Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Onstage Jerry"

What impressed me the most about Jerry Seinfeld’s standup comedy performance, which we recently attended at Los Angeles’ massive and venerable Pantages Theater, was how limber the man was.

Now, were I writing for a Yoga magazine, this would be high praise indeed. But I’m not. Which conjures the question, if I’m chronicling the highlights of a show headlined by a consummately skillful comedian, a “professional’s professional”, a man who also starred in my favorite situation comedy of all time, shouldn’t what impressed me the most about Jerry Seinfeld’s standup comedy performance at Los Angeles’ massive and venerable Pantages Theater be the comedy?

I think so.

And yet…

It wasn’t.

It was his inordinate flexibility. Jerry Seinfeld is, as he announced onstage, fifty-seven years old. Hardly a young man. A man, in fact, three years shy of sixty. And yet, in the course of underlining certain moments in his act, he stretched, he squatted, he loped across the stage...

At one point, he lay down on the floor, and he got up again. Just straight got up. No rapid breathing, no labored “Oy!” In fact, listening to him continuing on without missing a beat, unless you had seen it with your own eyes, you would never have known he had just lain down on the floor and gotten up again. I’m tellin’ ya –

That guy is in shape!

Was he funny? Sure. As he also announced onstage, Jerry Seinfeld has been performing standup comedy for thirty-one years. (Or maybe longer. He may have said he first performed in L.A. thirty-one years ago.) You get good at it after thirty-plus years. You know what you’re doing up there.

No stumbles. No extraneous verbiage. Every set-up, crystal clear, every “build”, structured to maximum effect, every punchline, timed to perfection, the entire presentation, like an Olympic, acrobat executing complicated maneuvers on the balance beam, or uneven bars…


No question about it. The man is “top-of-the-line” at what he does.

And yet, what I remember the most was the limberness. Which sent a thought bordering on an insight worming its way into my insight place, the thought being this:

Jerry Seinfeld stretched in every way but with his material.

I don’t text, as I do not own a texting device. But if I did, and I were acronyming my impression of Jerry Seinfeld onstage?


“Same Old Thing.” Did I make that up? I wouldn’t know. Nobody texts me for the same reason. I do not own a texting device. They’d have to text right into my head.

From a content standpoint, Jerry’s repertoire was “business as usual.” Cell phone jokes. Starbucks jokes. Wife jokes, which one person in our party found unfunny, and another found accurate but, come on…

Wife jokes?

Bottled water jokes. People continually getting “re-hydrated.” And then, get this!

Shortly thereafter, Jerry walks over to a stool, holding a bottle of water and a plastic cup, and he…

“Re-hydrates himself!

“Yoo-hoo! Mr. Funny Man! May we have some self-awareness, please?”

There was none to be had. No connection. It’s as if Jerry’s life and his act are two different planets. “In my life, I rehydrate myself.” “In my act, I make fun of those people.”

Hey, Jerry.

You are those people.

Apparently, he did not notice that. And Jerry Seinfeld is a real “Did you ever notice” kind of a guy!

In contrast, Larry David offers, in his public persona, a human being – a monstrously flawed one – but if you prick him, he will bleed. He’ll bleed venom, but he’ll bleed.

Jerry Seinfeld offers…a hologram. There’s a suit up there, it’s moving around, but are we getting a multi-dimensional human being, or Jerry Seinfeld, “trick or treating”, dressed as Jerry Seinfeld?

Jerry mentions three children, but not their names, or individualized genders or personalities. He alludes to a wife, but his jokes project a universal “generic wife”, not the specific woman he married.

The result is a feeling of coldness. “Packaged Jerry”, revealing a fraction of who he actually is.

Jerry re-hydrates.

But not in his act.

And now,

Earl’s Standard Disclaimer:

An artist should be judged by their own intentions, not by what I’d like their intentions to be.

Jerry Seinfeld presents himself in the way he chooses to present himself, as is extremely skilled at doing so.

But, for me, the only feeling he elicited was the feeling that I would benefit greatly if I went back to yoga.


She's twenty-nine

She's in her prime

She's just sublime

She's my "Sunshine."

Happy birthday, Anna Benne.

You're just the best

You ace the test

I'm so impressed

And truly blessed.



Frank said...

Great review!

Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; that was frank. The sort of frankness that will prevent you from working in that town again.

It was a good review.

Thank you,


Johnny Walker said...

Here's a different perspective:

I didn't see the show, but I do know that Jerry Seinfeld makes fun of the stuff that we ALL do. He's entertained by general human behaviour, including his own.

A good example of this can be found when Garry Shandling and he talk in Central Park on the Larry Sanders DVD.

Shandling tries to resume a point he was trying to make by saying, "What I'm trying to say is...", but he never finishes because Seinfeld starts cracking up. He's amused by the idea of all these phrases that people say to announce they're going to say something.

"Why not just say it?", he reasons.

The two of them then just riff on similar phrases, "No, but seriously...", "The thing is...", etc, etc.

Making fun of the things we all do.

Secondly, I know that Seinfeld doesn't make things up for his routines. He genuinely isn't the comedian who starts a joke, "So I was driving to my mother-in-law's two weeks ago..." when in reality his mother-in-law is dead. He sees no reason to make things up, everything he says is real.

With these two things in mind, you might come to the conclusion that his comedy is actually very honest. That the Seinfeld on stage is pretty much the Seinfeld who comes off stage (minus the joke-blowing).

Just another point-of-view ;)

Johnny Walker said...

BTW: I'm not a huge Seinfeld fan or anything. I've just listened to a few interviews with him and paid attention. He seems like a pretty genuine guy, and I have no difficulty believing that his new material might be a little stale, or a little too "safe".

Raj said...

Jerry has always been doing that. He makes a lot of fun of people who exercise (Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum) but obviously he must be doing regular workouts to keep in shape.

He comes across as a very private person and one effect of that might be that he keeps his personal and professional lives separate.