This book is short, so I’ll make this post short, too. Seinfeld is my first comedy idol, and he’ll always be the creator of the best show on television as far as I’m concerned, but it’s pretty bizarre to look back on his old material in its non-sitcom form. Between the standup and the written word, his stuff feels so incredibly dated. It’s still good stuff, of course, the kind of stuff that makes millions of dollars because of how good it is, but consuming it for the umpteenth time makes me truly understand why comedians retire material. He did call his most famous special “I’m Telling You for the Last Time,” after all. He wants us to associate new observations with him each time we see him, and that’s important. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is a pretty darn spectacular way of doing that, I might add, considering some of the mediocre stuff that came inbetween it and The Sitcom.
I decided to read his little book, Seinlanguage, to see if there was some aspect of him that I had missed. To cover all my Seinfeld bases, as it were. As it turns out, I had covered them so much that most of this book wasn’t funny to me because I’d already heard the jokes. It’s disorienting to see them written out, too. In the book, he does make a deal with the reader, pleading them to supply the tone and do a little of the work, but really, Seinfeld’s jokes are meant to be told by Seinfeld. He is the master of tone. Not even his own writing supplies his tone as well as his voice does. Without his tone, his book reads like a bunch of really outdated comments by a somewhat witty character named something like “Complainer Dad.”
But the cool thing is, that book may have reached a lot of people who hadn’t seen his show yet, and it was just the tip of the iceberg. It gave him a different kind of exposure. Nowadays, comedians are doing this multimedia thing all the time. Mike Birbiglia took one act and morphed it into a book, a movie, and a standup tour. Scott Aukerman has his podcast and his TV show, and at one point had a weekly standup show in LA, too, all revolving around the same basic concept. The true nerds, like me, will consume everything and complain about overlap in content, but we’ll still consume it all anyway, because we know it’s quality. And if quality is reaching more people, that’s good for everyone. Cheap laughs should be banned and replaced with expensive, rich, priceless ones.