“Hellooooo!”
February 14, 2013

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)

“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.

“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
July 6, 2011

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)

“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

“I don’t like this thing! And here’s what I’m doing with it!”
November 29, 2010

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

“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

“Hi-lar-ious.”
September 1, 2010

A smarmy comeback to use when certain people in your life crack a joke at your expense, and you can’t let them think it was funny–even if it was funny.

Newman entered archnemesis Jerry’s apartment with Kramer, who asked to borrow Jerry’s pliers. “What, did Newman get another Army man stuck in his ear?” Jerry remarked. Staring at Jerry, Newman didn’t flinch–except to say this…in a low, comically-menacing voice.

This isn’t a question of you being able to laugh at yourself; of course you’re humble enough to do that. You’re just too proud to do that in front of anyone–sworn enemy or serious friend; it doesn’t matter–who would take you laughing at you as an opportunity to look down on you. With such people, you can’t be perceived as weak; that might shift the balance in the epic battle that is your relationship.

Newman might have actually had an Army man stuck in his ear but he wasn’t about to concede to Jerry in laughing about it.

From “The Reverse Peephole”
Episode 12, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 2:06

“George is gettin’ upset!”
July 20, 2010

A self-explanatory observation for those times when circumstances cause you to talk in an abnormal way—referring to yourself in the third person, for example.

When George’s good friend Elaine struck up a friendship with his girlfriend Susan, George’s worlds collided. Hapless, he could only watch. Speechless he was not, however, and one of George’s replies was to take a page from an old basketball-playing friend who loved to talk about himself—“Jimmy likes Elaine”; “Jimmy’s down!”—and rewrite it to address his own pathetic situation.

Rewrite at will to make it your own: the Jimmy-George inspiration behind this observation also begat “George is losing it!”, “George is gettin’ frustrated!”, and even expressions for situations that were the opposite of pathetic (e.g., “George likes his chicken spicy!”). All of these excel at self-improvement—and make a decent contribution to society, to boot. Announcing aloud just how beside yourself you are is a courtesy to anyone within earshot. You’re just letting them know where you stand.

From “The Pool Guy”
Episode 8, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 11:10

“Thin ice, George, very thin ice.”
July 16, 2010

A clever observation to make–insinuating a warning–to those who don’t need you to tell them bluntly “Don’t go there” or “Retreat!” They need you to paint a picture for them of the idiocy of the move they are about to make.

George wandered into hazardous territory with Elaine–the subject: a woman Elaine had set him up with–and his good friend Jerry was there to warn him. Jerry had been there before. Indeed, the Warning was one of the primary functions of Jerry’s part of the George-Jerry friendship. The Observation and the Put-Down were two other functions, one of which usually came on the heels of George not heeding the Warning.

This warning works wonders even in a strange crowd, because the people who have no idea what it is you’re waving your friend away from–they will still get the image you’re conveying of your friend’s unfortunate position: arms flailing, legs akimbo as he or she wobbles out onto the conversational ice. If that friend is any true friend of yours, he or she will probably ignore your Warning and fall through, leaving you in a most fortunate position–no Observation or Put-Down required.

Laughing with others at another’s expense because of something you said–that’s about as good as an “icebreaker” gets.

From “The Baby Shower”
Episode 4, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 2:00

“The fabric of society is very complex, George.”
July 13, 2010

An encouraging observation to offer those around you who are obviously in over their heads, and the best thing for you to do under the circumstances is to give them a palm-smack to the forehead disguised as a pat on the back.

Elaine suggested that she, Jerry, George, and Kramer bring vino to the dinner party they were headed to. “Why?” George retorted, his blockish expectations thunking up against the wine bottle-shaped entrance to this little social scene. Jerry’s observation about society helped get George–puffy coat, puffing cheeks, and all–through the door.

The pleasant tone softens the coarse insight: you’re not telling your friend that he or she is out of touch with the world; you’re observing that the World is untouchable to us all–no one can get a grip! The tack works because the fabric of friendship is very simple, one thread of which is this: pulling one over on a friend every once in a while is for his or her own good, if only because it makes you both feel good.

From “The Dinner Party”
Episode 14, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 1:56

“Please, a little respect…for I am Costanza, Lord of the Idiots.”
July 8, 2010

A confident confession to make when you blunder so colossally that what you really want to say of yourself, as George once did, is “People this stupid shouldn’t be allowed to live.”

George wore a wedding ring to cultivate the interest of any single woman who came near him at a party. What he reaped for it was the disinterest of every woman around him—a pathetic harvest he recounted to Jerry, leading to this line (and a melodramatic bite into a potato chip, like an actor bum-rushing the after-party hors d’oeuvres after Oscar passed him by).

George didn’t say this to just anybody; he said it to Jerry—a match of comment to audience worth remembering here. Only your friends would care to hear you make this kind of pithy-ful observation about yourself. If they are decent friends, they will listen quietly while you wallow momentarily. If they are the best kind of friend though, they will laugh.

From “The Apartment”
Episode 8, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 19:10

“Well then I was WAAAY off!”
July 6, 2010

A boisterous comeback to use on those who come to you for advice then it backfires on them–and now they are looking at you, with the flames of that backfire in their eyes.

Kramer did this to Elaine after she questioned her abilities as the newly-crowned head of her clothing-catalog company. Kramer exhorted her and she ate it up, the slack-jawed audience to his motivational speaker. On the winds of Kramer’s inspiration, Elaine soared…with all the aerodynamics of a flying candy apple. “You told me I could run the company!” she turned on Kramer, after her crash and burn. Kramer countered with all the subtlety of a man with a bullhorn.

Use with confidence on anyone who listens to what you had in mind and now they’d like to give you a piece of their mind. To acquaintances and strangers, this is the confidence that says “It wasn’t my advice, it was your failure!” To family and friends, this is the confidence that says “Why did you listen to me in the first place? You know me!”

From “The Foundation”
Episode 1, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 20:20

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