“Hellooooo!”

February 14, 2013 - Leave a Response

A jovial shoutout to insider-joke stupidity, disguised as a greeting—for when you care enough to send the veritable jest.

Jerry joked with George that, when Clare, the woman Jerry was then dating, fell asleep, her stomach stayed awake and talked to Jerry–the voice overblown and jolly, like a caricature of a human being: “Hel-looooo!” followed by “Talk to meeee!” or “La-la-laaa.” Jerry and George laughed it up with Kramer, who also picked it up (Elaine just put it down)…until Clare found out about it and, disgusted, basically told Jerry It’s me or the voice. And, just like that, Jerry’s hel-lo became a good-bye.

This is the voice of one talking behind another’s back. That someone you are talking about walks into the room right as you and a friend are talking about that someone, and up goes your voice, silly big, the “o’s” booming out of one side of your mouth, Hel-looooo! The gusto of the faux greeting will leave the butt of your joke thinking that nothing but kind things are going on here.

Don’t let one too many know what’s going on here. The fewer who are “in” on your joke, the better, as Elaine pointed out when, hearing “the voice” for the first time, she asked Jerry what it was:

Jerry: “Oh, it’s just this stupid thing.”
Elaine: “Well, I’m sure it’s stupid….”

That is to say, at some point the stupidity of your joke will be revealed. And it is at this point that, as George, Kramer, and Clare illustrated, your friends will likely abandon you. Unless, of course, that sort of thing doesn’t bother you—in which case, by all means, continue the voice, starting with those “friends”:

“Fare thee welllll! La-la-laaa.”

From “The Voice”
Episode 2, Season 9
Seinfeld Disc 1, Volume 8
Timecodes for the scenes: 1:06 (Jerry and George initially), 3:02 (Kramer and Jerry), 3:50 (Elaine to Jerry), 6:50 (George, at work, to Jerry), 9:10 (George and Jerry, at the café, to Kramer), 9:50 (Jerry to Clare), 13:24 (Jerry, again to Clare, saying good-bye), 14:20 (Jerry and George, the latter souring on the voice), 14:45 (Jerry to Elaine), 15:10 (Jerry saying good-bye in the voice to Kramer), 20:55 (Jerry to Clare, at the end), 22:05 (Jerry, George, and Kramer at the end)

“I never met a man who knew so much about nothing.”

April 1, 2012 - Leave a Response

cropped-jerry-seinfeld-stand-up-comedy-seinfeld1(another Seinfeld-in-culture note before you read on to the latest Seinfeld-isms below)

Jerry was flying first class and living it up (while Elaine suffered in coach) when this line came his way. His seatmate was marveling at a comment he’d just made about the fudge sundae they were eating (“They got the fudge on the bottom. You see? That enables you to control your fudge distribution as you’re eating your ice cream!”).

Who knows what Jerry will discuss in his “comedic distribution” this Wed, April 4, when he brings his stand-up again to Norfolk, Virginia. But I’ll be there, marveling at his comments. Marveling as I laugh, that is, at the insights of a guy whose brand of comedy is still relevant enough after all these years to play to packed houses. Even those who don’t laugh at Seinfeld–either his act or his show–have to hand it to a guy who gets a standing “o” as he takes the stage.

Let us all marvel then at more recent evidence of how Seinfeld continues to “live it up” in practically every section of our lives, from cars to politics to…

Tune in soon for a new Seinfeld-ism: a timely observation on spring (among other things) from a certifiable/smitten George.

“Blow it off. Remember ‘Poli-Sci’?”

February 9, 2012 - Leave a Response

A whimsical challenge for that occasional time when you must admit to a friend that (1) yes, we’re not in college anymore but (2) no, we didn’t learn all we needed to learn, so (3) we might as well act like a student once in a while.

Jerry bumped into Seth, an old college buddy, one day and talked of catching up. Seth had a big banking job to get back to. Jerry had no particular place to go. And all it took was this little exhortation from Jerry to get his old friend to go there with him.

Whether the college days were glory days is debatable: some still want to relive them; some have long since renounced them. This much about the college days is universally known (even by those who didn’t go to college): who doesn’t like to pick the subjects they want to deal with, pick the time they want to deal with them, and have someone else pay the bill?

This is a lifestyle that comedian Jerry knew something about, and when you think about it, being a college student really is a lot like being a stand-up comedian: learn a lot so you can come up with observations to make at night around a bunch of people with access to alcohol. Either way, this isn’t real life we’re talking about here. College and comedy aren’t typically things you do when you grow up; they’re things you can do to help you deal with growing up.

They’re also things you can do in lieu of growing up, as Jerry illustrated here with his “college comedy” idea: take a business meeting “pass” like it’s a political science class so you can, say, tackle a local coffee house like it’s Animal House:

“Java! Java! Java!”

From “The Chicken Roaster”
Episode 8, Season 8
Seinfeld Disc 2, Volume 7
Timecode for the scene: 1:10

“Oh…let him kill me. I won’t have to do any more sit-ups.”

September 3, 2011 - Leave a Response

(a note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms below)

It was cut from the episode, the above Costanza line, before “The Busboy” aired. (Turn on the “Notes About Nothing” function while watching any Seinfeld episode on DVD to get such priceless trivia.) George inadvertently played a hand in the kneejerk firing of a waiter at a restaurant where he and Jerry were dining. When Kramer later announced in Jerry’s apartment that the waiter had found the building and was headed up, George reacted like a man who knows a recently released convict is headed for him. This is part of what came out of his mouth.

This sort of thing didn’t come out of my mouth but it did run through my mind in recent days–let it kill me–as we feared a little for our lives in the path of Hurricane Irene. We got out of the way completely, fleeing town for higher ground, so all was well…even though, initially, it didn’t end quite as well. Returning home to find the power out for days to come, we had to seek more “other ground” (i.e., stay with family elsewhere) again.

To cut to the chase, as George might say: I’m back, baby! (as George’s father did in fact once say).

One more Seinfeld-in-culture moment, then, that I’d planned for last month: it was three years ago in August that Microsoft told the world they’d tapped the man himself, Jerry Seinfeld, to be the face of a $300 million campaign to reboot the Windows brand. The result, you may recall, was some commercials featuring Jerry and the Microsoft Man himself, Bill Gates.

The reaction of the public (or rather, the lack thereof), you may also recall, led to the canning of those commercials not long after they began airing.

We don’t need to view the “notes about nothing” on this little episode to know that Jerry didn’t get fired. One only needs to catch a show of Jerry’s tour (where he continues to play to packed houses)…

or check your local TV listings for how often Seinfeld reruns are on…

or look at how many people have friended the Seinfeld page on Facebook…

(or keep up with this guide-to-life blog…)

to understand why Microsoft hired him in the first place.

Seinfeld is a brand that needs no reboot.

“Well, this has all been one big tease!”

August 30, 2011 - Leave a Response

A flabbergasted observation to make when you’re headed in a certain direction–you know where this is going–then you pass a sign that says, “This road has no outlet.”

Looking to reduce the time in his shower routine, Kramer badgered Jerry into standing in his shower and acting out what he does in his routine. When Jerry left it at that–no disrobing, no sudsing–Kramer popped the cap on his inflated expectation, deflating with this line.

Not getting what you want. It’s at the heart of both types of teasing: the taunting kind, which we deal with as children (“Quit teasing me! Mo-o-om…”) and the titillating kind, which we deal with as adults (“She’s teasing me! Ma-a-an…”). The man-child Kramer brings both together in one exclamatory statement. Jerry doesn’t shower it up, so Kramer dresses him down, the “hipster doofus” calling his good buddy the “shower doofus.”

In Kramer’s hands, note, it is a silly taunt–that’s the rub. So you didn’t get that raise? Waited for a relative who didn’t show? Offered some champagne to celebrate the big news, then your friend finds he has no bubbly in the house after all? Go ahead. Tell them what this is. Let your voice crack a little, a la Kramer, on the tease–like your voice is changing, indicating a breaking through into maturity.

And that is what you are doing with every Kramer-ian tease: showing some maturity. We can’t always get what we want. That’s just life. So rather than get upset, get a little silly.

A little immaturity, in other words–in this case–is actually the mature thing to do.

From “The Apology”
Episode 9, Season 9
Seinfeld Disc 2, Volume 8
Timecode for the scene: 5:45

“I don’t know what your parents did to you.”

August 20, 2011 - Leave a Response

(another Seinfeld-in-culture note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms below)

Elaine delivered the above line into George’s neurotic implosion over a date gone wrong (“She wants me to like her, if she likes me. But she doesn’t like me!”).

Parents magazine delivered a Seinfeld line in a sidebar story in their August issue (p. 116) for 2010. (This isn’t the first time Parents has done this. More on that later.) The line–“Serenity now!”–is arguably one of the most memorable…and most translatable-into-real-life…to ever come out of the show. And you don’t have to be a parent to appreciate it.

What parents in particular can appreciate is the way the line came to fuller human life with two words that George’s nemesis, Lloyd Braun, tacked onto it later in the same episode:

“Serenity now. Insanity later.”

Easy to see why that one probably won’t appear in Parents magazine–never mind that it’s even more revelatory about life. You do the hard day punctuated by Serenity now!‘s to fight off the insanity, then collapse onto the couch after the kids are in bed. You’re still trying to erase the blasted look on your face that says Insanity now–like some war-like movie about the horribleness of human nature directed by Francis Ford Coppola is about to go down in your house. What do you do?

You try not to think about what your parents did to you, for one thing–that’s what you do. And if that doesn’t work, you pop in any Seinfeld involving the Costanzas (e.g., “The Serenity Now”) and think, “Well at least I don’t have it that bad.”

“I had to take a sick day, I’m so sick of these people.”

August 6, 2011 - Leave a Response

(another Seinfeld-in-culture note to readers before you read on to the latest Seinfeld-ism, below)

Like most people, Elaine loved her work and hated her work, the latter evidenced by the above comment she made to Jerry (in the episode “The Frogger”) after a particularly hard day. The difficulty? Co-workers pushing cake on her as they celebrated…yet again…somebody’s something or other.

ABC’s 20/20 thought enough of that episode to include it in a story they aired this month in 2008, about people working out while they work—using such equipment as a treadmill with a desk attached to it. “Remember the ‘cake-pushers’ from Seinfeld?” the commentator began the segment, showing the clip from the episode.

Watching Seinfeld and living it–now that’s what you call “having your cake and eating it too.”

Let’s have another piece!

“You be nice!”

August 4, 2011 - Leave a Response

An instructive challenge to use on someone whose social skills demand that you take them to school. Obedience school, that is.

George revealed to Jerry that their friend Gary had just confided that he never really had cancer. Jerry, who’d purchased a hair club membership for Gary, started foaming at the mouth–and wanted to sink his teeth into Gary. But George, awaiting a really big favor from Gary, wanted Jerry to be nice meanwhile. When Jerry retorted, “I don’t think I can be that nice!” then George started foaming at the mouth with this line.

Putting on a good face when you need to is hard enough without having to push someone else in the situation to do it too–because you need them to. You begin politely: “Can you rein in the sarcasm toward my family long enough for us all to enjoy this vacation?” Your ______ (spouse, friend, etc.) can’t. And since you can’t let that go, you do as George did: break it down, in language that even a dog would understand.

If you see it dawn on your listener’s face, that one of you is a dog in this scenario, give it a moment. They’ll get it, that this is a dog eat dog world we’re talking about here. We all get dog tired, then rest so we don’t get sick as a dog. We can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and we should let sleeping dogs lie. He ain’t nuthin’ but a hound dog. Who let the dog out? So…he’s in the doghouse tonight. (She keeps him on a short leash.) Doggoneit, well, aren’t you a son of a

Which brings us to the point here: we’re all a little doggish sometimes, when we want or need to be. In this situation, where you’re running after something, you’re not talking down to them with George’s words. You’re barking at them to run with you…just try to keep up!

From “The Scofflaw”
Episode 13, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 9:10

“I’m gonna read a book. From beginning to end. In that order.”

July 31, 2011 - Leave a Response

(another Seinfeld-in-culture note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms below)

It was one of George’s aims, the above comment, in the “summer of George.” We’re not exactly sure where George stood when it came to books. In one episode, he was collecting them like an avid reader. In another, he was foregoing a book to watch the flick based on it, like an avid moviegoer. If George was anything like his father–an avid TV Guide collector–he was an avid TV-watcher.

TV and books (and movies based on books) had to do with one more thing Entertainment Weekly had to say in July 2008 about Seinfeld’s place among the “new classics” of the past 25 years. (We recently touched on their ranking of the show and of the man himself.) That landmark 1,000th issue ended with another reader’s poll: favorite cultural moments of the last quarter of a century.

Seinfeld‘s finale episode in 1998 was the “moment” that landed the greatest sitcom ever in this poll–and it didn’t make it past the first cut in the NCAA tourney-like, single-elimination poll. The rival that won? The finale book of the Harry Potter series in 2007.

So Jerry lost to Harry. Whoop-dee-do, we say. This is, after all, a poll that ended up crowning as the #1 “moment” the release of the iPod. Techies versus “bookies” versus the TV savvy (and more)?

Hi-lar-ious, as Newman might have said, as polls go. But fun nonetheless.

“Chinese food!”

July 29, 2011 - Leave a Response

A diversionary shout-out to use when it appears to someone that you’re digging yourself into a hole, but rather than come clean and get out of it–you’re acting like you meant to dig that hole (and you’re not stopping until you get to China).

When Jerry got into a phone call that he suddenly wanted out of, a bystanding, quick-thinking George rapped on the counter like a knock at the door and chirped, in a gravelly falsetto, “Chinese food!” George’s parents later used the same diversion on him–much to his derision, when he found out that they basically wanted out of talking so much to him.

Quick, we need a distraction! It’s the stuff of TV and movies because it’s the stuff of life–trying to do something spontaneous (or unusual…or wild…) without others questioning you (or judging you…or laughing at you…) for it. It’s not that you don’t want them to know; you just don’t want them to know right away. If you can find a way to distract them, you’re out the door, you’re free. You just need a start.

You need look no further than Costanza. Chinese takeout is the perfect distraction because, universally loved as it is, it’s also a suggestion. People are moved by their stomachs, so you’re using it–as the Costanzas used it–to move someone on. “Nothing to see here, just…something to eat here.” Now they’re thinking of something to eat there. Hmm, that sounds good.

Make mei fun their fun, and you’re on to your fun.

From “The Junk Mail”
Episode 5, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 1
Timecode for the scenes: 00:03 (George’s “fakeout” order), 02:27 (Frank and Estelle’s)

“What’s to see? A woman from Norway, a guy from Kenya, and 20,000 losers.”

July 27, 2011 - Leave a Response

(another Seinfeld-in-culture note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms below)

Jerry was referring to the New York Marathon in the above comment to George and others at a party overlooking the race, in the episode “The Apartment.” The snarky attitude toward competitive races was essentially his and Seinfeld co-creator Larry David’s attitude toward the competition in television when their show first aired: What’s to see…? They were running their own race, at their own pace.

Little did they know they’d outrun every other sitcom in its time–maybe for all time–a fact showcased in Entertainment Weekly “new classics” issue released this month in 2008. Indeed, EW showcased Seinfeld‘s timeless greatness more than once in that issue, one of which we noted here last weekEW also did a reader’s poll on the favorite TV star of the past quarter of a century.

Guess who came in first.

And guess whom he beat, in winning that distinction? A woman from daytime TV (Oprah, who came in at #3). A guy from late-night TV (Johnny Carson, at #2). And maybe 20,000 other shows–all losers by comparison–in the past 20-something years.

Any show that can do that–now that’s something to see.

“Oh, it’s got caché, baby! It’s got caché up the yin-yang!”

July 22, 2011 - Leave a Response

(another Seinfeld-in-culture note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms, below)

David and Victoria Beckham welcomed their fourth child recently. The child’s full name? Harper Seven.

Now, we don’t need to read any further into the Beckhams’ life to guess that some Seinfeld-ian mischief might have been at work here, courtesy of George, whose dream name for a child was “Seven.” (A name that George’s fiancee, Susan Ross, didn’t like at all–didn’t think it had any caché; witness George’s reply above.) For all we know, the Beckhams are rabid anti-Seinfeld-ites, who instead were inspired by, say, Prince–or that dark movie that a fellow David directed, costarring that other British chick and a certain Mr. Pitt. (No, not the one that Elaine worked for.)

Watching the blogosphere become atwitter over this–“George had his name stolen from him again!” (as though he is still out there, in prime-time TV land, and he’s losing it)–was gratifying enough.

“High five… Don’t leave me hanging.”

July 20, 2011 - Leave a Response

An uplifting challenge for reminding someone that, when it’s all said and done, all you need is love. And a superficial hand gesture is all you need to show it.

Jerry’s search for a new car led him to the dealership where Elaine’s boyfriend David Puddy worked. As Puddy helped him, Jerry discovered that he had to hand it to Puddy–a literal hand, that is, nice and high. Elaine refused the slaphappy Puddy’s next high five, so he added a down low…which she also refused. But he hung in there.

“Slapping hands,” as Jerry told Elaine, “is the lowest form of male primal ritual.” But this isn’t maleness Puddy is upholding here–even though the high five easily says “Hey dude….” Neither, for that matter, is it femaleness–even though Puddy tried to give Elaine five too. Putting your hand in the air…like Puddy, like you care…has something for everyone.

Got a good friend who had a bad day? The high five reminds them that the best thing about a hard day’s the night. Got a love interest with whom you think you can work it out? The high five signals, “I don’t want to hold your hand just yet, but this is something.” A major life change hit you? Without a word–just a look on your face–the high five lets those around you know that you feel fine.

And if you put that hand in the air and the look on their face says they don’t care (i.e., you’re probably going to be left hanging)…let it be. If you like the person, you might add Puddy’s “You owe me five” as you walk away. If you don’t, then just walk away. The same hand that says “hello” can say “goodbye.”*

From “The Dealership”
Episode 11 , Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 9:50 (here’s another five for those interested: see 2:40 for the first “High five”; 4:05 for another Puddy “High five” followed by Jerry’s “primal ritual” commentary ; 5:30 for “High five… You owe me five”; 19:51; and 21:15 for more Jerry commentary)

*It’s unclear from the Seinfeld repertoire whether the Beatles inspired Puddy here. For all we know it was the Eagles, the Bangles, or even Peter Gabriel (“Nothing seems to please…I need contact“). We’re content to contend that this was a Puddy original.

“You call yourself a lifesaver. I call you Pimple Popper M.D.!”

July 18, 2011 - Leave a Response

(another Seinfeld-in-our-culture note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms, below)

The line might as well be a classic–Jerry taking the opportunity to go to dinner with his dermatologist girlfriend and, as George put it, “put that aloe pusher in her place.”

Speaking of classics: three years ago this month, Entertainment Weekly dropped their grand 1,000th issue (June 27/July 4, 2008), the theme of which was “The New Classics.” In the new-classics-in-TV article, ranked only behind The Simpsons and The Sopranos–there, of course, was Seinfeld, at #3.

Now that’s a classic we can all read, Dr. Van Nostrand.

“I don’t know how you guys walk around with those things.”

July 15, 2011 - Leave a Response

A liberating observation to lend someone who frets about why they, in some area of their lives, just “walk this way”–never mind that they can’t do anything about it because they were born this way.

“Elaine!” George and Jerry called. Huddling, the men were pondering whether women knew about a certain characteristic about a certain part of the male body. They wanted her feedback. “You mean it shrinks?” she replied on behalf of all womankind. “Like a frightened turtle,” the men replied on behalf of all mankind, their heads hanging. Her head shaking, Elaine walked away as she said this line.

Friendship sometimes calls for you to leaven your honesty with a little subtlety when giving feedback or advice–when discussing something about themselves that they cannot change, for example. You might walk up and rip the toupee right off their head to communicate that you don’t like it–how they are dealing with their baldness. But that doesn’t mean you can do that with just any bald(ing) friend. Ditto for the less violent but no less abrasive route of asking that fretting friend why they don’t just give up.

Sometimes your message must be as simple as shaking your head and walking away…adding a little riposte like Elaine’s as you go.

Wait for them to wince about something over which they have absolutely no control–the mannish size of their hands, for example–then refer to it as just a thing. Just by reducing that oh-so-important thing to simply that thing, you will strip that thing of its importance. They could be talking about their innate ego (which clearly fills the room) and you might as well be talking about a gnat that won’t leave the room. “Oh, that thing.” I don’t know how you walk around….

You could care less, in other words, and they should too. Because the only thing in life worth worrying about, really, in terms of its quality (e.g., “It’s too short!”)…is life itself.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 12:52

“Hire this man!”

July 13, 2011 - Leave a Response

(a note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms, below)

“…we have watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduce them to a laughingstock, all for the glorification of your massive ego!” Those were George’s final words in his doing-the-opposite-of-his-instincts harangue of his new boss, George Steinbrenner, in the episode “The Opposite” (which we drew from last week for a famous Seinfeld-ism). And this–Hire this man!–was Steinbrenner’s reply.

The final words of the notorious, cantankerous Yankees owner himself were spoken in this very month last year, which brings us to this next note on Seinfeld‘s continuing influence on our culture. Days after Steinbrenner passed away, the Wall Street Journal dedicated a sidebar story to Steinbrenner’s ongoing influence on Seinfeld. Even though the man himself never appeared as himself in a Seinfeld episode (actually he did, but it was cut from the final edit–a story you’ll find in the back stories of the Seinfeld DVDs), his character appeared 23 times.

Only such a character-in-real life as Steinbrenner could appear in TV life more times than other, more memorable fictional characters (Bania, the Soup Nazi, Babu, etc.) on the same show.

Here’s to being a character in real life, thanks to lines from such characters in TV life as Seinfeld gave us…

“Musicians. Get a real job.”

July 11, 2011 - One Response

An impromptu observation to make when someone talks so incessantly about musical things–about, say, some new song they’re plucking–that you’re thinking Yeah, you’re really plucking something there.

“So the Raisinets are eating a box of Raisinets?” Jerry asked Elaine as they rode the subway and discussed a commercial showing various candies playing in a band: Raisinets on sax, Milk Duds on banjo, etc. At one point, the saxophonist Raisinets buys a box of Raisinets from a nearby concession stand. Elaine didn’t get it either. Jerry wrapped it up with this bon mot that he got from the scene.

You love music. (Who doesn’t?) What you don’t love are people with a mere modicum of musical skill who confuse the universal love of listening to music with the personal love of discussing music. And explicating it. And tying any conceivable topic of discussion back to it. You mention Back to the Future and in seconds your guitarist friend is onto Don Giovanni.

Eddie Van Halen did the guitar in the scene where Michael J. Fox puts the Walkman on McFly? Huh. No, I haven’t seen Amadeus. That’s why Eddie named his son WolfgangFascinating, you say–your polite “crescendo” as you bow out before you’re made to feel like you need the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rosetta Stone for Italian, and a few other “parts in your kit” to…er…be on the same sheet of music.

Wait for this person to leave the immediate area then strum Jerry’s low note with the nearby audience–or, if you’re comfortable with your conversational talent, play this rimshot while that person has a front row seat. Don’t fret about their reaction; eventually, they’ll understand: anyone with so much time and energy on their hands for one thing clearly needs something else to do. You’re just helping them get to it.

Or, to put it in terms they’ll understand: you’re giving them a friendly kick in the arpeggio.

From “The English Patient”
Episode 17, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 00:00 (you read that “music note” right; this scene is the prelude to the episode)

“You’re pushing your luck little man.”

July 8, 2011 - Leave a Response

(a note to readers before you read on to the latest Seinfeld-isms below)

It’s been 16 years since the “Soup Nazi” joined the ranks of the Seinfeld immortals–and permanently entered our pop cultural lexicon–with lines like this one to George. The mulligatawny master’s most famous line…do we even need to say it?…still resonates. So too, obviously, does the show that introduced it.

Fancast.com (now called Xfinity) wrote about that–“Why Seinfeld Still Resonates“–a year ago this month.

The impetus for looking at that resonance? The real Soup Nazi, Al Yeganeh, whose famed NYC soup stand Seinfeld immortalized, had just reopened for business in July 2010 after a six-year absence. The lines, the article noted, stretched around the block.

Kind of like the lines from the show that keep appearing in our lives…

“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”

July 6, 2011 - Leave a Response

A logical observation for helping someone find their way when they’ve lost it, and what they need to be shown how to use is not their GPS transmitter, but their BS detector.

No job, no money, no place but my parents’ house to live, George sighed to Jerry and Elaine one day. “Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life…has been wrong.” His direct admission led Jerry to this indirect exhortation–Do the opposite–which led George to change everything. Suddenly, life was no longer taking a bite out of George; now it was the other way around.

We, like George, often don’t learn until later that some steps we’ve made in life were the equivalent of stepping in it. We take that job. (Later: “What BS. I should’ve taken a break.”). We dated that person. (Later: “That dating service was BS.”). We pursued that degree. (“Why did I pursue this BS? I should’ve gone for the BA!”) And we should’ve seen it coming. If only we’d had a Jerry initially to point it out–to help us separate the bull from the viable.

When you use a line like this to help a George you know–that project manager, prodigal sibling, or fast-food-drive-thru worker, to name a few candidates–expect that not every one may be as receptive as George, who took to Jerry’s sage-like words like an acolyte to a mantra. (“Jerry,” George said later, euphoric from his opposite successes, “this is my religion.”) For all of its likely rewards, the opposite has its risks of humiliation, retaliation, loss of membership at the health club, etc. And that’s okay, the sage-like smile on your face will say.

You’re okay, that is, with your risk in saying this for their reward, which is that they would actually arrive at something for once in their lives…which explains why you’re quoting Jerry here in the first place.

You had to, or else you were going to lose it just listening to them.

From “The Opposite”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Disc 4, Volume 4
Timecode for the scene: 1:38 (for Jerry telling it like it is); 12:10 (for George taking it as his religion)

“I love a good nap. Sometimes it’s the only thing getting me out of bed in the morning.”

July 5, 2011 - Leave a Response

(a monumental note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms, below)

And so began the episode–aptly named “The Nap”–where George found a way to catch some much-needed Z’s: under his desk at work. There’s a reason we join George in this precarious, languorous spot…

Today marks one year that Seinfeld-ism began in blog form. This hilariously keen perspective on life began a lot earlier than that, of course. By that I don’t mean the end of Seinfeld‘s prime time TV run in 1998. I mean the way in which TV’s greatest sitcom–in all of its wisdom, philosophy, yada yada yada–has been permeating not just our culture but our daily lives since…in an ongoing and widespread way.

For that reason then–for the continuing influence of Seinfeld, which “Seinfeld-ism” here embodies–I’m as happy as George eating a car battery-sized block of cheese to tell you about three things happening with this blog, to mark this anniversary.

First, it’s back to a recurring format, like when the blog began. Three days a week–say, every Mon, Wed, and Fri, without fail–you’ll see new material appearing. That starts tomorrow with a line from Jerry that is the fulcrum of one of the most famous episodes in the series.

Second, I’ll mix up this weekly material by adding some of the evidence of that Seinfeld-ian influence–something I’ve been collecting for years. We’ll start with an article just last week on Today.com that nods to George’s innovative way of nodding off on the clock.

Finally, you’ll see what seem to be arbitrary numbers appearing on each Seinfeld-ism, starting with the inaugural entry on July 5 last year: “How long have you been waiting to squeeze that into a conversation?” As I mentioned just before the end of 2010, we’re going somewhere with this. Those numbers are an integral part of where we’re going. It is, as Kramer would put it (in the episode “The Dealership”)…

“Just a little place I like to call ‘You’ll see.'”

Here’s to squeezing lines like that into lives like ours–in every possible conversation…

“This was supposed to be the ‘Summer of George’!”

June 16, 2011 - Leave a Response

(a note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms below)

This George-ian line inspired the name of the episode at the end of which we find George on a hospital stretcher when he says this line. Hospital and stretcher explain much of the quiet around here since my last post. It’s a testament to the nature of the family emergency (the loved one is okay now) that I didn’t think of this classic line once while I was at the hospital (no, it wasn’t me, but I was there…a lot).

I should have, now that I think about–since the family emergency consumed leave time I’d scheduled for the family vacation. How does that Buffet line go? “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane”?

A few more George-inspired laughs, then, by showcasing all of his lines so far in this compendium of the best that Seinfeld has to offer us in navigating life:

Please, a little respect…for I am Costanza, Lord of the Idiots.

George is gettin’ upset!

Do you ever just get down on your knees and thank God that you know me and have access to dementia?

You know we’re LIVING in a SOCIETY…

We mustn’t disturb the delicate genius!

…there’s not enough voltage in this world to electroshock me back into coherence!

Khaaaaan!

Worlds are colliding!

Is there a pinkish hue?

He’s bebopping and scatting…!

Happy, Pappy?

There’s your “summer,” George! Now I’m going to go regain mine in some fashion and, among other things, soon unpack the next couple of Seinfeld-isms I’ve had in the works–one of which is from George, in a rare moment of kicking sand in Jerry’s face…

“That chick’s whacked.”

May 19, 2011 - Leave a Response

A blunt observation for the language of relationships, categorized not as the kind of comment where you’re trying to make history, but the kind where you just felt like saying something like We’re history.

Puddy and Elaine broke up for the bajillionth time while Jerry was car-shopping at the dealership where Puddy was working (and Jerry was hoping to get the “insider’s deal”). When Jerry–about to sign on the dotted line for a Saab–noticed something amiss with the usually unflappable Puddy, he asked, “Did you two break up?” This was Puddy’s “flappant” reply.

Sometimes in the dating relationship a moment compels you to over(or under)state the truth to articulate an emotion. It’s a somewhat juvenile tendency that most people don’t lose when they become adults. This is why you can technically blow a samba in a televised dance contest, or fiddle with the facts in a movie you make about a historical event, and people will ardently defend you to your critics by saying, “Yes, but it was emotionally true.”

Note that Puddy’s emotional truism–delivered as flatly and as quickly as if he’d just told Jerry, “That Saab is a lemon”–will not work in marriage, where the integrity of the relationship demands fidelity to the facts…and subtlety in the heat of the argumentative moment. Your loved one is not “whacked” but “acting whacked,” and so on.

You could still Puddy the waters by using this line as is, but don’t be surprised if your conversational rapport with your spouse becomes, for a time, akin to Whac-A-Mole…and you’re not the one holding the hammer.

From “The Dealership”
Episode 11, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 10:42

“Happy, Pappy?”

May 9, 2011 - Leave a Response

An ambiguous question to use on those who fancy themselves to be this big, bold character out of some story, and you’re just wondering Is this a comedy I’m watching? Or a tragedy, or a cartoon…?

George recalled this line to Jerry with serious distaste after breaking up with a woman who asked him this question. A tastefully silly Jerry then asked the same question of a woman he’d just gotten back together with.

Silly or serious? The listener won’t know where you’re coming from as you try, using this line, to determine where they’re at. First there’s happy, a word that denotes “positive,” “contented,” etc., yet is also one of that group of words ending in “-appy” that sounds a little insulting: sappy, nappy, crappy. (Even snappy has a critical ring: “Make it snappy!”) The next time you hear a “Look at him, he’s so happy,” note how what seems like a compliment can lend a hapless, almost idiotic quality to the person being described.

Then there’s Pappy, which brings to mind daddies and grampies and poppies and grandies…and the cartoon character Popeye, whose father was Pappy. Which also sounds nice until you realize that Pappy’s first name was Poopdeck.

Will they think they just got slapped–or crapped–on the shoulder, when you Happy Pappy them? Who knows. Who cares! Because, either way, the resulting conversation is sure to be animated.

From “The Engagement”
Episode 1, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 1:06 (George) and 3:40 (Jerry)

“Why don’t you just give up?”

April 2, 2011 - One Response

A prickly question to use on those who are so full of themselves–over their own potential–they’re practically bursting. And you’re happy to expand their horizons.

Before Jerry and Kramer bumped into Sally, an aspiring actress friend of Jerry’s, as she approached them on the sidewalk, Jerry told Kramer, “She should just give up” (on acting). Kramer couldn’t act either–he had to say the things that people think of others but don’t dare tell them…which Sally soon learned.

Thanks to such documentation as nationally televised singing contests, we now have proof that people are not as phenomenal as they think they are–and no one around them is telling them this. Picture yourself in that judge’s chair then, with a mic on your shirt and a drink at hand, because there are people around you who need your critical powers.

You know who they are: the shape (e.g., triangle) painting artists, the so-so medical students, the guys who think that transporting enough recyclable bottles to the right state will make them some dough. These people need you to set them free from their delusions of grandeur. So wait for their self-aggrandizing stories, listen for the hint of failure, then it’s Kramer time.

They’ll likely despise you now, but they’ll thank you later…if they’re still talking to you. And if they don’t, that’s okay. Because one of the unexpectedly satisfying things you’ll find in honesty of this kind, about things like giving up, is…

You’re just getting started!

From “The Cartoon”
Episode 13, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 00:15

“Well, we can’t all be reading the classics, Professor Highbrow.”

March 9, 2011 - Leave a Response

(A note to readers before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms below…)

Kramer was reading Jerry’s VCR manual while lying like a bump on the log of Jerry’s couch in this episode (see “The Strike” in Season 9). Jerry questioned why he was doing this. This was Kramer’s reply.

His words need no explanation. Fit them in where you can, fun as they are. Abbreviate it, even, to your liking. What are you doing? you hear–you hear it all the time. “Well,” you reply, perhaps raising an eyebrow. “I’m not reading the classics.” Then watch their brow go up (or down…depending on whether they’re highbrow or lowbrow).

It’s been over two weeks since my last entry, but that’s not for lack of Seinfeld-isms. It’s for lack of time to write, what with Life crowding and clamoring and impeding. It’s an exciting yet exhausting life, many hours of which are spent at a laptop writing other things. One of my children often walks up to me, “What are you doing, Dad?” Well

(And, no, my kids aren’t highbrows. They’re kind of middlebrow. Because if your kids are quoting Seinfeld lines to you…that ain’t lowbrow.)

Not one but two more Seinfeld-isms to come this week. George is about to speak again, and so perhaps is Jerry. And then there’s that guy named Puddy who’s got something new to share too…

Until then, enjoy a glance at the top ten (most-clicked-on) posts so far, since I began this blog last year, in order:

10. “Kudos, Elaine on a job…done.

9. “You’re Schmoopie!

8. “You ask me to get a pair of underwear, I’m back in two seconds.

7. “That’s kooky talk.

6. “You’re quite breathtaking.

5. “And the heat–my God, the heat!

4. “But I don’t want to be a pirate!

3. “We mustn’t disturb the delicate genius!

2. “Jerry, it’s Frank Costanza…George is dead. Call me back.”

And the new number one? Sorry, Elaine (whose “heat!” was the original chart-topper). Jerry, you go boy: “Boutros-Boutros ‘Golly.’

“But I don’t want to be a pirate!”

February 21, 2011 - Leave a Response

An aargh-umentative comeback to use on someone who tries to stick you with doing something that’s just wrong. So you’re stickin’ it right back to them.

Kramer’s fashion-designer girlfriend asked Jerry to wear a shirt she’d designed on his next TV appearance. Nodding to what she said–not really knowing what she’d said, because she was a “low talker”–Jerry soon found himself in a billowy, puffy, 17th century-looking shirt. Seeing the ambivalence in Jerry’s face, Kramer tried to cheer him up: “You’re gonna be the first pirate!” Jerry’s timbers shivered in this child-like reply.

That’s just wrong can be applied to a boatload of things (e.g., “See what they did with the peas in that dish?”). The point here is things that most people would agree are just not right–like stealing a marble rye from an old lady.

And people who try to get you to do something like that–that’s not right either. You’re driving down the road, for example, someone cuts you off, and the passenger in your car can’t just curse that terror on the highways; they want you to walk that plank too: “Cut him off!” your matey squawks, like some Iago-ish parrot in your ear.

Swatting such people off your shoulder with Jerry’s reply–that’s gold.

From “The Puffy Shirt”
Episode 3, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 10:20 (sunken treasure: check out “The Scofflaw,” Episode 13, Season 6, Volume 5, Disc 3, Timecode: 11:30 to see an eyepatch-wearing Kramer swipe Jerry’s line)

“Who is this? Uncle Leo?”

February 17, 2011 - Leave a Response

(A note to readers, before you read on to more Seinfeld-isms, below) Even when the name comes up indirectly, as in Jerry’s mocking George over the phone here–it’s funny. Hearing his name is funny because Uncle Leo was just plain funny, the actor himself as well as the words the writers put in his mouth.

In honor of Len Lesser, “Uncle Leo,” to quote the Seinfeld Facebook page.

“You ask me to get a pair of underwear, I’m back in two seconds.”

February 8, 2011 - Leave a Response

A snappy observation to use when someone you know is asked to do something, and they could be moving a little quicker. They could use a little motivation. So you decide to give them some.

Setting up his son George with a job interview with a bra salesman, Frank Costanza told him that he should know something about bras–then admonished his wife Estelle to go get one of hers to illustrate. George objected to the discussion, but Frank pressed the point. And when Estelle took too long, he pointed that out too…in his own fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of way.

Our motivations come mostly by example: we pick up things from parents, friends, teachers, etc., and imitate (or amend) them. Then we reach a certain age and stop thinking of how such examples apply to us–and start talking to others, exclusively, about examples that apply to them. Because they sure could use the help.

Thanks to Frank you now have a fresh example for helping those slow-goers you come across: toss some tighty whiteys at them. This will confuse them, initially, as to where you’re going, but they’ll come around: no, you’re not going “commando” on them; you’re commanding their attention by giving an illustration to make a point.

Just be sure you have a point, or their reply is likely to be the equivalent of a “wedgie”–suddenly and unexpectedly yanking you into a laughable-yet-uncomfortable position.

From “The Sniffing Accountant”
Episode 4, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 3:40

“Fake, fake, fake, fake.”

January 30, 2011 - Leave a Response

A let-it-all-hang-out comeback for letting someone know that what they knew about you, in one particular area, was a lie. But it had nothing to do with them. Honestly.

Elaine and Jerry’s past as a couple suddenly flabbergasted Jerry when he discovered that she had, er, led him on in the bedroom. “You faked with me?” an incredulous Jerry asked. “All the time” a smiling Elaine replied. When Jerry named four things she’d done that seemed so real, Elaine reality-checked them in reply–her index finger poking the air mechanically at each fake like her body was an amusement park animatronic.

Listen to how often people use the phrase “To be honest with you…” and you get the picture: there’s a whole lot of fakin’ going on. So while you could use Elaine’s four-pronged “Fake!” to serve up quite a dish about yourself–you can also use it to poke others right out of their pretenses. The next time, for example, that a friend starts telling you why they couldn’t make it over to help you move, give them their moment…let them describe the “quandary” they were in…then Fake! them out.

Be prepared for them to yelp. Pulling back the curtain on someone’s wizardry right when they’re producing the smoke and lights is like pulling back the curtain when they’re in the shower. Lies, like nakedness, show it all to the world: “Well, here I am….”

And this is you telling them in front of the world: “Man, you’ve had some work done.”

From “The Mango”
Episode 1, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 2:55

“He’s bebopping and scatting…!”

January 17, 2011 - Leave a Response

A music-critic kind of observation for a subtle bit of conversation: playing down someone who just played you (e.g., mocking your head as “rather bulbous”).

George bumped into an old acquaintance who had once made fun of him. Learning that the recovering alcoholic was now apologizing to people he’d hurt, George waited for his like a man who knows that Publisher’s Clearing House is headed to his house. When George’s “jackpot” turned “crackpot”–making even more fun of George–George got a little riled up. (And this was him giving Jerry the lowdown.)

So someone called you a name. Call them out with this line–loudly, hitting those syllables like you’re banging drums. The allusion to jazz music will have you saying several possible things about that jokester’s punchline–one of which is, no one gets it. And you don’t have to be a conversational “musician” to know a well-played number when you hear it, so if there is something to get in what they said, then you’re saying this about their “jazz”: it ain’t all that.

From “The Apology”
Episode 9, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 12:30, 22:20

“It’s a Festivus miracle!”

December 23, 2010 - Leave a Response

A yuletide observation for making something down-to-earth sound out-of-this-world. Not because it’s actually miraculous (it might even be ridiculous) but because ’tis the season.

On hearing that George’s father, Frank, had invented a holiday alternative for those on the outs with Christmas–a “Festivus for the rest of us”–Kramer was in. When an unlikely host of characters gathered at the Costanzas for the Festiv-ity (the metal pole, the feats of strength, etc.), Frank was, to Kramer, the star who’d led them there. And Kramer rejoiced.

A festive us–to drown out the rest of us–this is what we look forward to each December, like snow blanketing the daily grime. Our festivities come from these little activities (e.g., trading gifts) we don’t do at any other time of year.

It’s astonishing that this whole gig still works year after year, given the humanity–oh, the humanity–of it all. Laughing at your uncle’s jokes, finally speaking to that cousin, and so on…and doing so without clinical psychological help when it’s all done…now that’s a miracle.

Announce such “miracles” with holly jolly crispness by singing Kramer’s joy to the world.

From “The Strike”
Episode 10, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 19:27

“I’m the wiz! And nobody beats me!”

December 18, 2010 - Leave a Response

A carnival-barker shout-out to clarify for those around you that you are in fact full of yourself. Because being someone you’re not is hypocrisy…and you’re not going to be one of those people who’s full of it.

Elaine’s new boyfriend had this attractive twinkle in his eye that she couldn’t explain–until a channel-flipping Jerry discovered the explanation in a tacky commercial: the guy was a local actor whose claim to fame had him in kingly garb, a goofy grin, and this bombastic line. In the end, he was the wiz, leaving Elaine to ease on down the road.

Remember who you are. We grow up hearing it because, once grown up, we easily forget it–our true identity. This line is one way to avert the infamous identity crisis: have an identity circus. Anytime you find you’re not feeling like yourself, take that one word that summarizes who you are (architect, coach, etc.) and, like the long pole in a tent, build a three-ring show around it with these six words (e.g., “I’m the professor! And…”).

Your show may be less talent than freak in other people’s eyes, but social interaction is a high-wire act for everyone, no matter who you are. So, while you’re performing, you might as well be one of the main attractions.

From “The Junk Mail”
Episode 5, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 18:31 (that’s the main attraction; for the warm-up act, see 10:48 and 11:41)

“Is there a pinkish hue?”

December 10, 2010 - Leave a Response

A rhetorical question to ask anyone who admits they’re seeking someone without flaws, someone who really stands out. Yeah, you say. And you blend.

Jerry offered to set George up with a friend of Elaine’s, which set George to politely grilling Jerry about this woman–his questions revealing a wish list that no woman short of a Marisa Tomei (a dream woman of his) could fulfill. This question about cheeks (“Does she have a good cheek? I like a good cheek”) showed his true color.

We’re all guilty of wanting a real winner in something, or someone, when the truth is we all have a bit of George in us…a bit of the loser that admits (if only, quietly, to ourselves) I’m such a loser! Catch someone in this hypocrisy–a bald guy, for example, carrying on about the criticality of dating a woman with “thick, lustrous hair”–and you can conk them over the head with this inquiry.

Their answer is irrelevant. The question shows how ridiculous they’re being with their line of questions–looking for someone who, it sounds like, just stepped off of Mount Olympus, when they themselves are one step removed from their cousin Vinny.

From “The Fix-Up”
Episode 17, Season 3
Seinfeld Volume 2, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 9:03

“That’s not sweetening the deal.”

December 4, 2010 - Leave a Response

A tasteful comeback for every distasteful quid pro quo that comes your way.

During a vacation at the beach, Kramer asked Jerry to rub some suntan lotion on his back. “Who are you, Mrs. Robinson?” Jerry replied. Overlooking Jerry’s crack from The Graduate, Kramer graduated his request to a proposal: “C’mon. And I’ll rub some on yours.” Jerry’s snicker right into this line let Kramer know that this idea wasn’t exactly rubbing him the right way.

There’s a time to “break bad” when someone wants something from you, and there’s a time to break it gently. When you do the latter–say, for a friend (or just to be friendly)–you reach for lines like this. It’s Not! wrapped in a snicker–a bit of SNL-type sarcasm softened by Seinfeld-ian irony, the irony here being that this line implies that you might like this deal if they offered you something that gets you past no deal. And they’re trying–you’ll give them that.

But that’s about all you’re giving them.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 2:45

“I don’t like this thing! And here’s what I’m doing with it!”

November 29, 2010 - Leave a Response

A scolding observation to let someone know they made a wrong choice…but the bigger wrong would be for you to not do anything about it.

George’s depression over losing his hair finally ended in his gaining a toupee–and dividing his friends in their reaction. Kramer approved; Jerry demurred. Elaine decided to take the matter into her own two hands: one to yank the “little hair hat” (Jerry’s words) off George’s head, and the other to open the nearest window in Jerry’s apartment.

No subject–or object–is sacred here if you proceed with caution. Could you get away with tossing a loved one’s hair piece out the window? Only you know. Do something they can undo, if they want to. The point is for them to understand that they shouldn’t have done what they did in the first place–not look at you as the angel of death. Take your aunt’s tummy tuck, for example: you could point it out (“I don’t like this..!”) and then, with a smile (“And here’s what I’m doing…!”), plunk down a few Drake’s Coffee Cakes right in front of her face.

That’s giving someone the “It’s not me, it’s you” to get them to see that this thing…it’s not you!

From “The Beard”
Episode 16, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 15:13

“Giddy-up!”

November 23, 2010 - Leave a Response

An unbridled shout-out to Opportunity–exciting, boring, doesn’t matter. Because in everything you see something better…and you’ll leave everyone in your dust to get it.

After landing a date with a Miss America contestant, Jerry discovered a pageant requirement: a chaperone for such evenings out. When pageant aficionado Kramer balked at Jerry’s offer to be that chaperone (uninterested as he was in a contestant from Rhode Island because “they’re never in contention”) Jerry threw in dinner–and Kramer threw out his catchphrase in affirmative reply.

In this classic expression of carpe k-man, seizing the day doesn’t require much; all you need is an idea that gets you out and about. The littlest things spurred Kramer to adventure because to him Life was an adventure. Even a tumbleweed a’tumbling would be a thing to follow, in Kramer’s worldview: paradise might lie around that next desert bend.

Announce your next adventure by pronouncing this line–with or without the exclamation mark. You mustn’t always sound like you’re hoisting your hat with a holler; sometimes you’re just tipping your hat with a nod. Somewhere between enthusiasm and intrigue–that’s where you are…and you’re home on that range.

From “The Chaperone”
Episode 1, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 6:38

“You don’t think I can put asses in the seats?”

November 17, 2010 - Leave a Response

A snarky question to answer those who don’t think you can step up to the challenge–your answer here being, in so many words, You might want to stand back.

Elaine happened to overhear Jerry and George hatching a plan to find a woman to flash some cleavage at their TV show boss–to trap him in a “peek-a-boob” moment and hold it against him (because he had just caught George in a similar moment and held it against him). When Elaine didn’t hear her good friends drop her name, she dropped this chest-puffing line.

It’s curtains up every time we walk out our front door: time to perform, to put on a good show–the right face, the right words, the right clothes. Then along comes a doubting Thomas in your workplace or circle of friends who doesn’t believe you’ve got what it takes to pull off a certain something, and you’ve basically one of two options with your next choice of words:

1) Shrink from their disbelief.

2) Jolt the audience like you’re Bon frickin’ Jovi popping up out of the stage in the “Lay Your Hands on Me” video.

Elaine’s line let’s your audience know you’re not into shrinkage.

From “The Shoes”
Episode 17, Season 4
Seinfeld Volume 3, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 16:43

“Now what does the little man inside you say?”

November 11, 2010 - Leave a Response

A spirited challenge to extend to someone seeking a voice of sanity, of knowledge, of reason. And you know just the voice. Yours.

Wanting his ex-girlfriend back, George pined to Jerry about what he should do. Should I call her? George then asked of Kramer, who’d just walked in–and, with this line, jumped right in. “You’ve got to listen to the little man,” Kramer boomed, his voice confident, almost jovial. “My little man doesn’t know,” George whimpered, to which Kramer again boomed: “The little man knows all!”

The little voice inside us all has more than one name (instinct, conscience, etc.). It also has one common denominator: sometimes that voice goes the whimpering way of George’s. So we seek the counsel of others, maybe do a little research, to educate the little man–so that when we follow, or let others hear, what comes out of the little man’s mouth, we don’t end up sticking a little foot in it.

Wherever you find such self-education missing in those around you–whenever you hear their deliberations, their questions, their incessant fretting–fill their ears with the boom of Kramer’s challenge. Outing their inner monologues should promote better dialogue, making their lives and yours better for it.

Because if knowing yourself is the key to bettering yourself, then this isn’t just a line, it’s a linchpin to critical thinking–even if it’s just arriving at George’s conclusion to Kramer: “My little man is an idiot!”

From “The Pick”
Episode 13, Season 4
Seinfeld Volume 3, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 3:00

“Cheese, George. Cheeeese!”

November 4, 2010 - Leave a Response

A zesty challenge for enticing someone to fall for something they love–because you can (and you know they will).

George’s love of cheese compelled Jerry to tell George how disturbing the George-cheese relationship was. So when Jerry disturbed George to get him out of a board meeting and George said he couldn’t–sighing like a man under their influence–Jerry reminded him of the real influence he was under.

Jerry made the power of incentive patently funny by dangling one of his friend’s silly little loves in front of him as though it were an incident of national significance–the equivalent of hearing about, say, a senator swayed not by budgetary concessions but a good box of donuts (“Krispy Kreme, Senator. Krispy Kreeeeme!”).

Donuts, chorizo, professional baseball–whatever the silly little love of your friend’s that you choose to hang on this line, don’t bait them with it until you get the hang of this line, specifically Jerry’s exaggerated voice on the Cheeeese! Think Homer Simpson heralding beer, only with a higher tonal pitch, and you’re ready to let it fly.

And don’t let the idea of “baiting” family or friends prick your conscience. You’re picking their brains–brains not of mice but of men, which should know that you’re enticing them to come to their senses, not take leave of them.

From “The Foundation”
Episode 1, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 21:16

“Worlds are colliding!”

November 2, 2010 - Leave a Response

A striking confession to those around you when who you are (e.g., the job you work in) and who you want to be (e.g., the band you play in) suddenly attempt to occupy the same space…and you’re a little spaced out.

When “Relationship George,” the lovey-dovey life he lived with fiancée Susan Ross, unexpectedly met “Independent George,” the hang-out life he lived among friends Kramer, Jerry, and Elaine–it was like two cars passing too closely going in opposite directions. Some good eventually came of it–Susan independently retreated from George’s independent world–but at the moment of the collision it was sparks flying…a sound heard in every syllable of George’s reaction at the scene.

For most of us, who we are and who we want to be are so different that we live a double life. If we could just merge the two–the band becomes the job–that would be the best. Instead, the worlds remain separate, and we try to make the best of both.

The rub comes in the inevitable collision between the two worlds. And it is inevitable. Even the most well-funded, superbly-directed double life is bound to run into itself, as Schwarzenegger illustrated in True Lies. The question is what you do when you see your lives crash before your eyes.

And here, thanks to George, is what you do–taking his cry not as existential (Why me?!) but triumphal (Why, yes!) as you anticipate some good to come.

From “The Pool Guy”
Episode 8, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 11:12 (for more on the “worlds colliding” theory, see 2:28 for Kramer’s original explanation, 5:15 for Jerry’s and George’s explanations, and 11:24 for George’s explosive summary)

Dedicated to TI

“Good for the tuna.”

October 27, 2010 - Leave a Response

(A note to readers, before you read on…)

Smirking, George dropped the above line on Jerry when Jerry pointed out that salmon swim against the current, while tuna swim with it–George’s smirk coming from wanting to get on with the conversation at hand, not detour into trivial things.

You might think that of what’s below, mumbling George’s equivalent of Good for you as you go about your blogging way. Well, let me say before you go: think again, mojumbo!

With the posting of the Frank Costanza voicemail classic on Monday (piece of trivia: that was a favorite line of the comedian himself, Jerry Seinfeld, the Seinfeld DVDs tell us), this blog-driven guide to the Seinfeld-ism life marked its 50th entry. Yes, we’re counting–because we’re actually going somewhere with all of this. More on that in the new year.

For those of you who recently jumped into this stream of advice from Seinfeld‘s Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George (and more)–and you’ve little time to go archive trolling here–here’s a sampling of what you’re missing so far…

Observations to use on smug conversationalists–whether they’re “smugging” you with just a word or an entire monologue.

Questions for the friends who don’t know you as well as they should–and for the friends you do know that well.

Challenges that raise an eyebrow (even if you’re just looking for a reaction).

Shout-outs for all manner of things beyond your control: the odd friend whom you presume is not of this world, the incontinent passer-by, the presumptuous person you’d like to pass by without saying something (but you can’t resist), etc.

Comebacks for when you’re feeling a little jadedWho has the energy to discuss this?–as well as for when you’re pretty jazzed up to discuss it all.

Confessions that those who know you have never heard come out of your mouth (and now they’ll never forget).

And put-downs the likes of which you’d never have come up with on your own…because that’s just Seinfeld.

And, thank God, Seinfeld was about our lives.

Parting piece of trivia: the most searched entry here to date (i.e., the one with more views than any other so far)? Elaine, you go girl.

“Jerry, it’s Frank Costanza…George is dead. Call me back.”

October 25, 2010 - 2 Responses

A provocative challenge to leave on someone’s voicemail when you want to get their attention–even if what you have to say is not that important.

When George discovered that accidentally locking his keys in his car in a primo parking place at work made him look like the primo employee–first in, last out–he took off for a little R&R…until George’s boss thought he was R.I.P. And this was the WTF response that George’s father left on Jerry’s answering machine when he found out.

With texting, e-mail, and caller ID replacing voices in sending messages, voicemail demands the kind of creativity that George demonstrated when he once sang a famous TV show song with a twist on his answering machine (“…believe it or not, I’m not hooome”). But that was a voicemail greeting. Leaving a voicemail is another story–one that must often happen in mere seconds.

You can use George’s same creativity, courtesy of George’s dad, with this line that works on anyone. Substituting the proper names and even explaining the death reference is no problem because this is a shameless reference to the Seinfeld show–making this one unique among Seinfeld-isms: it doesn’t fit directly into conversation, so you’re likely to get a What was that? And that’s good, because you just got yourself a call back.

Equally good: you get to explain the origin of the reference and, perhaps, why you refer to this show at all.

And leaving a voicemail like this is a great illustration of why that is: referring to Seinfeld is the equivalent of having a bevy of comedic writers at your disposal, so you’re never at a loss for words. Not even when you call expecting to get someone on the phone and what you get instead is 15 seconds to explain yourself.

From “The Caddy”
Episode 12, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 16:00

Dedicated to Chris and Matt

“These pretzels are making me thirsty.”

October 20, 2010 - Leave a Response

An optimistic observation to make when faced with a problem so puzzling that, even after picking at it, you’re still not sure what to do–except maybe to get something to drink.

Kramer landed a small part in a Woody Allen movie, and this was his line. Unsure as he was about how to say the line, Jerry, Elaine, and George each played the acting coach…then soon began acting out using this line–not as art imitating life, but art commenting on life.

Look closely at many of the books, movies, and TV shows we enjoy and you’ll find in those stories a pretzel to untwist–a conundrum or mystery to solve. We love problem-solving…as long as it’s someone else’s problem we’re solving. This is why a comment like What’s the problem? is so prevalent–and sounds so different, depending on where you’re directing it: a helpful, always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life sound when addressing someone else’s “pretzels” (“Sooo…what seems to be the problem?”); a harried, sometimes insane sound over the pretzels affecting you (“What is the PROBLEM?”).

Kramer’s famous line can be just as prevalent a comment–for the pretzel-y politics of workplace or family, for example–and a far funner comment to deliver, to boot. For one thing, you’re practically laughing at the problem, which mixes comedy with your bravery–yes, brave, as you are, to still be wrestling with a problem, not letting it get you down.

Which is what you’re announcing loudly, through this comment, with a come-one-come-all kind of cheer–so others might join you for a cup of courage.

From “The Alternate Side”
Episode 10, Season 3
Seinfeld Volume 2, Disc 2
Timecodes for the scenes: 9:25 (Kramer), 9:52 (Elaine), 9:55 (Jerry), 10:03, 10:30 (George), 11:13, 11:19 (Kramer again), 18:03 (Jerry), 20:20 (Elaine), 21:12 (Kramer et al.)

“You should just do it like a Band-Aid: one motion–right off!”

October 10, 2010 - Leave a Response

An acute challenge for those times when someone’s bugging you over some big decision they must make, and you don’t mind chiming in on what they should do–so long as it hurts them more than it hurts you.

George wrung his hands over how to break up with the woman he was dating (“Can’t I do it over the phone? I have no stomach for these things”), and the good Dr. Jerry was there–speaking from all of his medico-relational experience–to tell him how to do it.

This isn’t so much about mitigating pain as it is about making decisions–and decision-making is painful, when you think about it. Making up one’s mind means taking sides, which makes even a mere “Yes” or “No” a big deal. You’re not stepping into the fray with an “I don’t care” or “I don’t know.” But step out there with a good solid decision–say, an “I am breaking up with you“–and you’ll hear the impact from recipient (“That hurts”) and bystander (“That had to hurt”) alike.

So don’t be discouraged if the recipient of your Jerry-inspired advice doesn’t listen. Like a good doctor, you did what you could.

From “The Ex-Girlfriend”
Episode 1, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 2:35

“Does that conflict with your regular schedule?”

October 5, 2010 - Leave a Response

A journalistic question to brandish when someone admits to doing something they think is so unlike them–something no one’s noticed. But you’ve been taking notes.

Kramer’s realization that his sperm count might be low (“Do you think maybe I’m…depleted?”) prompted Jerry to tell Kramer to visit a doctor about it. “But then I’d have to…” Kramer replied, atwitter, “well, you know…into a cup in the middle of the day!” Elaine sized up the situation with aplomb.

They “lowered their standards”–that’s a good one. Or they indulged, whereas “normally” they would “refrain.” You hear that one too. Here’s a classic: they had to hit the brakes for “a little ‘me’ time.” People humble themselves constantly, when you think about it, and they couldn’t be prouder. Neither could you–because you know them better than that. And with a reply like this, thanks to Elaine, you’re letting them know it.

From “The Chinese Woman”
Episode 4, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 4:25

“You are the doofus.”

October 2, 2010 - Leave a Response

A syllable-smacking put-down for when you must call someone’s attention to their poor performance (and there’s no better way to get someone’s attention than to call them by name).

Elaine’s sudden appointment to the head of the clothing-catalog company where she worked inflicted her with doubt about her abilities–doubt that Jerry seconded but Kramer karate-chopped with Zen-like confidence. With that confidence now her own as her business took off, Elaine got Jerry on the phone to inform him that he’d just usurped the throne of Kramer, long since crowned the “hipster doofus.”

What’s in a name? “Aloof,” “goof,” and “genius”–that’s what’s in this name. Yes, genius. Kramer’s bulb sometimes shone dimly, but it shone brightly just as well (e.g., inventing a beach-smelling cologne that Calvin Klein picked up). And that gives you total name-calling immunity with this moniker. If the recipient is a genius, you’re reminding him that he too is human–prone to doofus-ness. If he happens to be a doofus, then you’re not just telling it like it is, you’re telling him there’s hope–hope that there might be genius in there, waiting to appear. Either way you’re golden, because this isn’t “constructive criticism,” as they say; this is a critical compliment.

And all hail Kramer for giving us a better oxymoron.

From “The Foundation”
Episode 1, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 16:13

“It’s gonna be rough.”

September 24, 2010 - 2 Responses

A deadpan observation to use when someone you know gets all worked up about something, and you take it upon yourself to bring them down.

A car radio preset for a Christian rock station had revealed to Elaine that boyfriend David Puddy was not only a man who loved him some Arby’s–he was also a man of some piety. After his silly condemnation of her (“You’re the one who’s going to hell”) and her silly resignation over it all (“The heat–my God, the heat!“), Elaine tried to change the conversational tune: a little less “Highway to Hell,” a little more “How’s It Going to Be.” So Puddy obliged her.

If you obliged all the people in your life who needed to bend your ear over their insufferable situations, things would get bent, all right: your mind, for one thing, and eventually your entire life. Think of all the woe-is-me chatter you’ve endured from relatives, for example, how they bent you out of shape. This is why you need a little something to end their suffering in your ear–a little channel-changing comment. You need a little Puddy.

And here it is. To the Elaines in your life who turn up the heat of discussion–wanting to get on with a real conversation–you bring up Puddy’s line to dismiss it and get on with an Arby’s night.

From “The Burning”
Episode 16, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 17:36

“That’s kooky talk.”

September 22, 2010 - Leave a Response

A witty comeback (or put-down, depending on your timing) for those times when you need a harmless way to tell someone that they don’t know what they’re talking about—even if they know what they’re talking about.

Kramer’s decision to start managing his time better in the shower sent him to Jerry for feedback on his shower time. When Jerry said he was out in ten minutes–a wash-and-rinse sprint compared to Kramer’s sudsy marathon (he was taking about an hour)–Kramer replied with the conviction of a man who thought Jerry was a kook.

You don’t know what you’re talking about is one of those irresistible lines, as gratifying as a piece of well-placed profanity. And, like profanity, it comes in various euphemistic shapes and sizes (e.g., “You’re crazy!”). What makes Kramer’s line the ideal substitute for this classic accusation is the disarming nature of the word “kooky.” If you’re right in your accusation, then kooky—so reminiscent of cookie (and what’s more harmless than a good cookie?)—will keep the conversation light enough to allow the listener to get out of that hole they just dug for themselves.

If you’re wrong, then you’re the one who just stepped in it…to the splashing sound of laughter all around you.

From “The Apology”
Episode 9, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 2:40

“Well, now we’re gettin’ somewhere!”

September 20, 2010 - Leave a Response

A buoyant observation to make when someone or something moves you forward several spaces in the game of Life, and that just makes you feel like high-five-ing yourself.

Sitting on the couch in front of the TV one night, Jerry and Elaine shifted from gabbing about random things to strategizing about how they might hit the bedroom…then hit the couch again for more TV or hit the road or whatever–so long as it didn’t require being with each other. And Jerry rejoiced.

I’ve arrived. This is what we’re shooting for–arriving Somewhere, whether that’s a status, a location, a collection of toys, etc. We start the journey early in life, throwing it out there like a roll of the dice: “I’m really going Somewhere someday.” Then we spend years getting up each day, trying to get ahead…to get Somewhere. And now, here we are, we’re gettin’ there

The little joys that come your way, along the way–mark them with Jerry’s line, nice and loud, with a childish lilt in your voice. Not because you might spend your whole life getting there, which is true (and better than going Nowhere fast). But because, more importantly…whoever dies with the most joys wins.

From “The Deal”
Episode 13, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 5:29

“Khaaaaan!”

September 10, 2010 - Leave a Response

A window-shaking shout-out for those times when you know you can’t arrange for someone who screwed you over to die a fiery death in a starship explosion…but it sure is cathartic to think about for a moment.

At the graveside of George’s fiancee, Susan Ross, Jerry stood nearby with Mr. and Mrs. Ross (while George “mourned”). “She’s not really dead,” Jerry told Susan’s parents–quoting Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan–“if we find a way to remember her.” When the Rosses’ way to remember Susan came to be–a philanthropic foundation with George on the board–Jerry’s remark incurred the Wrath of George against Khan–er, Jerry.

How you react to someone who screws you over ranks right up there with the most important decisions you’ll ever make in life–because, ultimately, you must act decently. (After all, we do live in a society.) George demonstrated for us one measure we might take: yelling at the top of your lungs in public. You might yell at the abstract World, but in this situation that’s not sufficient. Better to yell the name of the person you’re deriding.

But since life doesn’t really work like that–that’s the stuff of movies–better to yell a fictitious name, like one from a movie. Because to quote a movie that fits a life situation…that’s the stuff of life.

From “The Foundation”
Episode 1, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 13:11

Dedicated to Flick Club.

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