I seem to have developed a small addiction to watching Jerry Seinfeld drink five-year old coffee (although it was fresh at the time of his drinking). Yes, I watch “Comedians in Cars getting Coffee”. Is there a Support Group?
Seinfeld is always the same: above the waist, a businessman in dark jacket, white shirt, smiley teeth – below the waist a teenager in jeans and colourful sneakers. But all parts of him are tuned to the roar of a vintage car engine and he jokes that he has petrol in his veins. And comedians are his very favourite people to talk with.
The programme is addictively simple and short – each episode finds its own best running time – some are espresso (high-octane) for twenty minutes, others a brief frothy cappuchino of ten minutes or less – and thanks to the way online shows are presented, the moment one episode has ended, the next episode is queued up and beginning to count down to running. So you have to actively dive for the remote control to break the viewing.
Elegant and unusual cars driving in sunshine, witty conversation, interviews about Comedy, slo-mo pourings of coffee… really, what’s not to like?
How do you blend the car with comedy? The answer seems to be: the more glorious the car, the more cheap the coffee place. The car is an Italian racecar which ran in Le Mans? It’ll definitely end up parked outside a coffee shop with sticky-fingered laminated menu and desserts served with aerosol-can fake cream. Distressingly, the coffee is often very cheap and ordinary too: the kind kept boiling in a glass jug for hours until it’s tar-like. One of the very few times Jerry takes his guest (Dana Carvey) to somewhere extremely posh (a Hollywood hotel with a doorman) – it’s in a beach buggy.
The episode with Dana Carvey is funny not just because of the contrast of car/location but simply because Dana makes Seinfeld laugh so hard, that he’s collapsed over the wheel, gasping for breath (they are parked at the time) and Dana is doing his George Bush Snr impression.
Turns out that Jerry corpses with laughter at funny voices and impressions.
The other person who really makes Jerry laugh is his Seinfeld co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus. As they walk along the pavement, she says some simple lines, which have him tottering over to the kerb, to lean helplessly on a street bin for support. She just smiles a small “Gotcha!” smile to herself.
“I love comedy – as much as I love it, I love talking about it”Jerry Seinfeld (CBS Sunday Morning)
Great for Writers
Part of why I enjoy this series is that it’s geared to writers – these comedians have an ear for the right word in the right part of the sentence – the rhythm of the phrase, the pauses – all are crucial for the most impact. Again and again, they’ll comment on how the other has phrased a comment in the best comedic way. Even a single word will be held up for admiration. These standup comedians KNOW when something is a new way to put words together, when it is so inventive that it triggers the laugh of surprise. And what’s going on onscreen is both a serious talk about comedy from its insiders – and the joy of making the other comedian laugh. It’s got a lot to offer any writer – but absolutely essential viewing for newbie comedy writers or anyone aspiring to do standup.
- Mel Brooks & Carl Reiner (two comedy geniuses with great stories)
- towards the end of his (uncomfortable) interview with Ellen de Generes, “Where are my car keys?”
- “The unsinkable Jimmy Fallon” Part 1 – where Jerry takes him out in a small boat and Jimmy is just so excited about everything, like a small kid
- Sarah Jessica Parker – so high energy that she could power the National Grid and at the same time, so down to earth and interested in everything – a force of nature. She is a one woman podcast, firing off questions and noticing things as she goes. Any comedian short of ideas for observational humour should stick around her
- the end of the interview with Jim Carey who lets us see his art studio – and how serious he is about art, with large canvases and a central aisle of paint-tubes to bring tears of envy to an art supplies shop
- Jerry Lewis – where Jerry Seinfeld gets to spend time with one of his comedy heroes and the two hit it off (Jerry Lewis has now died, so a rare chance to see)
- some new comedian called Barack Obama
- Eddie Murphy – despite the still photo for the show which has Eddie doing his trademark giant grin, he plays it for real, they have a straight conversation and (fan alert) he’s likely to go back to doing standup
The Barack Obama interview seems to stretch the definition of “comedian” – but at the very end of the episode, they show the view from inside the Oval Office, where President Obama is busy at his desk, a security staffer comments that Jerry Seinfeld has just driven up – and without looking up, Obama tell the security man not to shoot Seinfeld: “It wouldn’t be good for our ratings.” So, a natural comedian. Also, one of the few people who manages to interview Jerry Seinfeld right back and put him on the spot by getting him to make the coffee in one of the machines at the White House canteen.
What I learned from the show:
I suppose I’d better have learned something after hours of watching episodes. Let me see…..
- good and funny ways to put words together
- that Jerry Seinfeld (apart from family) does not really want to spend time with non-comedians, and that he has a special disdain kept cold and on-ice for a comedian who isn’t funny (see the disturbing episode with Miranda Sings)
- that it’s essential to keep Maple Syrup in any house which makes homemade pancakes
- that comedians are a particular breed of person who gravitate towards one another in a social setting