Seinfeld wit is a
weapon of mass
An odd thing happened at the end of comedian Jerry Seinfeld's sold-out concert Saturday night at the Waikiki Shell. Moments after the superstar said goodnight to the 2,700-member audience that had laughed throughout his 70-minute performance, the majority hurried for exits without the usual demand for an encore.
Was it Seinfeld's determined "I'm outta here" march offstage, or was everyone simply satiated by his flawless yet typically detached observational humor about modern-day life: television news, Saddam Hussein, America, terrorism, coffee, health food, death, cell phones, marriage, weddings and relationships?
Jerry is Jerry, and, as millions of fans know, Seinfeld is not warm and fuzzy, needing adulation. Rather, he's a societal observer, a critic more of us than him, intrigued by our silliness yet tempering it so subtlety and amusingly that audiences don't take it personally.
Even after thanking the crowd for spending the evening with him, Seinfeld explains, "Well, I had nothing better to do."
We laugh because we understand that this multimillionaire probably did have something better to do.
The mostly over-35 audience applauded and chanted "Jerry, Jerry" even before he took the sparse Waikiki Shell stage, bellowing the unofficial theme of his upcoming routines: "What the hell is going on?"
"When are they going to stop running that strip along the bottom of the screen?" he asks. "Which is the news: the strip or the guy talking? Don't these network idiots know we don't want to read, but watch TV? If I want to read, I'll get a comic book."
Seinfeld also takes umbrage at endless Internet addiction. "Find something to do in the world," he advised. "If life for you is what's online or on TV, I've got an instant message for you: Open a window!"
If he seemed a bit stiff during his opening routines, the audience didn't seem to notice. His transitions between subjects became seamless, moving from TV news to the recent capture of Saddam Hussein, touching on it so carefully that neither doves nor hawks would be offended.
"We started out (over there) looking for weapons of mass destruction but ended up searching (Saddam's) hair. There could be something bad in there -- and then we look in his mouth where a missile might be hiding."
One reason America is the greatest country on Earth, he said, is that "we drop bombs and food at the same time," he said. "Who else would do that? Who came up with the idea? But we tell 'em we're going to mix it up: Some things will be exploding and some things will be delicious."
Seinfeld eased into more physical comedy when he talked about all the U.S. intelligence film footage showing terrorists "training in their little camps."
"It's certainly taught us the importance of the monkey bars," he said, pretending to use one.
The suddenly, he had turned to the newfound popularity of coffee. "I know people who stop for coffee on their way to Starbucks. We'd have a hurry-hurry culture driven by coffee and cell phones and laptops, Palm Pilots, day planners, with their latte mocha chugga chuggas.
"The original idea of coffee was a 10-minute break in eight hours of work; now it's eight hours of coffee and 10 minutes of work. Coffee is not a job, people!"
He questioned why we talk about going to the gym when we really don't want to work out. "All we want out of life is to sit in a chair and go from chair to chair to chair: our home chair, the car chair, the office chair. You have an ass; what do you think that's for? The ass is proof we're evolving into a chair."
Several routines were clearly male-oriented.
"Why does the brain always come up with crazy thoughts?" he asked. "Have you ever been talking to someone, and you think how you could kill him right now and he would never see it coming?"
Reality shows are not real, but, he admits, "OK, I watch it but I don't like it."
"Joe Millionaire" is especially vapid, he said. "What are they trying to tell us, that whores are interested in money? I think we learned that about 5,000 years ago."
Seinfeld seemed uneasy on the cavernous Waikiki Shell stage, saying it was "like performing in a mouth."
"I'm standing on Jonah's tongue," he said.
If we know anything about the comedian, chances are we don't know as much as we think we do. He is known for fiercely guarding his privacy -- which may be wise on Seinfeld's part given that his past personal life includes a relationship with an 18-year-old high school student and marriage to a woman who, months before she wed Seinfeld, had married another man.
About as personal as he got Saturday night was saying, "I'm 49 and I got married at 45," adding, "Clearly I had some issues."
He warned married men not to get trapped by wives' questions: "Does this outfit make me look fat," or "Do you think my (girl)friend is pretty?"
"This is not a game, but a scam," warned Seinfeld, who never revealed if this were something he has gone through. "This isn't even Russian roulette, because there are bullets in every chamber."
Seinfeld's bit about women critical of their partners' "tone of voice" struck a nerve in the audience, especially when he created an absurd voice. "How the hell has every woman on earth met this imaginary man?" Seinfeld said to roaring laughter.
The subconscious message in Seinfeld's male-favored relationship jokes implies insecurity around women by a nearly 50-year-old entertainer still clinging to adolescent fears. There must be something new on the relationship front besides "Am I fat?" jokes.
But then he was gone, hurrying off stage as determined as he entered, a man who had a job to do and did it but now had more important things to do on a Saturday night.
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