Report: Jerry Seinfeld Live in Oakland

 

The revered comic who co-created
TV’s “show about nothing” returns to his true love. And that’s an
episode! Live, onstage, at Oakland’s
Paramount Theatre, April 16.

 

By Jud
Cost

The most
familiar show-biz figure of the past 20 years sprinted out of the wings of the
storied old Paramount Theatre to a standing ovation at Saturday’s early show.
If it had been George Costanza, Jason Alexander’s terminally insecure character
from Seinfeld – instead of Jerry
Seinfeld, himself – he might have noted the crowd reaction, raised his arms
triumphantly to the heavens and shouted out, “That’s it! I’m outta
here!,” then turned around and “left on a high note.”

 

After
taking a quick victory lap of the stage, Seinfeld removed the wireless mic from
its stand and began roaming the expansive boards of the 80-year old structure
for the next 70 minutes, firing off potent and uproarious “have you ever
noticed”-style observations, mostly aimed squarely at modern technology.
To show he meant business in his return to the stand-up comedy format that got
him the Seinfeld gig in the first
place, 98 percent of what he said drew bona
fide
laughter, not the puzzling applause you hear during the opening
monologues of various late-night TV hosts. What’s with that, anyway? “We
like your material, but it’s not really all that funny”?

 

Early
arrivers tonight had basked in the warm glow of vintage Frank Sinatra (“I
Believe In You,” “New York,
New York”) that watermarked
the cultural stomping grounds of the most beloved TV sitcom ever. Created by Jerry
Seinfeld and Larry David, and first aired in 1989, the show had a landmark
“king of the hill/top of the heap” run that lasted for10 seasons. If
you’ve been employed by NASA on a deep-space mission since 1988, Seinfeld was the tightest, best-written
half-hour of television, ever. Its four main characters – Elaine (Julia
Louis-Dreyfus), Kramer (Michael Richards), Alexander as George and Seinfeld as
himself – abetted by a dazzling stream of brilliant character actors-made this
show an essential part of life. Nightly syndication of the series since its
demise has allowed those who missed the boat to get onboard.

 

So, here
he is at last, in the flesh, Jerry Seinfeld, now married with kids, almost 57
years old, and returned to the medium he must adore, since he certainly doesn’t
need the money. Does the guy still have it, or was he just a very lucky surfer
hanging ten on a tidal wave of public adoration for an extremely creative TV
show? Oh, he’s still got it, baby! He’s still got it!

 

“Getting
ready, that’s really what marriage is all about these days,” he says.
“Getting ready for a fight.” He rhapsodizes to the sold-out house
about the benefits of a comfy chair. “You’ve accomplished your mission
tonight: You’ve arrived. Look at these asses. We were born to sit down. My job
is to lightly entertain you in a different chair.” Single friends, he
says, have the effrontery to phone nowadays while he’s in bed, wanting him to
go out and do something. “Do you realize where I am? I’m in bed!” he
answers in that manic Seinfeld whisper. The death bed, he points out, is
certainly a curious choice of furniture. “Does it come with a death-bed
clock radio? If it does, there’s no snooze button.”

 

Coffee,
the forerunner of the 5-hour energy drink, also gets a light Seinfeld roasting.
“Have you seen these places that combine coffee with alcohol? Yeah, the
perfect drink if you want to be trashed and alert at the same time.” But
he saves his best salvos for iPhones, iPods, iPads and Facebook, a medium he
cheekily describes as “a real time-saver.”

 

Fortunately,
the crowd demographic tonight is right up our boy’s alley. If it had been
mostly the 20-somethings portrayed in 2010’s best film, The Social Network, his remarks about greetings for home-phone
message machines (“Leave your name and phone number after the beep”)
might have drawn a houseful of blank stares. Texting, the medium that’s made
the old-school phone message pretty much obsolete, never even gets a nod.
“Never was too good with my thumbs,” he might have said (but didn’t).

 

One of
the first major changes made to the Seinfeld series, was lopping off the opening and closing segments of pointed
observations from Jerry’s stand-up comedy routine. When you’ve only got 22
minutes to tie together a series of Byzantine plot lines, it was correctly
assessed you’d better get right down to business.

 

Fortunately
for Jerry Seinfeld, stand-up is kind of like using the muscle memory of riding
a bike. He’s still zipping though his after-school paper route from back in the
day when they still had afternoon newspapers. Unfortunately for anyone penning
a review of Seinfeld’s machine-gun delivery and near-Shakespearian total recall
of his material, you really had to be there. Googling Seinfeld plot lines is no substitute for the real thing. When you
try to decipher illegible notes scribbled in the dark, you’re kinda “left
with that big matzo ball hangin’ out there.” I can now firmly identify
with George, pants down around his knees, fallen face-first on the floor with
Jerry clucking over his prostrate form, “And you wanted to be my latex
salesman!”

 

 

 

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