Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Tribute to Jerry Seinfeld

Cast of SeinfeldI was at Zeke's house when I saw my first episode, just as I was for The Drew Carey Show and Wings. As much as I enjoyed watching Timothy Daly and Monk, I laughed a little harder when we saw "The Chinese Restaurant." "Cartwright!" gets me every time.

Watching Seinfeld became a Thursday night tradition for my brother and me, along with a few Fudgesicle pops. When it went off the air in 1998, NBC tried to fill the hole in my heart with pathetic replacements like Frasier and then Will & Grace. What a fucking joke.

I'd been watching—"spending time"—with Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine for so long that they felt like friends of mine. My favorite character changed by the year, although I could relate to all of them at one time or another. Any time I saw the actors on other TV shows or interviews I expected them to behave the same way as they did on Seinfeld. I expected the same from the main four as I did from Newman, Peterman, Puddy, and one of the funniest people I've seen on television, Frank Costanza. "Serenity now!"

My disappointment in them is not limited to Michael Richards' racist rant last year. It's equally upsetting watching Jason Alexander on Real Time with Bill Maher. He's so serious, too intelligent, and when he tries to be funny he's often not. It's not the George I know and love.

I understand they were just people acting out a role, but that’s not the way I saw it when I was going through cancer treatment. So many of my days were uncomfortable and forgettable. I watched movies or listened to music simply to pass the time. But when Seinfeld came on at 7:30 PM every weekday, I perked up. I had seen all the episodes countless times, so it wasn't a matter of getting new jokes and new laughs. It was my familiarity with the characters that made those thirty minutes so rewarding. It was like hanging out with my funniest friends. They were real to me and that’s all I cared about.

My parents didn’t watch Seinfeld before cancer and even had a bad impression of it, but when they were with me in the hospital they had no choice. They became huge fans, laughing out loud and referencing it when possible. I even got some of my doctors and nurses to watch a few minutes here and there, forgetting, if only temporarily, that their jobs were as serious as cancer. I imagine Seinfeld similarly touched the lives of other people with cancer. If a cancer person happened to have never seen an episode, then I would advise him or her to buy the seasons on DVD and watch them when they’re feeling sick. Seinfeld made living with cancer easier than it could have been.

The show’s true beauty lies in its inability to take itself seriously. Even in “The Pilot” where George thinks he has cancer, I laughed at him when I had cancer as I laugh now. The same goes for “The Scofflaw” where Jerry’s friend pretends to have cancer in order to get sympathy. When I started writing my book I wanted to emulate Seinfeld and only enter serious subjects with humor. Who was I kidding? I’m no Jerry Seinfeld or Larry David.

When I finished writing my book it was sent off to Jerry. The plan was for him to read it, be impressed with my fondness for him and his show, and give me a blurb I could use to sell the book to publishers. Unfortunately, he didn’t respond. I don’t know if he read it, or even if he is aware it exists. I’m guessing his manager tossed my manuscript in the trash. And if Jerry himself tossed it in the trash, then that’s fine, too. Maybe he’s teaching me a lesson. He’s telling me to find humor in that.

Thank you, Jerry.


Finn said...

That was probably one of the best blog posts I have ever read. I wanted to thankyou for sharing that. I think Seinfeld was one of those shows that will go down in history as ground breaking like M.A.S.H was. I wish we had shows these days that were half as good.

Unknown said...

If you spent two hours of your life watching the series finale, Jerry owes it to you to read the manuscript at the very least.

karla said...

I love Seinfeld. It's one of the few shows that I still laugh out loud at every time, in spite of the fact that I've seen every episode over and over and know them all by heart.