Archive for the ‘The Questions’ Category

“Happy, Pappy?”
May 9, 2011

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

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

“Is there a pinkish hue?”
December 10, 2010

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

“You don’t think I can put asses in the seats?”
November 17, 2010

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

“Do you ever just get down on your knees and thank God that you know me and have access to my dementia?”
July 26, 2010

A giddy yet humble question to ask of those who went with your crazy idea—and it actually worked.

George had an idea to solve Jerry’s dating problem involving a stoic-seeming woman and her comic-loving roommate. The idea was so inspired, so devious, so simple…Jerry ran with it. The play wasn’t just successful–it was historical (in George’s eyes, anyway). The win was Jerry’s, the wide receiver now holding the ball in the end zone, but judging by quarterback George’s dance…you would’ve thought he was the one who scored.

George’s confessed craziness in the face of confirmed brilliance (for one shining moment, anyway) is the real genius here. If the line between genius and crazy is as fine as gossamer—and, as you know, one doesn’t dissect gossamer—George straddled that line, triumphant, like he’d just won the Super Bowl and pulled a quarterback switch to do it. The microphones came his way…and he belted his dementia to the back row.

This is not something most people do. We’re quick to point it out (You’re crazy) but even quicker to deny it (What do you think I am, crazy?)—never mind that we’re all a little bit crazy. You could cure cancer someday and someone, somewhere, will be thinking while applauding, See that guy? Cuckooo. Genius is indeed rare, but rarer still is the person who admits their craziness, which is why people like Jerry couldn’t help but love George. People will love you too if you’re not afraid to get out there and belt your dementia to the back row.

Or someone, somewhere, will applaud you, anyway.

From “The Switch”
Episode 10, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 20:35

“How long have you been waiting to squeeze that into a conversation?”
July 5, 2010

An incisive question to use on those who so delight in their “word of the day” calendar, they sound like Alex Trebek vocalizing an obscure dictionary entry on Jeopardy. They have discovered what the word obstreperous means, and they have been waiting to wave it in your face.

George did this in a conversation with Jerry about the relationship between students and cleaning. “It’s anathema,” George said. At Jerry’s quizzical look, George added, “They don’t like it.” This was Jerry’s retort.

This is also your alternative to thinking, after hearing someone use a word like “coquettish” or “haberdasher,” I need to go look that up. No. You don’t. Because if you find that word in the dictionary–make no mistake–it will perch itself on a peg somewhere in your brain and squawk at you during some future conversation, signaling This is the perfect moment to squeeze in that word. No. It won’t be.

And if you go for it anyway, guess what those around you will be thinking.

From “The Statue”
Episode 10, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 2:15

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