Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


After all these years

“I was on top of the world! I could go anywhere and do anything!” Jerry Seinfeld proclaimed to a small crowd in his trademarked Long Island tongue before shifting to a flat-lined deadpan, “I’m in a comedy club in Cleveland.” The crowd exploded in laughter even if the sitcom legend did take a little poke at the city that sits on Lake Erie.

The truth of the matter is Jerry Seinfeld, now 48 years old, wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. His story is the thing that dreams are made of.

He was a New York kid, with a quirky family, who grew up to form a comedy routine around simple and direct observations of the stupidity of the world. With classics such as his old Grapenuts bit (“What’s the deal with Grapenuts? You open the box, no grapes and no nuts!”), he was the antithesis of cerebral comics and ghetto cussers who needed to insert an obligatory “fuck” here and there to get the crowd going.


A friendship with another quirky and struggling New York comic named Larry David cemented the foundation of the greatest sitcom in television history, “Seinfeld.” Jerry starred as the center of gravity between the self-hating and frazzled George Costanza, the outrageous Cosmo Kramer and the sexually frustrated mix of charm and wit that was Elaine Benes. David sat behind the scenes, a master structuralist at the top of his game.

For nine seasons, Seinfeld enchanted and spoiled a TV audience that is now forced to turn to the anemic comedy of NBC stalwart “Friends” for Thursday night laughs. As the camera pulled away from the “Fab Four” for the last time in the spring of 1998, millions felt a twinge of loss.

A syndication deal afforded the cast members (especially Seinfeld and David) a deal to rival all others. Reports labeled the figure at $600 million dollars to split between the two co-creators of the show. Not bad for a couple of once-struggling comics.

So, over four years since “Seinfeld” the TV show said goodbye, Jerry Seinfeld the comedian is once again saying “Hello, Uncle Leo” to audiences across the country in towns big and small.

“Comedian,” Seinfeld’s first movement into the genre of film, is a raw, choppy documentary and is at times, quite uncomfortable. Although Seinfeld himself has said he will never do a sitcom or staged film, he is still as hungry as ever to make the schmucks at the local comedy clubs and small theatres across the country laugh.

“Comedian” is a stunning and altogether too brief visit into the life of a man who has gotten everything he has ever wanted yet still wants more. He cleared $300 million in a single syndication deal, stole a married woman from her husband two weeks after she was married, has a house bigger than Wisconsin and a Porsche collection that would make Jay Leno blush — but Jerry Seinfeld still needs the laughs.

Like writing, comedy is a beast that manifests itself into a virus that is never quite cured. If “Comedian” says anything, it’s that someone could give Jerry three times what he has right now, and he still wouldn’t be satisfied.

The film traverses New York as Seinfeld stages guerilla-style appearances at all of the legendary hotspots in the boroughs to mold his next full-length stand-up act. Although most of the appearances go over very well, there are those sticky moments you’d never see in an HBO special.

During several early appearances, Seinfeld carries a setlist of new material with him onto the stage and repeatedly references it during his performance, which, although standard practice for many comedians, is not what you’d expect from someone of Seinfeld’s stature.

During one joke he forgets the punchline, looks over his notes and still doesn’t know where the joke is going. Standing in front of a couple hundred people, Seinfeld stands frozen for a good few minutes to near silence and doesn’t remember what the joke was about. It’s a rare failure.

There are more uncomfortable moments sprinkled throughout the film. At one gig, Seinfeld gently chastises the crowd that seems to be engaged in 100 different conversations, barely paying attention to his act. And then there’s a backstage request by a production assistant for a picture with Jerry that is deferred in what must have been an awkward moment for the young fan.

Guest appearances come from a legion of comedy all-stars including: Chris Rock, Colin Quinn, Gary Shandling, Jay Leno, Ray Romano and Seinfeld’s idol, Bill Cosby.

Most of the conversations among the stars concern the business and the struggle of life on the comedy circuit. Bad food, late hours and unresponsive crowds are all challenges the aspiring comedian and even the established comedian face on a regular basis.

The absolute worst and lowest point of the film involves an exposé on a young comic named Orny Adams (yes, Orny) who must have done a lot of sweet-talking to Jerry to find his way into the film. Besides being unoriginal, not funny and grating on the ears, the young comic nearly destroys what would be an otherwise very good documentary.

The struggling Orny finds little success throughout the film and is constantly stroking his ego as he wonders what people in Hollywood are saying about him and when he’ll get his multi-million dollar sitcom deal and when he’ll be unable to walk down the street due to his fame.

The theme of “Comedian” seems to be that it doesn’t get any easier as you gain wealth and fame. Seinfeld still faces hecklers, bad crowds and lousy nights.

This particular screening of “Comedian” was playing to an audience of one, yours truly. It was one of those rare occasions when you show up for a mid-week matinee to find yourself the only person in the theater. It was a guided tour through the struggles of comedy and the professional life of one of this generation’s most gifted comics.

Seinfeld has helped fill a comedic void left when his sitcom departed from airwaves in 1998. While his audiences are continually fulfilled, Jerry Seinfeld is still a hungry comic searching for laughs to fill his internal void no amount of money could ever cure.

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