Jerome Allen "Jerry" Seinfeld (born April 29, 1954) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and producer. He is best known for playing a semi-fictionalized version of himself in the sitcom Seinfeld, which he created and wrote with Larry David. The show aired on NBC from 1989 until 1998, becoming one of the most acclaimed and popular American sitcoms of all time. As a stand-up comedian, Seinfeld specializes in observational comedy.
- See also: Seinfeld
Tonight Show Debut (1981)Edit
- I was in Switzerland one time. Beautiful country! Great country. And interesting: 500 years without a war! Very impressive. Also very lucky for the Swiss Army! I don't know if you've ever seen that little Swiss Army knife? It's not much of a weapon! [...] If somebody attacks you, what do you pull out? Your nail clippers? "C'mon, buddy! Let's go!" "You get past me, the guy in back of me's got a spoon!"
- My favorite sign: you pull up to the light, and it says "Left Turn Okay". Don't you like that one? A little personal touch! It's like they're sayin' to you "Left Turn? Okay..." "We're not crazy about you makin' the left. It's okay..." Pretty much: "Make it. Get it over with." [...] They should get more involved, with signs like "Right Turn? Why Not?" "U Turn? Enjoy It!"
- Have you ever seen the guy who's got the record for "Fattest Man in the World"? It's an amazing thing: Bob Hughes, 1,400 pounds. Ladies and gentlemen, the man has let himself go! I used to even feel bad, y'know, talkin' about him onstage, 'cause, y'know, somebody-- you could be-- but you could weigh 1,000 pounds and go "He's not talkin' about me." "This is a man with a serious weight problem."
Late Night Debut (1982)Edit
- I had glasses when I was 10 years old. [...] Somebody puts something on your face at 10, you leave it there; you don't know the difference! I thought I was getting glasses 'cause I couldn't tell what my parents looked like. 'Cause every time I'd ask my mother to buy me something, she'd say "What do I look like? A bank?"
- When you're 10, your parents are the bank! You know what I mean? If I'm 10 and I need money, [can] I walk into Chase Bank and get money? The teller's just gonna say to me "What do I look like? Your mother?" "Hit the road, four-eyes!"
- I also had braces. [...] Glasses at 10, braces at 12: I was thrilled to have these things on my face. I mean, y'know, [I'm] thinkin' about talkin' to a girl for the very first time in my life, I want a lot of corrective apparatus on my head. [pause for laughter] This is what women like! I said to my parents "Let's not stop now! Let's get me a hearing aid! Orthopedic shoes!"
Judd Apatow Interview (1983)Edit
from Apatow's Sick in the Head (2015) pp 3–10
- I want my comedy to be the things nobody else talks about. Not necessarily things people don't want to talk about, but just things that everybody else missed.
- I have a lot of respect for [stand-up] as a craft. I don't see it as just a stepping-stone. I mean, it's a hard life in some ways. But I have a fascination for it.
- [Stand-up is] kind of like catching bullets between your teeth. If you're gonna do it right, it would be something to learn it and then not make a career out of it.
- I like jokes and laughing more than anything. Everybody has an appetite for a different thing. And comedy is something that I have an endless appetite for.
- That's the greatest thing about comedy. If you've got talent, it's unmistakable. No one misses it and you don't have to wait around for a break.
- Stand-up is what I am.
Stand-Up Confidential (1987)Edit
- That is the feeling of life: you've got to go, all the time. You get to your job, what is your first thought? "I want to get home." But you get home, you feel cooped up; you've got to get out. You're out, it's late; you've got to get back. Wherever you are, you've got to get the hell out of there!
- The fact is: almost everything is funny. You just have to have a way of looking at it.
- I really feel that that's one of the big powers of adulthood, is the ability to be totally bored and remain standing. I think that's why they can set up the DMV that way.
- That's [my dad's] other big advice to me: "easy". I don't know what the hell that means. Every time we lift up something heavy, he goes "Easy now! Take it easy! Easy! Easy!" It's not easy; it's very difficult. Okay? You want easy? Leave it here in the hallway. That's easy.
- Dads feel they know enough about the world to start their own civilization. That's what the family is to them. The fathers think "The hell with life! I can invent my own people. My own rules for fashion. My own health and diet."
- Dogs are broke their entire lives. And you know why they have no money? No pockets! They have no pockets. They see change on the street, there is nothing they can do about it.
- Being engaged is-- you know what it's like to me? It's like being on the first part of the rollercoaster, where you're just goin' up: (makes ticking noises) "Boy, this looks pretty scary!"
- Now they show you how detergents get out bloodstains on television: pretty violent image, there! I think if you've got a T-shirt with bloodstains all over it, maybe laundry isn't your biggest problem right now. Maybe you ought to get rid of the body before you do the wash.
- To me, clothes spend most of their lives waiting, if you look at it. In the closet, in the hamper, in the drawer. The shirts in your house right now are going "He never picks me...". Laundry day is their only exciting day, 'cause the washing machine is the nightclub of clothes. It's dark, bubbles happening; they're all kind of dancing around in there. A shirt grabs the underwear: "C'mon, babe, let's go!"
- The dumbest thing of all, I think, you can think in a New York cab is "Well, the man knows what he's doing!" "I mean, he is driving a little fast, but he's a professional cab driver. He's got a cab driver's license; I can see it right there." I don't even know what it takes to get a cab driver's license. I think all you need is a face... and a name with, like, eight consonants in a row.
"Fresh Air" Interview (1987)Edit
- I always, y'know, idolized people like Bill Cosby and people that were just themselves. I mean, I think the idea of a comedian as someone that you relate to-- I think "comedy star" is almost an oxymoron. You don't look up to comedians like you look at Madonna or, y'know, Elvis, or people like that.
- I was petrified when [my parents] first saw me [perform]. Well, also: because I wasn't really funny as a kid, and I felt like I was, y'know, exposing this alter-ego. Y'know? Plus, here I am getting up on stage and manipulating these people, y'know, into laughing. It's a power thing! Y'know? And it's weird to do it in front of your parents.
- A comedian is basically a very aggressive thing to do. You force people to see things your way so powerfully, they react audibly! They actually-- you force them to react. It's "Look at things the way I look at them, and laugh at it when I say to!"
- I thought "This is the pinnacle of life, to me: if [I] could do this-- y'know, if [I] could stand up on stage and make people laugh, that would be the ultimate accomplishment of my personality!" And I just thought "Laughs! To be working with laughs and jokes all the time: what a fun life that would be!"
- I get an idea, and I think "There's something funny about that." And I don't know what it is, at first; this is how my stuff usually works. Like, I saw-- like, McDonald's having a sign that says "60 Billion [Sold]". And I think "Now, that's-- y'know, there's something very funny about that: that a company of that size is still counting every burger. Y'know? I mean, there's some kind of insecurity there, that you're still thinking "How well-- Are we doing well?" "We're doing well. Aren't we doing well? Look at how many we've sold!"
- The word "pet peeve" is one of my biggest pet peeves, to tell you the truth.
- during an interview on Dennis Miller Live (27 June 1997)
- We all love Michael J. Fox. I'm a big fan of Michael J. Fox. I'm a big fan of Spin City. He plays the mayor, or something. I, on the other hand, play myself! And I guess last year, you people didn't quite buy me as me!
- presenting at the 49th Primetime Emmy Awards (14 September 1997)
"Confessions of an unromantic man" (February 1991) p 62
- Why is commitment the kryptonite of men, super and otherwise? [...] The trouble is that, deep down, most of us men believe we have a great deal in common with superheroes. This is the secret truth of all male thinking. I'm not even supposed to be telling you this. When men are growing up and reading about Batman, Spiderman and Superman, these are not fantasies, these are options.
- Men will always say they love women as a group, but somehow seem to be less fond of them as individuals. Women, on the other hand, often appreciate the man they're with but almost never have anything nice to say about our sex as a group. [...] Women are afraid of men they don't know. Men are afraid of women they know very well.
- I'm a single guy. I date. I think I enjoy it. For me, nothing caps off a week like four hours of solid tension.
- Where lipstick is concerned, the important thing is not the color, but to accept God's final decision on where your lips end.
- There is absolutely nothing you can do on a date to help you feel better about the tremendously uncomfortable situation you're in. And the reason it's uncomfortable is that no one's on the date for the date. They're on the date to see what's going to happen at the end of the date.
- There's nothing like a kiss to get something started between a man and a woman. When the lips meet, this is the official ignition. The instrument panel lights up. The finger moves across, flipping all the toggle switches up. The engines hum. Something is underway.
- I would say the main competition for the book is the video because for some reason people feel they need to come home with a rectangular block of something that they don't know the end of. The big advantage of a book is it's very easy to rewind. Close it and you're right back at the beginning.
Freeway of Love
- Seems to me the basic conflict between men and women, sexually, is that men are like firemen. To us, sex is an emergency, and no matter what we're doing we can be ready in two minutes. Women, on the other hand, are like fire. They're very exciting, but the conditions have to be exactly right for it to occur.
- Some people actually cheat on the people that they're cheating with, which is like holding up a bank and then turning to the robber next to you and going, "All right, give me everything you got, too."
- Remember when you were in school and they'd do those hearing tests? [...] I wanted to do unbelievable on the hearing test. I wanted them to come over to me and go, "We think you may have something close to super-hearing. What you heard was a cotton ball touching a piece of felt. We're sending the results to Washington, we'd like you to meet the President."
- Nobody's really getting in shape for anything. In modern society, you really don't have to be physically strong to do anything. The only reason that you're getting in shape is so you can get through the workout. So we're working out, so that we'll be in shape, for when we have to do our exercises. That's comedy.
- The other day I was watching women in a department store looking at clothes, and I noticed women don't try on the clothes, they get behind the clothes. They take a dress off the rack and hold it up against themselves. [...] They stick one leg way out and kind of lean back. I guess they need to know, "If someday I'm one-legged at a forty-five-degree angle, what am I going to wear?"
- To men, cleavage is like the nearest thing to a UFO landing nearby, that's what it is. To women, buying a pair of shoes that they really love is like boarding the alien ship. I think it's entirely possible that aliens have landed and they haven't been able to get our attention because we're so preoccupied with cleavage and shoes.
- It's very important for human beings to feel they are popular and well-liked among a large group of people that they have no interest in.
Shut Up and Drive
- What is the handicap parking situation at the Special Olympics? They must have to just stack like a hundred cars into those two spots.
- I'm on the plane, we left late, and the pilot says, "We're going to be making up some time in the air." I thought, "Isn't that interesting. They just make up time." That's why you have to reset your watch when you land. Of course, when they say they're making up time, obviously they're increasing the speed of the aircraft. Now my question is, if you can go faster, why don't you just go as fast as you can all the time? "Come on, there're no cops up here! Nail it! Give it some gas!"
- Flying doesn't make me nervous. Driving to the airport can make me nervous. Because if you miss that plane, there's no alternative. [...] No airline goes, "Well, you missed the flight. We do have a cannon leaving in about ten minutes. Would you be interested in that? It's not a direct cannon, you have to change cannons after you land."
- Frankly, I don't think people think of their office as a workplace anyway. I think they think of it as a stationery store with Danish. You want to get your pastry, your envelopes, your supplies, your toilet paper, six cups of coffee, and you go home.
- Whenever a friend refers a doctor they say, "Make sure you tell him that you know me." Why? What's the difference? He's a doctor. "Oh, you know Bob? Oh, okay. I'll give you the real medicine. Everybody else I'm giving Tic Tacs."
- The hardest part of being a clown, it seems to me, would be that you are constantly referred to as a clown. [...] How do you even know that you want to be a clown? I guess you just get to a point where your pants look so bad it's actually easier to become a clown than to have the proper alterations done.
The Thing Is the Thing
- When you want to enjoy something, you must never let logic get too much in the way.
- Don't you hate "To Be Continued"s on TV? [...] I mean the whole reason you watch a TV show is because it ends. If I wanted a long, boring story with no point to it, I've got my life.
- Maybe comets killed the dinosaurs, maybe they tripped and fell. What's the difference? We'll never know. We couldn't solve the Kennedy Assassination, we had films of that. Good luck with the Stegosaurus.
- That's what annoys me about sweepstakes companies, they always tease you with that, "You may have already won," and we all buy into it. [...] I'd like once for a sweepstakes company to have some guts, come out with the truth, just be honest with people one time. Send out envelopes, "You have definitely lost." You turn it over, giant printing, "Not even close!"
Out and Back
- It's not enough that we catch [lobsters], kill them, and eat them. We want to see them in the tank as we walk into the restaurant, sweating it out. [...] I saw one once that looked like he was attempting to clean the inside of the tank. "I just work here."
- If we really stuck with the classic Greek priorities, a sound mind in a sound body, the only two places we'd ever go is to a library or a gym.
- Neat and clean. That's the way I want to live. My idea of the perfect living room would be the bridge on the Starship Enterprise: big chair, nice TV, remote control. That's why Star Trek really was the ultimate male fantasy. Hurtling through space in your living room, watching TV.
The Ride of Your Life
- Monkeys have contributed a lot to society in their way. They were the first astronauts in the Sixties. Which I'm sure made perfect sense in the monkey brain. "I see, so instead of the little bellhop uniform, you want me to get into a rocket and orbit the earth at supersonic speed. Yeah, I think that is the next logical step for me."
- When I was a kid, my favorite ride was the bumper cars. What a wonderful fantasy of the driving experience as it could be. All confrontation, no destination. [...] Driving as an act of pure hostility.
- I'll tell you, you get into a hot tub with three or four really old men, this is not the cover of the Club Med brochure. They get out of the tub, it looks like an ad for gravity.
- [Death is] the last big move of your life. The hearse is like the van, the pallbearers are your close friends, the only ones you could really ask to help you with a big move like that. And the casket is that great, perfect box you've been looking for your whole life. The only problem is once you find it, you're in it.
- Do the people that work in these little shops in the airport have any idea what the prices are every place else in the world? "Yeah, $14, tuna sandwich. We think that's fair."
- You know how the old people drive? They drive slow, they sit low. That is their motto. The state flag of Florida should be just a steering wheel with a hat and two [sets of] knuckles on it. And then that left turn signal on from when they left the house that morning. That's a legal turn in Florida: it's known as an eventual left.
- When you're little, your life is up. The future is up. Everything you want is up. "Wait up! Hold up! Shut up!" "Mom, I'll clean up! Let me stay up!" For parents, of course, it's just the opposite: everything is down. "Just calm down!" "Slow down!" "Come down here!" "Sit down!" "Put that down!"
- The whole supermarket itself is designed to break down your sense of having any life outside the supermarket. It's like a casino: there's no clocks, no windows, no easily-accessible exits. You ever not buy anything in the supermarket and try to get out of there? It's impossible. There's no way out.
- I'm very impressed with this seedless watermelon product that they have for us. They've done it! We now have seedless watermelon. Pretty amazing! What are they planting to grow the seedless watermelon, I wonder? The melons aren't humpin', are they? They must be plantin' somethin'!
- Nobody wants anything less than "extra strength". "Extra strength" is the absolute minimum. You can't even get "strength"; "strength" is out now. It's all "extra strength". Some people are not satisfied with "extra"; they want "maximum". "Give me the 'maximum strength'." "Give me the maximum allowable human dosage." "Figure out what will kill me and then back it off a little bit."
- I was best man at a wedding one time; that was pretty good. Pretty good title, I thought: "best man". I thought it was a bit much! I thought we'd have the groom and a pretty good man. That's more than enough. If I'm the best man, why is she marrying him?
- Men and women will never understand each other; we all know that. It's just not gonna happen; just forget it. I know I will not understand women. I know I will never be able to understand how a woman could take boiling hot wax, pour it on her upper thighs, rip the hair out by the root... and still be afraid of a spider.
- Men, as an organization, are getting more women than any other group working anywhere in the world today! Wherever women are, we have men looking into the situation right now. We explored the Earth looking for women... even went to the Moon just to see if there [were] any women there. That's why we brought that little car. Why would you bring a car, unless there's some chance of going on a date?
- Dating is not easy. What is a date, really, but a job interview that lasts all night? The only difference between a date and a job interview is: not many job interviews is there a chance you'll end up naked at the end of it. "Well, Bill, the boss thinks you're the man for the position! Why don't you strip down, meet some of the people you'll be workin' with?"
- To a man, sex is like a car accident, anyway, and determining a female orgasm is like being asked "What did you see after the car went out of control?" "Well, I remember I heard a lot of screeching noises, I was facing the wrong way at one point, and in the end, my body was thrown clear!"
- I think, if I was an Olympic athlete, I would rather come in last than win the silver... if you think about it. Y'know, you win the gold, you feel good; you win the bronze, you think "Well, at least I got something." But you win that silver, that's like: "Congratulations! You... almost won." "Of all the losers, you came in first... of that group." "You're the number one... loser." "No one lost... ahead of you."
- The luge is the only sport I've ever seen that you could have people competing in it against their will, and it would be exactly the same. Y'know, if they were just grabbin' people off the street: "Hey! Hey, hey! What is this? I don't want to be in the luge!" Y'know, you put the helmet on 'em, you wouldn't really hear 'em screaming; just: (whoosh) "You're in the luge, buddy!" (panicked screams) World record. Didn't even want to do it! I want to see that event next year: the involuntary luge.
- I saw a thing, actually-- a study that said: speaking in front of a crowd is considered the #1 fear of the average person. I found that amazing! #2 was death. Death is #2? This means, to the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.
- There are many things we can point to as proof that the human being is not smart. The helmet is my personal favorite: the fact that we had to invent the helmet. Now, why did we invent the helmet? Well, because we were participating in many activities that were crackin' our heads. We looked at the situation. We chose not to avoid these activities, but to just make little plastic hats so that we can continue our head-crackin' lifestyles. The only thing dumber than the helmet is the helmet law, the point of which is to protect a brain that is functioning so poorly, it's not even tryin' to stop the cracking of the head that it's in!
- I think we should all wear the same exact clothes... because it seems to be what happens eventually, anyway. Any time you see a movie or a TV show where there's people from the future -- or another planet -- they're all wearin' the same outfit. I think the decision just gets made: "Alright, everyone, from now on, it's just gonna be the one-piece silver suit with the V-stripe and the boots. That's the outfit."
- It is amazing what people will believe. I mean, I've watched these infomercials late at night: if it gets late enough, the products start to look good to me. I have actually found myself sitting there thinking "Y'know... I don't think I have a knife that can cut through a shoe..." "I don't think any of my knives are good enough to cut through shoes!" "I'm gonna get this knife and cut my shoes up."
- So feeble, the things we come up with to foil crooks: like the "wanted" posters at the post office? You're there, you got your package; you're tryin' to mail somethin'. This guy's wanted in twelve states. "Yeah? Now what? Okay?" Y'know, I check the guy standing in line behind me. If it's not him, that's pretty much all I can do. Why don't they just hold on to this guy when they're taking his picture?
- I watch Sesame Street a lot [these days] because I have two little kids. And a lot of people ask me, y'know, would I ever consider doing another show, and... I sit there, and I watch this "Elmo" guy; and he is so likeable, and so funny, and so charming. And I sit there with my daughter, and I think "Let him bust his little red ass every week!"
- during a Seinfeld reunion on Oprah (29 November 2004)
- The equivalent for a normal person would be to go in to work in your underwear... and try and do your job that you normally do. All of a sudden, you can't do anything. That's how a comedian feels when he's doing a new bit.
- When you're crafting an act, you need to see how that material works in front of each different type of situation.
- Twenty minutes is not comedy. An hour, an hour and fifteen minutes: that's comedy, y'know? You learn how to open, how to sustain, how to pace.
- What is this urge to get information we already have? Whenever I'm in a car, and I drive by a mirrored office building, I look in the reflection to see if I'm in the car. This is information I already have! What am I looking for? Why am I checking? And what would I do if I looked and I saw that there was a small Korean woman driving my car?
- I always say your number of years in comedy is about your maturity level. When you're doing it ten years, you're like a 10-year-old. Fifteen, you're like a 15-year-old; you're start-- a slight bit of maturity. Twenty years, you're like-- kind of a grown-up, but still completely infantile.
- I have this image in my mind of what a comedian's supposed to be... that I'm always trying to live up to, and that I always fall short of. [...] I'm the show for the night. I have to make that evening work for those people.
- When I was starting out, I used to sit down and write a couple times a week. And then, one day, I was watching these construction workers go back to work; I was watchin' 'em kind of trudgin' down the street... and I was just-- It was like a revelation to me, and I realized "These guys don't want to go back to work after lunch, but they're goin'... 'cause that's their job!" And I [thought] "If they can exhibit that level of dedication for that job, I should be able to do the same." "Just trudge your ass in!"
- Any new technology: it just gets translated into a sexual form. Home video? "Sex video!" Phone? "Phone sex!" Internet? "Porno website!" Copy machine? "Put your ass on it!"
- I'm supposed to get the colonoscopy test. When you get into your forties, I think-- I have heard -- from the healthcare professionals -- that you-- it's very important to get the camera up your ass. I have resisted this... because I feel the press has invaded my life enough. [pause for laughter] I feel that I will draw the line here, and say "no" to the pooparazzi.
- The question is this: "What have I been doing?" Everybody says to me "Hey, you don't do the show anymore! What do you do?" I'll tell you what I do. Nothin'! [pause for applause] Yeah, I know what you're thinkin': "That sounds pretty good!" You're thinkin' "I might like to do nothing myself!" Well, let me tell you: doing nothing is not as easy as it looks. You have to be careful... because the idea of doin' anything, which could easily lead to doin' somethin'... that would cut into your nothin'... and that would force [you] to have to drop everything.
- excerpted from an appearance on Late Show with David Letterman
- I used to sit in my room at... let's see: how old-- I was ten years old... playing [Bill Cosby's] albums and just crying laughing, and just in wonderment at what he was doing, and just-- that I had never heard somebody be so funny before.
- I've already done something, and [Bill] reminded me of that. And now, this-- I really just want to do what I love to do... and I want to go where he's gone. Y'know? I want to be able to explore this [comedy] thing and maybe find some-- That's what I keep thinking: that maybe there's something else out there! I just feel like I can go somewhere with it. I don't know where.
Seinfeld Featurettes (2004-2007)Edit
"How It Began" (2004)Edit
- [Seinfeld] was gonna be a 90-minute special that was gonna fill in for Saturday Night Live one weekend-- one Saturday night when they were off. [...] And I just didn't think that you could sustain that for 90 minutes. I thought maybe you could do it for 30 minutes. And that's how it became a TV series. It was gonna be a special all the way, but I just didn't think we could last 90 minutes. So, instead, we ended up makin' 90 hours.
- [Larry and I] had a lot of fun writing then. We always had fun writing; it was never a struggle. I don't remember us ever really racking our brains too much in writing. We had a great chemistry.
- I don't remember when I saw the testing results, but it's really one of everyone's favorite things about [Seinfeld], is how poorly it was received by the network people. [...] My favorite thing in the testing is that the show was considered "contemporary, unusual, humorous, and appealing to young adults: therefore, not something that we would want". (laughs)
- Once we got [Julia], I was absolutely convinced, from then on, that nothing could really hurt the show. That it really-- It just felt like a balanced team.
- You almost kind of knew you were on the right track, when people at the network didn't like it. I mean, I wanted them to like it, but we weren't going to, y'know, really change the tone of the show. I couldn't have done a show any other-- I couldn't have done any other show than that show; I just wouldn't have-- wouldn't know how to do it!
- NBC -- when we suggested that we wanted to do this one-set idea where the gang just waits for a table the entire show and never gets it -- they thought that was very static and not appealing. And they didn't like-- want us to write it, they didn't want us to film it; and after we filmed it, they held it back and didn't run it until towards the end of the season, 'cause they were so sure that this was going to really be one of the real bombs of the season.
- The idea that you have two guys who've never written a show being run by a network executive that had never had a show, leading to a show that has a unique and unusual feel: this is a model that all the networks subsequently ignored -- and never did again -- except for HBO! I think HBO-- I don't know if they really knew that that's how our show evolved, but that's a network that hires people that they like and says... that's the end of their job! "We like you; do what you think you should do." And it leads to much more distinctive programming!
"Running with the Egg" (2005)Edit
- The journey of someone coming in the room with an idea for something, and then saying "Yeah, that sounds good; let's do that", and then, the-- it going into an outline form, and then a script form, and then a read-through, and then a rewrite, and then a rehearsal, and then more rewrite, more rehearsal, then a shoot night, and then an editing process, and then finally going on the air, is essentially an off-road egg race where you carry the egg in a spoon.
- [The writers] knew they were talking to odd guys, y'know? Larry and I were odd guys. So they wouldn't come in-- They-- Y'know, I mean, they would come in and pitch, and obviously, some things would hit, and some things would miss, but they never thought "This is too crazy for these guys." Nobody would think that... 'cause clearly, we were capable of just about anything!
- There was a tone we set with the writing staff -- that Larry set -- that it had to be original; it had to be unique. It-- it had to be something very funny and very fresh.
- I remember somebody coming in and pitching me an idea one time, and I'm saying "No. No, I don't think so." And-- and the writer said to me "But we've done this so many times before!" And I went "That is not a point in its favor!"
- Larry and I just had that great cross filter: if both of us kind of related to [an idea] in some way, it seemed to work.
- [Larry and I] were all about writing. We didn't really want to hear from anybody, talk to anybody. It was just writing and-- and rehearsing. The casting was quick; editing was quick. Everything else we did very quickly, but we labored over the writing.
- That takes a lot of work: to set up six different scenes that are not on stage, plus do a stage show in front of an audience. It's a production issue that the average fan wasn't aware of, but I think they appreciated-- It gave the show a vitality and an expansiveness.
- I was in every room: from the writing room to the stage, to the editing room, to the rewrite, and I knew what the original intent always was.
- I used to say that each season was a transatlantic submarine voyage: that you would load up the sub with all the supplies -- y'know, you-- we would do pre-production: we would come up with outlines and story ideas, and get as much stuff as we could in advance -- but once that-- we shoved off and we were out into the ocean, you just-- you quickly went through your supplies about a third of the way, and then, you would just start at eating each other to get through the season.
- It was always heartbreaking. You could get [an idea] all the way to the edit... and it-- and it falls apart. You got it all that way and right before it's in the-- just as it goes in the show, you go "That's not the right angle... and it's not funny at all now." And even though you had it all that way, and then, just at the last moment, you just "Oh! You dropped the egg!" Splat.
"The Breakthrough Season" (2005)Edit
- This was really one of Larry's most brilliant ideas for the show, was these arcs; and this was one of the best ones, was George and Jerry tryin' to get this pilot on NBC.
- My friend Larry Miller used to come by the set all the time. And I said to him "Y'know, for the life of me, I can't figure out why this show isn't really popular." He [said] "Oh, don't worry! It will be." Y'know? And I said "Come on! We've been here four years!" [...] And he kept sayin' to me "It's gonna catch on!" [I was] thinking "'Catch on'?" Y'know? You don't suddenly catch on, y'know, after you've been on TV for four years! And-- but sure enough, he was right!
- We weren't really trying to gain more attention or-- We certainly weren't trying to be provocative in any way. We were just -- as any TV show is -- constantly struggling to come up with new ideas. And when you're struggling, bad ideas start to sound like good ideas. And crazy ideas start to sound like sane ideas! And that's what happened in Season 4, is a lot of crazy ideas started to make sense.
"Jason + Larry = George" (2005)Edit
- [George is] like the kind of guy that you hang around with in New York who's not in the [stand-up] business, but he's been your friend for a long time and you're just kind of-- In the important ways, you're too similar to ever not be friends. [...] Even though your lives are in completely different places, the friendship survives, 'cause in the important ways of shallowness and neurotic exploration of meaningless detail: that's where you bonded.
- Whenever an idea would come out that was too crazy for me, it would always fit George perfectly. George was really a catch-all for a lot of ideas. He was a guy who you could "buy" doing any number of extreme problem-solving techniques.
- George never felt guilty that he was trying to cheat someone, because he had already been cheated, as far as he was concerned! He was just getting a small amount back from the casino that had already totally emptied out his bank account!
"The Bench" (2004)
- I don't think there's another TV series that you could name where the list of absolutely outstanding characters is so long. You-- you can't even begin to just say "Well, it was a show about four people"; it wasn't. I mean, they would've-- [Seinfeld] wouldn't have lasted so long -- at the level that it was at -- if it was just the four of us every week.
"Kramer vs. Kramer" (2004)
- The beautiful thing that Michael discovered-- and I don't know at what point it was; maybe it was the second year [of Seinfeld]: he was playing Kramer a little slower than the other three characters, a little dumber. And then, he got the idea that he should play it that everyone else is dumber than him. And that was the key to it. Once he got that: then, the character just took off!
"Queen of the Castle" (2006)
- Larry had a great word for [Julia]: he said that she gives [Seinfeld] "luster". [...] And she did; she was like the pearl that smoothed over all this kind of rough, kind of low-minded behavior of the other three characters.
"Jerry Seinfeld" (2007)
- That last [season], I really felt like-- was really a gift to the audience, 'cause I was really done after the eighth. But I decided to take a deep breath and try and do one last season, because the audience support that we enjoyed was just phenomenal.
"Fresh Air" Interview (2007)Edit
- The trouble with [writing a screenplay] is: you have this story, which is such a nuisance! Y'know, in stand-up, you just tell the funny part. But in a movie, the audience demands that you tell them some sort of story that makes sense. And this was a tremendous handicap for me [on Bee Movie], because [the story] frankly doesn't interest me that much.
- I always felt like I was very much a "hook"-less comedian, and that I would always be hook-less. And that-- I thought "Maybe that's my hook!" Y'know? That I just don't have anything that you latch onto as "He's the guy who does this" or "looks like this".
- Stand-up is the only thing that I knew -- that I could be sure -- that I-- if I was doing it, and audiences were responding well, that I wasn't cheating. 'Cause there is no way to cheat, in stand-up! It's the naked-est, purest thing in the world.
- A stand-up act is like a tennis game: I mean, even if you're good, you gotta keep playing if you want to keep that game at a certain point.
- There's always this thing with "Well, he's no Richard Pryor!" Y'know? And I always, y'know, would apologize for not being raised by prostitutes in a whorehouse. It was just-- there was just very little I could do about it! And I try to overcome it as best I can.
- You start to know, on stage, when to get off. There's just this feeling that you develop from years and years of doing it; you just feel that "We're getting-- Everyone's really having a good time... and I think, in another few minutes, this is going to start to get old... 'Good night, everybody!'" And everyone's happy! [...] It's just... proportions. Y'know? I guess it's a function of art and economy: that economy is essential to all good art. And I thought "Let's-- " Even though we had done a lot [of Seinfeld]: nine years, 180 episodes, I thought "We can't do one too many, or it's gonna taint the whole thing."
- When the Beatles ended, it was so sudden, and it made what they did somehow more valuable. 'Cause it-- just suddenly, it was over, and that's it. That's the complete set. Y'know? Nine years, twelve albums, whatever it is: that's it. So, I kind of took from that "I want to try and do that".
- Pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a gap. When you stub your toe on the foot of the bed, that was a gap in knowledge. And the pain is a lot of information really quick. That's what pain is.
- Do you think if they only made one Hangover -- and didn't make the other two -- it would be considered a comedy classic? Do you think that you destroyed what would have been a comedy classic, by the cash grab of II and III?
- playing himself on Between Two Ferns (14 June 2018)
- All dads dress in the style of the last good year of their lives.
- in the interview with Jimmy Fallon "Jerry Seinfeld Shames Every Older Man for Wearing Jeans" (23 November 2018)
Talking Funny (2011)Edit
- When I go to see somebody work, I don't want to see your "new hour". I want to see the act!
- No one is more judged in civilized society than the stand-up comedian. Every twelve seconds, you're rated.
- All I had to do was do [stand-up] once, and I didn't-- Really, success wasn't my objective; it was just "I wanna be one of those guys!" If I can be one of those guys, I'm-- I win everything!
- Really good bits go deep into your head and keep comin' back.
- My first bit that I thought "That's a real bit!" was about the tramway between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island. 1976: the city was going bankrupt. I go "Oh! That's great! They're putting up rides for us! Next thing, I guess they'll be putting up a rollercoaster through the ghetto!"
- One of the things that bothered me about acting is that a lot of people just say they can do it and-- and can't! There's nobody in this world [of comedy] that says they can do it and can't do it.
- You can't be the one who decides why you like something. It doesn't matter!
- I think we [comedians] deal with fear more viscerally than almost anyone! I mean, you feel the audience's fear, your own fear. The whole show is about quelling fear!
- I think that comedy is the be-all and end-all.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (2012 — Present)Edit
Season 1 (2012)Edit
Episode 1 (with Larry David)
- One of the things that the comedian mindset requires is laziness.
Episode 2 (with Ricky Gervais)
- Fear is funny. Especially when it's not fake!
Episode 3 (with Brian Regan)
- All human endeavor is killing time. All of it.
Episode 4 (with Alec Baldwin)
- Being a dad is-- y'know, it's a surfboard on a rainbow. You're gettin' all you can handle of life.
Episode 5 (with Joel Hodgson)
- The improvements in the engineering of cars has enabled people to express their inner asshole-ness. You think "Why are people [today] so ill-behaved?" They're not! They just never had the tools to express it before.
- Most things that are weird are not "weird good".
- The idea of bosses and employees is just hilarious to us [comedians]! [...] It's such a typically human attempt to organize what is un-organizable: life.
Episode 8 (with Colin Quinn and Mario Joyner)
- Do you think that's how life ends? That you just-- really just go "It's enough. I had enough." I know when my time comes, that how I'm gonna feel. I already feel that way!
Episode 9 (with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks)
- I like that [obituaries] boil the whole guy's life down to "Invented the ballpoint-pen spring".
- The timing of the check coming at the end of the meal makes no sense. 'Cause that's when the food is the least interesting to you.
- I could talk about comedy a lot, but I think it's kind of like talking about sex: you can do any fancy dive you want, [but] it's just a foot of water.
Episode 10 (with Michael Richards)
- Jail is such a-- really a way that a grown-up would punish a child. "You go in there and you stay in there!"
- We're all tryin' to get to the same island. Whether you swim, fly, surf, or skydive in, it doesn't matter. What matters is when the red light comes on.
- Our job is not for us to enjoy it. Our job is to make sure they enjoy it, and that's what we did [on Seinfeld].
Season 2 (2013)Edit
Episode 1 (with Sarah Silverman)
- [The comedy brain] picks up so much, except a lot of basic stuff that you need.
- God has no rhyme or reason to who he gives a sense of humor to.
- Have you noticed the popularity of Ultimate Fighting and The Real Housewives? These two things are two weights on the same barbell. What it is, I think, is the worst aspects of each gender exaggerated to the maximum.
- I've figured out that the "non-event" is the best part of life.
Episode 2 (with David Letterman)
- The comedy universe is a swamp of madness.
- I don't think comedy has changed, and it never will change.
- Comedy is the closest thing to justice. If you're funny, you survive; if you're not, you don't.
Episode 3 (with Gad Elmaleh)
- It really speaks to how bad [American] food is, that it's work.
- regarding the server question "Are you still working on it?"
Episode 5 (with Seth Meyers)
- If you give someone a 50, it's a big "thing" now, where they check it quite a bit. And it's like "Well, I used it! Why can't you use it?" We're all just kind of going along with this "paper has value" scam. Right?
- I always feel like -- before you get a dog -- someone should take a pyramid of Alpo cans and a pyramid of dog shit, and put the dog in the middle. "Now, what we're gonna do... is you're gonna buy all of this and turn it into this. Do you still want to do this?"
- The truth ends every conversation.
Episode 6 (with Chris Rock)
- Somebody was sayin' [somethin'] the other day about "You gotta be funny, or they'll turn on you!" [...] And I go "They should turn on you!" It's a very humbling life, at any level.
Season 3 (2014)Edit
Episode 1 (with Louis C.K.)
- I don't know why people always assume that the guest is more interesting than the host.
- Do you know the first thing I said as a child, before I said "Mama" or "Dada"? I said "Leave me alone!" (laughs) Is that not the mantra of stand-up comedy?
Episode 2 (with Patton Oswalt)
- A [stand-up] bit is a bar of gold. A talk-show panel story is something that's too good to throw out but not good enough to use.
Episode 3 (with Jay Leno)
- The real motivation of bein' a comedian is if you really love the sound of a laugh. And if you love that, you will never want to stop.
Episode 4 (with Todd Barry)
- Comedians have such an intense allergy to pretension.
- I don't think I felt "at home" on Earth, as a human, until I walked into a comedy club.
Episode 5 (with Tina Fey)
- It was the back nine [episodes of a season], was the backbreaker for us, right? You [can] kind of figure out the first ten over the summer; you pull three more out of nowhere; and then the back nine is just-- you're Sandra Bullock in Gravity.
Episode 7 (with Howard Stern)
- The comedian studies himself; the actor studies other people. The comedian wants to be himself; the actor wants to be anyone but themselves.
- Comedy is more personal than food.
- I'll tell you the greatest thing that I've ever achieved in my career: I was on the cover of Mad magazine. And of course, I'm saying "Hello Neuman."
- To me, America used to be a place that made steel, and cars, and had giant department stores. Now, basically, we produce amateur talent and people [who] judge amateur talent.
Season 9 (2017)Edit
Episode 2 (with Norm Macdonald)
- Poetry is bad standup. It's carefully chosen words that have no laugh at the end.*
New York Times Interview (2012)Edit
- I've probably been working on this [Pop Tart bit] for two years. [...] It's a long time to spend on something that means absolutely nothing. But that's what I do; that's what people want me to do, is spend a lot of time wastefully... so that then, I can then waste their time!
- I like the first line to be funny right away. "When I was a kid, and they invented the Pop Tart, the back of my head blew right off!" And that got the whole thing started: that a specific part of my head blew off; not just my head, but just the back.
- "In the midst of that dark and hopeless moment, the Pop Tart suddenly appeared in the supermarket! And we just stared at it like [it was] an alien spacecraft and we were like... chimps in the dirt playing with sticks." [...] What makes that joke is you get "chimps", "dirt", "playing", and "sticks". In seven words, four of them are funny!
- "How did they know that there would be a need for a frosted, fruit-filled, heatable rectangle in the same shape as the box it comes in, and with the same nutrition as the box it comes in?"
- I'm looking for the connective tissue that give me the really tight, smooth link, like a jigsaw-puzzle link, and if it's too long-- if it's just a split-second too long [...] [I] will shave letters off of words, [I'll] count syllables, y'know, to get it just-- It's more like songwriting.
- That's the hardest part: if you have a long bit, the biggest laugh has to be at the end. It has to be!
- "Once this Pop Tart had come into the world, I didn't understand why we were still eating other kinds of food. 'Cause this seemed to be definitely the new way. [...] Two in the packet and two slots in the toaster. 'Why two?' One's not enough; three's too many. And they can't go stale, 'cause they were never fresh."
- In my world, the wrong-er somethin' feels, the right-er it is. So, to waste this much time on something this stupid is-- that's-- that felt good to me. [...] It's the exact opposite of what we do here at the Times, which is: we spend appropriate amounts of time on deserving subjects. So, I'm the exact opposite of that: inappropriate and undeserving subjects.
David Lynch Foundation Gala (2013)Edit
- When it's your name on the goddamn show... the pressure is-- it's intense! And then, the show got successful, and everybody expected each week to be even better than the last, and it was a lot of pressure. And I loved every second of it, but it was a lot of pressure and a lot of work, and it was all great, but: never could have accomplished it without [Transcendental Meditation].
- You don't need to die for what you want to accomplish. And that's what TM is about. [...] I came up with the line that "TM is like you have a cell phone and someone gives you the charger... and you go 'Oh... this is-- now, I can keep using this thing and it will work all the time!'."
- You know that tremendous feeling of power, when your phone is fully charged? And somebody calls, and you go "I want to hear every detail of this story! I am loaded with juice!" That's what TM is.
Reddit "Ask Me Anything" #1 (2014)Edit
- Working with the [Seinfeld] cast was pure heaven for me. We were as well suited to each other as it seems when you watch the show.
- If you can walk to work or take your bike on a daily basis, I think that's just about the coolest thing that there is. Every morning I listen to the traffic [report] on the radio, and they talk about how they are jammed and I just laugh.
- in response to the question "If you weren't doing comedy, what would you want to do?"
- I chose comedy because I thought it seemed much easier than work. And more fun than work. It turned out to be much harder than work, and not easy at all. But you still don't have to ever really grow up. And that's the best thing of all.
- The pitch for [Seinfeld], the real pitch, when Larry and I went to NBC in 1988, was we want to show how a comedian gets his material. The show about nothing was just a joke in an episode many years later, and Larry and I to this day are surprised that it caught on as a way that people describe the show, because to us it's the opposite of that.
- Never try and make a comedian laugh with one of his own jokes.
- The thing about [Seinfeld] is that you have to realize that I had to look into the faces of those people, six inches away, so if you think Kramer is funny on TV, imagine his real face six inches from your nose, how funny that is. You can't imagine. It's impossible not to laugh. So I would.
- Very early on in my career, I hit upon this idea of being the Heckle Therapist. So that when people would say something nasty, I would immediately become very sympathetic to them and try to help them with their problem and try to work out what was upsetting them, and try to be very understanding with their anger. It opened up this whole fun avenue for me as a comedian, and no one had ever seen that before.
- I still think everything has its life cycle and if you respect it, people enjoy it longer.
- [Larry and I] never obsess over anything that isn't mundane.
- I was happy with the Seinfeld finale because we didn't want to do another episode as much as we wanted to have everybody come back to the show we had so much fun with. It was a way to thank all of the people who worked on the show over the years that we thought made the show work.
- You may have noticed that I tend to quit things soon after doing them, like TV series, animated movies, book writing, broadway plays. I do feel very strongly in stopping the second I feel like I'm not excited anymore, whatever I'm doing.
- The only line I quote from [Seinfeld] [...] is "If you're one of us, you'll take a bite." [...] Sometimes I'll quote Newman in flames screaming "Oh the humanity."
- Newman would be my favorite supporting character. I mean, when I got to have a real evil nemesis like Superman would have, that was a dream come true for me.
- When I started out in comedy in the 70s, if you didn't do clean humor you weren't getting on TV, so I started doing that so I could be on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. And then when I saw what other people were doing, I just always wanted to be a little different.
- Writer's block is a phony, made up, BS excuse for not doing your work.
- I would say that I am 90% serious in my day. Comedy is no joke.
- When I heard that they were going to do a sitcom with a secret agent who was funny, that it was going to be a comedy secret agent TV show, and it was going to be called "Get Smart," the back of my head blew off. So that was really my favorite show when I was a kid.
- I would go so far as to say that was the key to the entire [Seinfeld] show, was that we really felt like together we were funny, and then the audience felt it, and that's how you can somehow catch lightning in a bottle.
- We improvised virtually nothing [on Seinfeld], as a matter of fact. That's how good the actors were, that it sometimes seems like they are improvising. But we also knew each other so well that we knew exactly what sentences to put in their mouths that would seem natural.
"Success Without Stress" Interview (2014)Edit
- The way I look at life, basically, is: it's exhausting. And... (laughs) Doing-- Being busy is exhausting; doing nothing is exhausting. No matter what you do... as a human -- on Earth -- it's exhausting.
- I don't separate the mind and the body, as a thing. If my body's tired, my mind's tired; if my mind's tired, my body's tired. [...] People say "Mind and body! Mind and body!", and that-- and I dismiss that separation completely.
- Nobody goes berserk eating in the morning. You never wake up in the morning and eat a decent breakfast, and then attack a box of brownies. You don't do it. But at night, we all do it! Why? We're tired. And when you're tired, your willpower goes away. Willpower requires energy.
- There was [an] incredible amount of luck -- good luck -- that I had, that made [Seinfeld] what it was. On the other hand, I could argue against that. I could say "I'm the one who said to Larry David: 'Y'know, when you and I talk, it's really funny. We should write something together'."
- We worked to death. Y'know? That's what Larry and I did. We did not rest, we did not... spare an ounce of effort; we would just order people out of the room: "Get out! Get out! We're working!" Y'know? And we-- And that's why those scripts were as good as they were: 'cause when they got to that table, and those actors got 'em, they were worked. So: is that luck? I don't think so. That wasn't luck. That was-- We earned that.
- When I think of the things that I love: more than money, more than love, more than... just about anything, I love energy. I love it. And I pursue it.
- That's the first thing an audience wants to feel when someone gets up on a stage: "Does this person know what they're doing?" "'Cause if they do, then I can relax." And when you're trying to elicit laughter, that's-- they have to be relaxed. If they're worried about you, the laughs are harder to get.
- Stand-up is a physical challenge. It is a mental challenge, but equally physical. And when you're young, of course, it's a breeze! 'Cause you're blessed with youth. Y'know? The ultimate weapon is youth, in life.
- The specific element that occurs in every single successful joke is surprise. Surprise. A line of logic is going one way, and then, it doesn't. I call it "making non-sense". You go "That doesn't make any sense, but I get it." That-- That's the words that people use to describe a joke: "I got it."
- I find things that you've thought of, but don't-- that you're aware of, but haven't really analyzed. And that's the whole act!
- Stand-up is a very scientific and very exhaustive study of the human experience.
- If you want to be funny, you've got to have energy. Energy sells jokes. All sales requires energy, but stand-up is a hard sell. I'm sellin' you somethin' you don't even need!
- [Stand-up is] a martial art. It's voice, it's action, it's gesture; and everything is synchronized to land on that [weakest] point. You ever watch these karate guys? They hit that brick: it's a perfect arrow that hits that target, and when it-- and it's perfect! It's a concentration of energy. And that's what elicits the laugh.
- The first thing I want to do [on stage] is: I want you to have confidence in me. Well, how am I gonna do that? I'm gonna take the joke that fails the least amount of [the] time, and I'm gonna put that at the front of the set. It's just tech-- it's scientific technique. [...] If the first thing I say gets a laugh: at that moment, 100% of everything I've said gets a laugh! And now, I've got your confidence.
- Comedy -- and show business -- is-- look: either I win, or you win. There's no truce! Same thing with television: I knew that [Seinfeld]-- I knew-- look: either you're gonna kill me, or I'm gonna kill you. And after nine years, I was still killin' that series, but that series would eventually have killed me.
- I'm not a big fan of the "long set" in comedy. Guys like to go on, like to do an hour and 45 minutes. The audience will win if you stay out there too long! [...] I want to go out. I want to get you down. I want to beat the snot out of you and get out of there before you realize that I... beat the odds!
- I know people would want a-- a [Seinfeld] reunion show. That's what I want. My theory of show business is "Do not give the public what it wants." [...] When people stop asking you for the reunion, then you know you've blown it.
- If you really want to make money, never make a decision based on money. 'Cause if you make-- if you chase money, you're gonna get less of it. If you chase a thing that you love -- that's interesting -- only because you love that thing, you'll make more money. I-- I just believe that's-- in the arts, that's the only way to make money, is to never consider money as a part of your decision.
- Stand-up is now easy to learn, harder to master because once you get halfway decent at it, [...] you can do other things. And if you do one other thing, you're not gonna get good at it; it's just too damn hard.
- Funny is the-- is the world that I live in. You're funny? I'm interested. You're not funny? I'm not interested.
- That's one of-- a beautiful thing about having kids, is you reproduce people that you can relate to.
- I think it's a dangerous thing for comedians to mature or-- too much. And my wife will tell you I'm doing a fantastic job of not maturing too much.
Paley Center Interview (2014)Edit
- The idea of [Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee], honestly, was to try and create something that fit a whole new medium. I really was thinking "What would be a good TV show for a phone?" That was really where I started. And I thought "This would be fun for a phone, 'cause you don't have to follow a story."
- I pretty much engage with funny people, or weird people, or, y'know, kind of "off" people. Anybody who's a little normal -- even just take, let's say, a normal actor or actress -- I'm lost. I got nothin'. I'm not curious; I'm not interested. You got a show? I don't care.
- Being funny has not that much to do with what a great comedy act is about. A great comedy act is a machine that's built. Being funny is the fuel, but you gotta have a whole machine to burn it, and that's the act.
- For some reason, this is the big question that a regular person will ask you after a show: "How do you remember [all that]?" I don't know why they ask that. You don't have anything else to remember!
Reddit "Ask Me Anything" #2 (2014)Edit
- The TV only works one way. You can't just yell at me and expect me to respond positively. You have to introduce yourself first. You can't just yell "HEY JERRY, C'MERE!" and expect that to work.
- Who would I cast to play me? [...] You know who I think would be good? Would be Matthew Broderick. He's got a good small funny. You need a small funny to play a comedian, not a big funny. Most comedians, you know, in their daily life are small funny, it's the little looks, the little things that they say, they're not clown-y.
- I could have easily done [Seinfeld] for one or two or three more years, but it would have changed the way people look back at it. I think I made the right decision. Because people like the show now even more than they did in the 1990s, because it didn't get worn out.
- I'm very good at streamlining a series of activities so that everything gets done in the amount of time that I have. I am very good with the clock. Like if I have a lot of stuff to do and a limited amount of time, I'm very good at figuring it all out. I'm very efficient in everything that i do, I never waste time so that I have more time to waste.
- No. Books take a long time, and I don't get to hear the laughs.
- in response to the question "Any chance that you'll write another book?"
- There is a similar kind of feel for rhythm and tone in comedy as there is in music, I think. You have to, you know, words - you use words in the same careful way in a song that you use them in a joke. Having just the right word in just the right place seems to make it work.
- At one point, in the early 80s, I got a part on a sitcom called Benson. And I was on the show for 3 episodes, and then I got fired. And I thought that would be the only break I was ever going to get. It was just a youthful lack of perspective. But at the time, I thought that was it. But it really ended up making me really get into being a much better standup comedian so that I wouldn't be dependent on other people. It ended up being a good thing. The best things in my life have been the bad things that taught me stuff.
- I think funny is always kind of time-proof, so I think [Seinfeld] could have worked even today. Obviously it would have been a completely different type of show. But you know, what made the show work was the bringing together a bunch of great actors & great writers in one place at one time.
- I felt as a child that i related more to blue than my own name. I have a very powerful connection with that color. And it's always been extremely important to me. It's weird, I don't understand it myself, but there's certain blues - Jeep Wrangler makes a blue that will make me stop walking on the sidewalk, and just turn and stare at it.
- A cat is a small sneaky animal that manages to get by without any real relationships.
- I would say the advice I would give [my younger self], or any young person, would be "Keep your head up in failure, and your head down in success."
- I don't see people in the audience, I'm in an ultra-focused state when I'm onstage, I only go by sound - I listen to the audience but I don't look at anything in particular. I'm really visualizing the stuff I'm talking about.
- I don't know if the average person would like [being famous]. I really like it. I think it might surprise them that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. I think most people think of it as a problem, but it's all in how you look at it. But I do think that's the case, you get a lot more than it costs you in privacy invasion or whatever.
- Truthfully, I loved working on every episode [of Seinfeld], we just had the best time and got along great, and there were a number of years when the show wasn't successful and we still loved it.
- I was very surprised by Festivus catching on, but I think people just like the line rhyming Festivus with "rest of us" is 90% of it. And no presents, and you don't have to buy decorations, it's just an aluminum pole.
- It really is funny, it's very easy for me to remember that [Seinfeld] was very unsuccessful for a number of years, the first 4 years, and I remember thinking "I don't know why people don't seem to like this, it seems so funny to me." But I never thought it was going to be a big success. But it worked out.
- The worst advice is, you know, you have to do more to promote yourself. That's the worst advice. The best advice is to do your work, and you won't have to worry about anything else.
- Being old is great. There's so many things that you're done with. Like running really fast. I was single until I was 45, and I liked that, but then I couldn't take it anymore. So when you're old, you get to relax a little bit. And you can see much more clearly of what's going on in the world. When you're young, everything is really confusing, and when you're old you can see through people and events really clearly, and I like that a lot.
- I think it's very strange that men like dogs and women like cats because women want attention and men want to be left alone, it should be the complete opposite.
Clio Award Acceptance Speech (2014)Edit
- I love advertising because I love lying. [pause for laughter] In advertising, everything is the way you wish it was. I don't care that it won't be like that when I actually get the product being advertised, because in between seeing the commercial and owning the thing, I'm happy! And that's all I want.
- We are a hopeful species. Stupid, but hopeful.
- I think spending your life trying to dupe innocent people out of hard-won earnings to buy useless, low-quality, misrepresented items and services is an excellent use of your energy!
- If your things don't make you happy, you're not getting the right things!
- I have always wanted a Clio. I don't know much about it... but I know it's a good award, because in 1991, they screwed up this whole presentation, and there were a bunch of awards left over, and all of these ad people here climbed up onto the stage and tried to grab them! So, to me, that says: "This means something!" That really happened, and it's my all-time favorite award-show occurrence because it was so honest. People just said "I want a damn Clio", and they went for it.
- Thank you all for this great honor, and for all your great work. I hope it makes you happy, as you have made me happy for this five minutes of my life, which will last until I get to the edge of this stage and it hits me that this was all a bunch of nonsense.
Judd Apatow Interview (2014)Edit
from Apatow's Sick in the Head (2015) pp 185–198
- I was a minimalist from the beginning. I think that's why I've always done well as a comedian. [...] If you always want less, in words as well as things, you'll do well as a writer.
- Bee Movie was a very unhappy experience, from start to finish. I remember standing in the back of the theater and it wasn't great, but it was decent and, and I remember listening to their laughs and thinking, These laughs are shit. That was not worth it.
- Once I'm done with [a] bit, it either goes in the garbage or the accordion folder. Those are the only two destinations. And then it's in the air. It has to survive on its own. Bits are like turtles right after they hatch, running to the beach.
- [Seinfeld] gave me everything, and that was always my thought when I was doing it. If I sacrifice every cell of energy that I have doing this, the rest of my life will be pretty good. So I just died on the shield. I went to the point where I thought, If I keep going, I could lose my sanity. That was how far I took it mentally.
- I've always loved getting sold [on something]. That's true of all good salesmen. All good salesmen love to get taken in by a pitch.
New York Times Profile (2015)Edit
- What's wrong with [pursuing vanity projects]? [...] If there's no vanity, that's the end of show business.
- The less you know about a field, the better your odds. Dumb boldness is the best way to approach a new challenge.
- Should I mention the other shows that were on at [the same time as Seinfeld]? 'Unsolved Mysteries'? 'Alf'? Where are they? Why is there no Hulu deal for them?
- It might be fun to see what it's like to run something into the ground. I missed out on that. I'm curious about it. I want to know what it's like for everyone else.
- I like all jokes. Okay? That's what I do; that's what I live for. There's really nothing else I care about, than jokes. And I don't really care who the victim is or who has-- whose feelings have to be hurt. If it's a good joke, I'm into it.
- What I am good at -- and what every comedian is good at -- is knowing how to carefully manage an audience's attention span.
- The Internet is the most brutal medium for attention span. The distance from your finger to that "off" -- or "stop" -- is-- it's-- you're holding it right there, while you're watching the thing!
- I'm a little compulsive-- a compulsive tinkerer. Y'know? I love to just "Well, let's try this, and maybe shrink that section a little bit." I mean, that's what stand-up is, is constantly moving the accordion to different sizes.
- Audiences love to hear about something very stupid. Y'know? But I impose kind of an-- a very rigorous intellect to it. It's kind of philosophical, that joke about the-- y'know, "If it was really donut holes, the bag would be empty."
- There's absolutely no difference between the greatest painting ever made and a joke. It's just something someone invented that someone else likes! That's art. And it has no reason to exist, except its own virtue.
- I had an episode [of Seinfeld] all ready to go that we were gonna do entirely -- secretly -- in claymation. And I had the studio ready, and the figures ready, and it was all good to go; and then, someone said "Y'know, Tim Allen did an animation thing", or something, "on Home Improvement last season." And I go "What? What kind of thing was it?" And I never saw it; I didn't know what it was. And I got scared off; and I thought "I don't want people to say I'm imitating Tim Allen." And I cancelled it; and I realize now that was a huge mistake.
- Comedy is a bit of a masochistic pursuit. If you don't have a masochistic streak, I don't think you can succeed at it, 'cause so much of it is painful. You have to kind of like it, in a sick way: y'know, that this really hurts.
- I do have a bucket list. And I looked at the list, and then, I decided to turn the B [into] an F, and I was done with it.
Reddit "Ask Me Anything" #3 (2016)Edit
- I believe in detailed notes and jokes, and also winging it onstage. But, not for your first open mic. For your first open mic, my advice to you would be to make sure you have what you're gonna do memorized, to the point that one of your friends can gently slap you across the face, and you'll still be able to get it out of your mouth.
- I don't do movies because I think generally the size of that content does not lend itself to great comedy; it lends itself to people saying, "Hey, I made a movie." To me, the funniest things are shorter, so I think TV series or comedians in cars, I think I have a better chance of making you laugh.
- I actually have quite a bit of [the Seinfeld set], and we're looking for a museum that wants to display it. I have the couch, I have the two blue stools, I have the table and chairs; the coolest thing I have is the door, which we never repainted in nine seasons. It has every scuff mark that Kramer put on it with all those crazy entrances.
- I did swear a little bit in the beginning [of my stand-up career] and then I didn't like how easy it was. It felt like cheating, so I stopped.
- "Funniest" is completely personal. Whoever you think is funniest, is funniest.
- I think the best Seinfeld episode idea I ever contributed was that George pretending to be a marine biologist would find Kramer's golf ball in the blowhole of the whale. Believe it or not, we were doing both of those stories without seeing any connection that Kramer was gonna hit golf balls at the beach, and George was gonna be pretending to be a marine biologist. And it was in the middle of the week that it suddenly hit me of a way to connect the two stories.
- The sad truth is, people are only interested in themselves. So, if you just ask them what they are doing or what’s going on or how they feel, they generally go on for hours.
- I have often wondered if there's a way to teach being funny or comedy, and George Stephanopoulos actually got me wound up enough at one point that we were going to contact, I think his name was Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia, and we were gonna go in there, and I was going to teach a course on comedy. Because I know a lot about it, but I just don't know if it's teachable.
- Bee Movie was definitely my favorite movie that I've starred in, because I've always wanted to be a bee. They seem to have the most organized society on earth, and they make honey! Which is a pretty amazing product.
- The best advice I ever got was from Rodney Dangerfield, who when I asked him a question about something in comedy, just looked at me for a second and then went, "You'll figure it out."
New York Times Talk (2016)Edit
- Learning to be a writer is the delta of success and failure in comedy.
- A lot of comedy sounds like you're driving to a point of logic or perspective, and you're really just setting up a joke!
- It is not easy to find someone who you can say to "That's not funny", and they're not gonna get upset. Y'know? Really hard to do that. Most comedians are very defensive, very protective of their stuff. And even if you may be a person of accomplishment, they don't want to hear that. They don't want to hear from anybody!
- I like the brutality of stand-up and the simple, boiled-down "it either lives or dies" of a joke.
- Inexplicable malevolence was our favorite thing [on Seinfeld]. There's no reason-- There was never a reason I didn't like Newman; there was no reason. "We just think it's better to hate this guy."
- There's this little thing of "I want to say this" and "I want to be funny". And that little balance: if it's a little-- if it's one inch above -- (raises one hand) "I really want to say this" and (lowers other hand) "It's not that funny" -- (snaps fingers) the audience will just-- they will recoil instantly. It's like "You're preaching", or "You're trying to make some stupid point". Y'know? And they just-- (recoils) But if it's always "This is really funny and it says something", then you're okay.
- I want comedians to always push themselves to be bigger than the niche that they start in. [...] You work to get broader and broader, without being generic or pandering. And to me, that is the mission.
- Get bigger! Don't just play to the people that get you. Play to the people that don't get you, and you'll get better!
Pebble Beach Classic Cars Forum (2017)Edit
- Great steering is, to me, the essence of the automotive experience.
- I love art! It's great. But a guy with his hands on his face is not worth $100M. (laughs) "Screaming!" Okay? So, he's screaming. Fine. I'm not getting 100M value here: (imitates "The Scream")
- Here's the dumbest thing car people will think: you'll look at some car that you have and you['ll] go "Do I really need that?" That's the dumbest question! You didn't need any of it! [...] "Need" is not an applicable verb in this world.
- Most comedians do not relate to cars. I don't know why.
- A great joke and a great car: everything on it works. And there's nothing excessive that doesn't make sense or doesn't need to be there. [...] To me, the Speedster and a great piece of comedy are identical: they're perfectly minimalized ideas.
- The time-travel aspect of old cars, to me, is a big part of the fun. [...] I live out in East Hampton, and there's a lot of roads out there where you can't tell what year it is. So, if you get in a '63 -- and that's a '63-- everything on it was made in '63 -- you can kind of go into that little dream, like "Well, gee, if I was-- had this car in that year, this-- it would be just like this!"
My Next Guest Interview (2018)Edit
- I was the only guy, by the way, in the early '80s [who] was welcome on your show and Carson; usually, it was kind of-- that was-- there was a bit of a wall there. [...] If you were a Carson comic, you were probably not young enough or cool enough for Late Night. And vice-versa. But I for some reason was able to go back and forth, and I was always very proud of that, in the early days.
- A comedian is a-- to me, a-- a full-fledged-- not only a monologist, but somebody who can really work a room, work a crowd, and has a real act. A comic? That's a-- like-- I think a notch down.
- Talent is a horse that [you] just find yourself on. And the extent to which you can learn to ride it -- or it guides you or even throws you-- I mean, Freddie Prinze is a perfect example of a guy [who was] sitting on a stallion, but had no clue how to ride it. [...] That's [how] I think of a career, as kind of a rider and a horse: you trying to control this talent.
- The thing that's great about [having] kids is: they don't care what you think is great. [...] Everything you like, they've got to take the other side. That's the great balancing thing of kids: they're not impressed with anything you're impressed with.
- The secret to television is: the person who gets the opportunity wants to "re-form" this type of content to them, personally.
- Larry and I were so good together [on Seinfeld], if we both thought something was funny, that was good enough. That's it. If it can get through those two filters, and we both think "That's funny", I don't even-- I wouldn't even care if it wasn't funny.
- I love when a critic reviews a stand-up comedian. You want to go "I've left town already, with the money!" (laughs) "I don't care what you think."
- [Stand-up comedy] is the ultimate democracy. The laugh is the vote.
- Stand-up comedy's also the most mysterious profession in show business. It's completely shrouded in [the] mystery of "How do these people do it?" [...] Only other comedians understand it. It's like, y'know, being a cop or a prostitute: you can only hang out with other people [who] do that.
- You have the Sun-Maid company, and then you have the Raisinet people. I just think it's interesting that after 80 years, Sun-Maid finally went "Hey, why don't we put some chocolate on it?" Like, imagine not thinking of that for 80 years!
Pebble Beach Classic Cars Forum (2018)Edit
- The real concept of [Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee] is: being a comedian is two things. One is: there's a show you do at night, for an audience, that you get paid for; but most of your life is hanging out during the day with other comedians, waiting for night... to do your show! [...] So, you have your set, but then, you hang out with these other people that are like yourself: they're a little socially awkward; they have this comedic aspect of their brain that they cannot turn off... and have difficulty having normal conversations with people, because we just want to say foul, obnoxious, hilarious things to make each other laugh. So, I thought "What if I tried to show people this side of the comedian life?"
- Cars are really the most sophisticated adult toys that you can use without having to really talk to anybody.
- Every car has a personality. Every car is trying to say something to the world.
- On [Seinfeld], we were extremely meticulous in our scripting of every scene, every joke, every line. [...] When people came on that show, they were told by script supervisors "You don't change one comma", because that's-- the precision of joke-making generally requires that.
"Sunday Sitdown" Interview (2018)Edit
- There's no "putting an act together". Okay? A stand-up comedian is an act. You are an act. You breathe and live an act. It's not assembled; it's not-- This is not Hello, Dolly!. It's constant, it's organic; you live inside it. It's like a snow globe. Comedy is a snow globe. You live in it.
- Here's the other big secret of comedy: the audience writes most of it. You kind of give them what you think is funny, and they "grade" your work, second to second. [...] "Good word", "bad word".
- The only reason people still exist is phones need pockets to ride around in.
- If you like a daily slight terror, you will like being a stand-up comedian.
- Comedy is so much closer to sports than the arts. Stand-up comedy is very, very close to sports: in the life of it, and the "do or die" of it. [...] Nobody cares how many hits you've had. There's guys on base now.
- I want to look like my heroes from the '60s. I want to look like Frank Gorshin, and old George Carlin, and Alan King. I love[d] those guys. So, I wanted to be those guys.
- I think people like a little more "personal revelation" in their comedy. And that's fine! They have-- There's three generations behind me doin' it. But my thing is: I want a number of jokes of a certain quality, and laughs. I want the room to just be ringin' with laughs.
- When you hear a curse word in the last line of [a comedian's] bit... that's when you know: "not solved." (laughs) "That puzzle was not solved."
- The reason I got [Seinfeld] is: my manager, George Shapiro, wrote a note to Brandon Tartikoff, the President of NBC, and it was one sentence; he said "Call me a crazy guy, but I think some day Jerry Seinfeld's gonna be doing a series on NBC." Now, when he wrote that note, it was... 1988. I had been on The Tonight Show for seven years -- three times a year -- destroying. [...] And George still [had] to say to NBC "I know this sounds crazy...". I thought of this just the other week: "What was so crazy about the idea?"
- That was the dominance of network television at that time. There was no competition. [Theirs] was the only game in town. A guy like me-- Could you ima-- I would never have gotten past my second set, today, before they would've grabbed me! Right? "Hey, this guy's pretty good!" "Just grab him! Let's do-- Somebody come up with somethin' for this kid!"
- Most of the time, comedians: we are expected to be the most agile, in terms of how we think and construct our thoughts and our-- what comes out of our mouth[s]. That's how we got the job. Y'know? So, I'm not really worried about [...] comedians as a group. We have been navigating these slalom gates forever.
- I don't hear the applause when I come out [on stage]. I have no interest in that. 'Cause that's for the past. They're saying "We like what you've done in the past." And that's not what tonight's about. Tonight's about tonight. We gotta make this happen tonight. I want you to go home tonight and go "We saw a great show."
- I was lucky in that I was introduced to fame very-- in a very slow, incremental way.
- Stories about your children are not good stories. They're not interesting, amusing, or relatable. [...] That took me a long time to learn. And a lot-- I have a lot of friends with kids that don't know it: what happened with your kid this morning at breakfast is not funny.
"What a Joke" Radio Show (2019)Edit
- The concept of writing is so alien-- actual writing is so alien to most comedians.
- There's something about [writing] -- whether it's a cubicle allegory, or it's a homework or schoolwork metaphor -- there's something about it that totally repels the comic mind. "I can't-- I'm not doin' that. That's work!" Which it is, but only in the beginning! Only in the first ten, fifteen minutes, right? Then, you're kind of havin' fun! You're makin' up stuff. Who cares if it works? Who cares?
- The guy on stage: I made that up. The real me is alone, in the room; that's who I am. I learned that-- the skill of people.
- A joke is a miracle.
- I really think an honest minimum is five years between [hour specials]. That would be a really honest-- and workin' hard!
- A real artist -- a real artist -- does what they want to do. And that-- and I'm not talking about being indulgent; I'm talking about "That joke is good enough -- for me -- to make my set-- to be in my set."
- You ever wonder why Silicon Valley even exists? I have always wondered, why do these people all live and work in that location? They have all this insane technology; why don't they all just spread out wherever they want to be and connect with their devices? Because it doesn't work, that's why.
- in his New York Times op-ed "So You Think New York Is 'Dead'" (24 August 2020)
92nd Street Y Conversation (2020)Edit
- I always describe my upbringing as "benign neglect": that I was-- I really felt like my parents were just letting me live there 'til I grew up.
- I think the duck really is the perfect model of how to live: paddle as hard as you can beneath the surface, let everything else roll off your back, and have a little sense of humor about your appearance.
- The key to marriage -- of course -- is to make the other person happy. I tell all my guy friends: "Make your wife happy. You're not gonna be happy, so don't even worry about that. And that's good, 'cause that cuts your work in half!" And... further: that men don't want to be happy. We don't know what [happiness] is. We don't care what it is. We've never experienced it and couldn't be less interested in it. We just want to do whatever stupid thing it is that we're doing; that's men.
- Here's the great thing about writing: you don't have to do it. All you have to do is not do anything else in that time frame. So: you put your idea down and... now, you don't have to do anything. You just sit there and you eventually will realize "There's a problem here." Right? And your brain will naturally try and solve the problem, and the next thing you know, you're writing! So, it's not about forcing yourself to write; it's about creating a -- what do we call it? -- a "discrete space". Is that the right word? So, that's how you write: create a place and time where that's what's happening... but you don't have to write! Just be there with the problem.
Quotes about SeinfeldEdit
- No one else has his work ethic or his clarity of vision, his passion for the craft.
- Judd Apatow, Sick in the Head (2015) p 185
- Jerry killed himself to make Seinfeld good. He and Larry David worked so hard, it is-- actually, it is impossible to describe. And they didn't just do it to make the show successful, because once it was successful, they worked even harder.
- You've always been one of the nicest guys in the business. [...] You've always been ethical, classy, smooth, and the best stand-up comic of our generation.
- Dennis Miller, Dennis Miller Live: Season 4: Episode 21 (27 June 1997)
- Jerry Seinfeld, one of the greatest comedians of all time and one of the cockiest bastards to ever live. [...] To his credit, he writes some of the best jokes ever.
- Chris Rock, as quoted in Judd Apatow's Sick in the Head (2015) p 69
- Jerry Seinfeld at the Internet Movie Database
- Tonight Show Debut [bootleg] (6 May 1981)
- Late Night Debut [bootleg] (13 May 1982)
- "Fresh Air" Interview (2 September 1987)
- "Fresh Air" Interview (30 October 2007)
- New York Times Interview (20 December 2012)
- David Lynch Foundation Gala (3 December 2013)
- Reddit "Ask Me Anything" #1 (6 January 2014)
- "Success Without Stress" Interview (22 January 2014)
- BuzzFeed Interview (3 February 2014)
- Paley Center Interview (9 June 2014)
- Reddit "Ask Me Anything" #2 (24 July 2014)
- Clio Award Acceptance Speech [bootleg] (1 October 2014)
- New York Times Profile (27 May 2015)
- Vulture Festival (30 May 2015)
- Reddit "Ask Me Anything" #3 (8 June 2016)
- New York Times Talk (1 December 2016)
- Pebble Beach Classic Cars Forum (18 August 2017)
- Pebble Beach Classic Cars Forum (24 August 2018)
- "Sunday Sitdown" Interview (16 December 2018)
- "What A Joke" Radio Show (23 July 2019)
- 92nd Street Y Conversation (8 March 2020)