No one can make you laugh at mundane, everyday life like Jerry Seinfeld can. He can turn a trip to the supermarket or the mall into a hilarious, existential journey. The comedian’s unique brand of observational humor has catapulted him to international superstardom, helped immeasurably, of course, by “Seinfeld,” his “show about nothing” that went on to be named “the greatest television program of all time” by TV Guide.
After the sitcom’s nine-year run came to an end in 1998, Seinfeld returned to his stand-up roots, including back-to-back shows last January at the Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood. In case you missed him then, Seinfeld returns Friday and Saturday to the same venue, in what hopefully will become a wonderful annual tradition.
Miami.com talked to Seinfeld about the shows, his feelings on the end of “Seinfeld,” and with whom he’d most love to have a beer.
You’re here for two shows – how different will they be?
I don’t really plan the shows. I have lots of material from many years of being in the profession, and I just walk out onstage and just kind of go. So it’s fun for me and keeps it fresh for me. They will usually vary quite a bit.
Your humor is observational. Do you feel like you’re always on the job?
Yes. I’ve been on the job since the day I was born.
So about how much time in any given day would you say you spend “noticing” things, and filing them away?
Twenty-four hours. From the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, I’m thinking, “I wonder if I could use that in my act.”
You arrived in comedy fairly late, after college. Were you always interested in that, always funny and cracking people up?
Yes, from very young it was just born into me. As soon as I started watching television – it was “Laugh In” and “Get Smart” and those shows from the late ‘60s. Really “Laugh In,” which was all jokes from top to bottom – that was the show that got me more excited than anything.
Did becoming famous change your approach to stand-up at all?
No, it just made it more fun, because I can go more places and people know who I am. And the sitcom, besides the fun of doing that, I tried to keep the stand-up in that so people would know what I really do.
When you and Larry David were conceiving “Seinfeld,” what kind of expectations did you have?
None. We had zero. We thought it would be maybe a little offbeat thing that might survive, like, you know, a late-night Sunday kind of show, like a “Monty Python” or something. It was a narrow-appeal idea to us, the audiences that would go for this.
So you didn’t have any sense at all that it was groundbreaking?
No. We just knew what we didn’t like, and we tried to do anything else. Sitcoms in the late ‘80s, they were pretty lame in many cases, so we just tried to do things that felt fresh.
And now it’s been more than 15 years since its run ended. Does it still feel like yesterday to you?
Well, having a family now – I was single then, and it’s such a different life now – it does feel like a long time ago to me. Plus it was in California, and now I live in New York. It kind of feels a little ways back there in my mind.
Do you ever miss it?
No, it was a fantastic ride, but I feel like we rode the wave all the way into the shore, and we got out at just the right time when everyone was also enjoying it. So we were all left with a very positive memory.
So the predominant feeling when it ended was what?
I felt very fortunate that it didn’t get stale. Even the last year, we were really loving it, but I could feel that the end was coming, and I didn’t wanna wait till everyone’s tired of it, and leave when everyone’s not liking it.
Are you sick to death of any of your famous catch-phrases from the show?
No, I kind of get a kick out of all of them. And I have a lot of fun on Twitter now – people will always throw me lines that I’ve forgotten. I saw one last night that I guess somebody put on there because of the Super Bowl. And it was from the episode with Tim Whatley, who became Walter White on “Breaking Bad,” Bryan Cranston. And the line was: “I don’t like this guy. He’s a re-gifter, he’s a de-gifter, and now he’s using an upstairs invite as a springboard to a Super Bowl sex romp.” And I had forgotten about that [laughs] – that’s a pretty good line.
You’ve accomplished much more than most performers could ever dream of, so you don’t really have to do anything else to solidify your legacy. How tempting is that thought?
That’s a thought that’s tempting to people that don’t like their work. They think, well gee, if I was him I wouldn’t work, because they don’t like their job. But I love my job – I started doing it for free, and did it for free for five years. And so it’s what I love to do, and it makes me happy, and as long as people still wanna see me do it, and it makes them happy, that’s the number-one reason for doing it. The money is nice, but that’s secondary.
You’re one of those celebrities that everyone says they’d love to have a beer with. With whom would you love to have a beer?
That’s a good one. Let’s see – well, I’ve had a number of beers with a lot of people. I’d probably pick Abraham Lincoln. He’d be a hell of an interesting guy.
Jerry Seinfeld. Photo: John VanBeekum/The Miami Herald