Seinfeld Now: A Comedy About Caste

I have to say that the brutal honesty of this review of Jerry Seinfeld’s new comedy schtick – talking to fellow celebrities over coffee – took my breath away. Money quote:

Vanished is the “Seinfeld” that applied everyman scrutiny to everyday subjects: Can gifts be “regifted”? Why do dentists talk to you while opening your mouth? Instead, we watch pairs of rich guys chatting about the gilded joys of their lives and careers and cars, about the sealed-off world they inhabit and we don’t. As with watching royal weddings, we are supposed to bask in the reflected glow, not covet what they have.

The Alec Baldwin episode has major hathos all over it:

In that episode, the two men debate who worked harder to get where they are; speak of how much Mr. Baldwin admires Mr. Seinfeld’s home; make plans that if one of them produces the Oscars, the other should host it. But the spell of self-congratulation is briefly broken when the server offers Mr. Baldwin a sandwich with bread he doesn’t like.

Under taunting from Mr. Baldwin, the server relents: “What do you want? We’ll give you what we have.” And this Mr. Baldwin repeats with a snicker, speaking not to the server but to Mr. Seinfeld and us, mocking the help, laughing at and not with. Later, Mr. Baldwin condescends to the woman some more: “You know what I need from you if you don’t mind, if it’s O.K.? May I have a fork, and some napkins?”

That moment would have been almost unimaginable 20 years ago on “Seinfeld,” where the characters were self-absorbed more than entitled. As the men prepare to go, Mr. Baldwin says, “You realize we have to leave Rebecca a $1,000 tip.” This is what can pass for politeness among masters of the universe: humiliate, then compensate.


Update from several readers:

That NYT review is terrible. I hate defending anything involving Alec Baldwin, but watch his exchange with that waitress. He’s being playful. He’s also the one quickly relenting to the restaurant’s silly “no substituting bread rule.” Other edited-in comments are clearly after she’s left.

As for the current Seinfeld not reminding the reviewer of 90’s sitcom Seinfeld, the current Seinfeld is a 1) real human and 2) celebrity worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The everyday annoyances Real Jerry deals with are exactly the ones that are pissing of the reviewer, since Real Jerry’s annoyances come mainly from his real life. She’d rather see Fake Jerry talk about shoelaces with Chris Rock?


Admittedly, boorish behavior is in the eyes and ears of the beholder and you folks are free to call Mr. Baldwin an asshole. And maybe you’re right. But I saw the clip in question, and IMO he was hardly disrespectful to the waitress. I think you’re being unfair, but it’s a perception thing, I guess.

I’ll agree that the whole concept of Seinfeld’s new “program” leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve seen most of them and, frankly, the only one that doesn’t seem forced – the only one that seems authentic and “real” – is the one with Mr. Baldwin. The rest are cloying and stagey. But the one with Mr. Baldwin is genuinely funny and I implore you to take a look at him doing Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. It’s funny. The man is charming – you can’t take that away from him.

Another recommends something else to download:

I have to say I was pretty bemused to see Seinfeld start up this little show.  In his own words the show is just him talking with comedians. But compare his highly produced show oozing with wealth and privilege to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. Marc is able to get into deep, real conversations with comedians that blow one’s mind. I started listening to it because I wanted to hear some of the people that he speaks to. Now I listen because of the conversation itself. He is a master of openness and of getting other people to open up to him.  No matter how many fancy cars Seinfeld drives around, he will never be able to match this.