Jerry Seinfeld: ‘Comedians talk to each other very differently than most normal people’
True, Jerry Seinfeld will probably always be best known for the sitcom that bore his name for nine seasons and 180 episodes. But there’s a comfort in having done the biggest thing in your professional career and moved on: Now he can do whatever the heck he wants. Since 2012, that’s been the Web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” and it’s just the right fit for Seinfeld, who directs, costars and even co-wrote the theme (with Marc Shaiman). It also earned him his latest Emmy nomination, this time for variety talk series. He spoke with The Envelope about being a pioneering car interviewer and having an instinct for when the party’s over.
What was the connection for pairing you and cars and coffee? Was it just a wild hair that went, well, wild?
It wasn’t exactly wild. It was a very personal perspective on the stand-up world that I don’t think people get to see. Having spent my whole life as a stand-up comedian, I thought, “Maybe people will enjoy this.” The world around stand-up has gotten so big; there’s a whole geek culture around stand-up now, and that wasn’t there when me and my friends got started. Now the New York Times has a reporter just for stand-up, so I thought this might be a part people would like to experience.
It sure seems there’s a lot more comedic in-car filming being done than before, with James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke on “The Late Late Show” and “Jay Leno’s Garage.” Are you a pioneer?
I’m not aware of any of these programs you just mentioned. (Pause.) That was a joke. I wish them all the best.
What’s different about being on the other side of the chair for these shows, where you’re the interviewer?
I feel like we’re both playing both parts, interviewer and interviewee. I like the show to feel more like a conversation than an interview. I think I’ve always been a pretty good listener, especially for a comedian. I’ve always been able to listen.
Who’s been your best car companion?
Each one is totally different. We just did an episode with Kristen Wiig, who I had met a couple of times but didn’t know really well, and in three hours together you get an incredible sense of the person that wouldn’t be possible in five to seven minutes in front of a studio audience. The show is what I call “Play-Doh” [quality]. I can make anything I want out of it.
If there’s something in the show I don’t think is funny... I remove it. I’m a fan of comedians, so I try to make each show a bit of a valentine to that person.
— Jerry Seinfeld
Comedians like you, Marc Maron and even Howard Stern often specialize in talking to fellow funny people. Can you guys get each other to be more real than a traditional interviewer can?
I think so, because being a comedian is almost a language in itself. Comedians talk to each other very differently than most normal people. On my show, I get to edit so I get to create this impression of the person I got. That’s what the show is — I want to give you my impression of this person and how I see them and hopefully [present] in the most flattering way. If there’s something in the show I don’t think is funny or charming or interesting, I remove it. I’m a fan of comedians, so I try to make each show a bit of a valentine to that person.
If you were ending things imminently, who would you want to be your final guest?
I’m just feeling like we’re really in the middle of it; I’m not thinking about ending it. I’m not bored, though I might be at some point. (Pause.) Though it’s not like a TV series or traditional television. If I wanted to take some time off, it’s no problem and I could do whatever I want. That freedom of the Internet was extremely attractive to me. If a movie director or producer was free to put out a movie that lasted for 48 minutes because that’s all they had, movies would be so much better.
“Seinfeld” ran for nine seasons with 180 episodes. Think “Comedians” has a chance to run longer?
It doesn’t matter at all. But there’s no rhyme or reason to any of this. Shows should go like a party until it’s time to go home, and that’s something you have to feel instinctively.
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