Sunday, 4 February 2018


60. “’Getting out of hand’ is two pieces of pizza, right?”


A telling moment – in fact, quite a literal one – happens during a 2012 episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” a talk show recently added to Netflix, where Mel Brooks, being interviewed at the home of fellow comedy writer and friend Carl Reiner, talks about the nature of TV sitcoms: “It’s a swamp. It’s quicksand.” Jerry Seinfeld, the interviewer, replies, “You’re telling me.”

In Brooks’ case, he moved from the show he created with Buck Henry, “Get Smart” (also the inspiration for Inspector Gadget), to film, and “The Producers.” For Seinfeld, he moved from “Seinfeld,” still one of the world’s greatest sitcoms after ending twenty years ago, and continued with stand-up comedy and “Bee Movie” before returning to something that feels, well, a bit familiar.

The first episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” featured Seinfeld interviewing Larry David, his writing partner from “Seinfeld,” and the person on whom George Costanza. After he had been transported to a coffee shop in a 1952 VW Beetle – Seinfeld likes to get cars that match the personality of his interviewed, so Mel Brooks was picked up in Porsche 911, and Howard Stern got a Pontiac GTO nicknamed “The Judge” – David utters a few lines that you feel you have heard elsewhere, like, “I have snacking problems,” and “when am I gonna let my guard down? When am I gonna eat like a human?”

These are George Costanza lines, practically from the man himself. The original idea for “Seinfeld” was that it would be a fly-on-the-wall documentary, following Jerry, as himself, seeing how real-life situations contributed to his stand-up routine that night – this was before the original one-off late-night special became a sitcom pilot. Now, with “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” the script can be finally thrown away, and the “show about nothing” can become what “Seinfeld” was in its best moments: an opportunity to watch like-minded people hanging out with each other. To that end, the more relaxed settings of cars and coffee shops are intended to make sure everyone is off-duty, as any semblance of an audience could return a comedian to their performing mode.

Since the show came to Netflix, I have watched the episodes involving Larry David, “Seinfeld” co-stars Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Michael Richards, Reiner & Brooks, John Oliver and Chris Rock. I had seen it on its own website, back when it was intended mainly for people to watch on their phone, hence the shorter running time – averaging eighteen minutes per episode – and undemanding set-up. In an interview with David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld had said this was a case of “the medium is the message,” dictating what type of show would work. However, people mainly watch Netflix through their regular televisions, but it doesn’t look like this has changed the show yet. Mind you, David Letterman’s new show is also for Netflix, so perhaps the important part is just being able to do the show you want.

No comments:

Post a Comment