of your projects, especially when you were doing Seinfeld. From everything I've read and heard, your involvement in writing and producing the show was so significant, I don't know how you didn't get completely burned out.
By the way, I still love watching Seinfeld reruns whenever they air, and your series CiCGC is awesome!
Thank you Tashi. I am burned out. And you may have noticed that I tend to quit things soon after doing them, like TV series, animated movies, book writing, broadway plays. I do feel very strongly in stopping the second I feel like I'm not excited anymore, whatever I'm doing.
Who was your favorite supporting character on Seinfeld and why? The Bubble Boy? The Soup Nazi? Newman?
Newman would be my favorite supporting character. I mean, when I got to have a real evil nemesis like Superman would have, that was a dream come true for me. There's no superhero that doesn't have an evil nemesis, and I got to have one. And I love that nobody ever asks "Why didn't you like Newman?"
No one ever asks me that, and no one ever questions it. There was no reason, but it was just fun.
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.
How do you deal with writers block?
Writer's block is a phony, made up, BS excuse for not doing your work.
Is Patrick Warburton as stern as he sounds on TV?
Oh no. Patrick is one of the silliest, funniest, most entertaining people I ever had the privilege of working with. He's the most difficult actor to work with in Bee movie, because every time he would come in to read, I would end up lying on the floor weeping with laughter.
What does a typical day off from work consist of for you?
It's usually, the kids and I will go get bagels and lox on a weekend. And then we'll come home and eat them.
Hey Jerry, thanks for doing this AMA!
I was listening to Alec Baldwin's podcast where he interviews you. At the end you mentioned your meditation practices.
How has that helped with your career?
Also, are people often surprised to hear that?
I don't know if people were surprised, I would have to see all of their eyebrows to see if they go up. But meditation helps because it's the ultimate way to rest when you're working. It's just as simple as that.
Mr. Seinfeld, thanks for doing this! Did you have a favorite sitcom when you were growing up?
I would say, when I heard that they were going to do a sitcom with a secret agent who was funny, that it was going to be a comedy secret agent TV show, and it was going to be called "Get Smart," the back of my head blew off. So that was really my favorite show when I was a kid. Also Laugh-In and Batman.