Way to much has already been said about Seinfeld, so I will not even bother to introduce it.
The greatest influence the show had on me was in it’s premise and origin. A show about nothing was originally conceived as a “how do comedians come up with material” special. It evolved into a character driven sitcom. In fact I have said before that Jerry was actually the least essential part of the show and that if you replaced him with any other successful comedian and that was the only change the show would have been just as successful. The central tenant of a comedian living a life of relative middle class comfort in a pleasant but not ostentatious corner of Manhattan was the dream this show sold to teenage me. The idea that life could be about “finding the humor.” To just go about your business with your awareness attuned to the funny that is around you. Whether it is finding the absurdity of the mundane, or hanging a lantern on the obvious, when you embrace that mindset the world becomes a wonderful place! That is the genius of Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. But you have to be a comedian earning a living on stage or a successful writer to really indulge this philosophy. That was the dream that Seinfeld was blatantly peddling to American audiences every Thursday night at 9/8 central. But I was never able to embrace it, because when you actually are attempting to work for a living, everything in life becomes too serious, too important. And these are jobs that have to be done. Society must function. The joy in life needs to be found as well, but it will only come to those that eschew the functional society and its predictability to whole heartedly embrace seeking the humor in life. I was never able to do that.
Seinfeld sold me a dream.
An irresponsible dream from which I had to wake up.
And if you think that is just some platitude about the realities of everyday life, it’s not.
I tried doing some stand up comedy about 5 years ago. It was fun. I loved it. But I wasn’t funny. And I found I couldn’t be funny. It was impossible, because I couldn’t find the humor in the world anymore. I had a job. I had a baby. I had bills. And then suddenly I get off work at 9pm on a Tuesday night and I realize I have less than an hour to get down to the club, show starts at 10.
I didn’t laugh anymore. I didn’t live for comedy anymore. Yes I could see things were funny, but I was not a part of it. I did not experience it as funny. Funny was just an intellectual exercise. After every punchline I felt compelled to say “I guess you had to have been there, and I was never there.” Here is what happens when you don’t live for the funny in life.