Archive for the ‘The Challenges’ Category

“Blow it off. Remember ‘Poli-Sci’?”
February 9, 2012

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

“You be nice!”
August 4, 2011

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

“High five… Don’t leave me hanging.”
July 20, 2011

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.

“Now what does the little man inside you say?”
November 11, 2010

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

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

“Jerry, it’s Frank Costanza…George is dead. Call me back.”
October 25, 2010

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

“You should just do it like a Band-Aid: one motion–right off!”
October 10, 2010

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

“You saying you want a piece of me?”
August 12, 2010

A chest-puffing challenge for predicaments that call for a little diplomacy, but you’re listening to that little voice inside of you this time—and it’s saying “It’s go time.”

Discussing with Frank Costanza, George’s father, what George did to get himself arrested, Elaine said something about George’s ability to hatch such a scheme. “What the hell does that mean?” Mr. Costanza swung, his demeanor cartoonish. Elaine counterpunched: “It means whatever the hell you want it to mean.” That fired up Frank, not to defend the honor of his son or the glory of the Costanza dynasty, but to throw this sucker punch.

They went to blows, yes, but one pictures two close kids in a backyard rumble—a picture completed by Elaine’s counter-sucker-punch: “I could drop you like a bag of dirt.” This is one person’s “No, I’m not” vying with the other’s “Yes, you are,” the silly fisticuffs of family and friends. Which means you probably shouldn’t use the Costanza challenge on co-workers, cashiers, and other strangers.

But if such people should rankle you–say, they’re flouting Order and you feel like making a scene–don’t forget the cartoonish demeanor. You’re the wit holding a crowd at, say, a bar–not the nitwit starting a fight outside it.

From “The Little Kicks”
Episode 4, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 21:30

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