“Maybe the dingo ate your baby.”
December 4, 2015

a_cry_in_the_dark_1988_gratispeliculas dot org_CROPPEDAn outlandish observation to use on those who are beside themselves when they lose something precious to them, and they need someone to help them get a hold of themselves.

Elaine and Jerry accompanied George to a dinner party where they got stuck and she got bored. Crowd-watching from a settee, Elaine beheld a woman carrying on mawkishly about her fiancée, Where is my fiancée? “I have lost my fiancée,” she exclaimed to Elaine, “the poor baby!” As if reading a placard, Elaine delivered this “baby”-on-bored reply.

Think “the dog ate my homework.” But where “dog” is a story made up to cover up one’s own laziness, “dingo”—a type of Australian dog—is a true story, brought up here to point out another’s craziness over their “baby,” whatever it is that, when they lose it, makes them lose it (“Maybe the dingo ate your strongbox key”). Elaine’s line stems from the real-life account of an infant death in Australia at the hands—er, jaws—of…well, you get the picture. The Meryl Streep motion picture A Cry in the Dark immortalized the story.

The prospect that the “baby” of the person you’re ding-o-ing was eaten by some wild animal is, of course, so over-the-top as to be as down-under mythological as the subject of that Streep flick. That’s the point. Some mythology is obviously at work here in that person’s mind, to make them act all “Baby can’t live without me.” They must be there for baby. “Nobody puts baby in a corner.”

As with quoting a movie (even a famous one), the risk of dumb looks or backlash is high with this line, but a high five is also not altogether out of the picture. You might kill it, as they say in comedic circles about a bit well done. Or you might be killed—the bit flops.

Either way, “dingo” is worth it*, to let them know you’re killing me.

From “The Stranded”
Season 2, Episode 9
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 3
Time code for the scene: 07:08 (*Watch for Elaine’s smile at the scene’s end.)

Dedicated to Anthony Narkawicz  

“I think Poppie’s got some problems. There’s a whole other thing going on with Poppie.”
July 17, 2015

pizza_yeahthatskosher dot comA summary observation to make around people who know someone who has problems, but they act as though he or she has no problems. But you’ve no problem pointing it out.

When Jerry’s girlfriend took him to the eatery owned by her father, “Poppie,” Jerry excused himself before the meal that Poppie was to make. In the bathroom, Jerry was washing up, when out of one stall came Poppie, zipping up. A finger-flick double-check of the hair (and zipper), an Ah! Jerry, tonight you in for a real treat, and Poppie was out the door. Apoplectic, Jerry glanced at the stall—then the sink—then the stall…then later gabbed about it all to an unfazed George, who popped this unvarnished take.

Clearly, this wasn’t the first restroom-related Poppie infraction. Surely, others in the restaurant had seen Poppie inaction but, for whatever reason, did not confront Poppie with his sloppiness.

Just the same—with any Poppie crossing your path—don’t talk about the Poppie in front of the Poppie. (And leave “Poppie” in the line, no matter whom this is directed toward. Poppie could be anybody, so use it on every-problematic-body.) And don’t confront the Poppie. This is not cause for a “Sloppy, Poppie?

This is diagnostic—not antagonistic. Not yet. Conditions must be right. Confer with a friend or other confidante to ensure you are not the one with the problems. Then make your move (contact health inspectors, slip him a mickey, etc.).

Then you can wash your hands of the situation.

From “The Pie”
Episode 15, Season 5
Seinfeld Disc 3, Volume 4
Timecode for the scene(s): 10:00-12:50

Dedicated to MFD

“I don’t even really work here!”
June 27, 2015

(a note in advance of more Seinfeld-isms to come, very soon…)Ritz Crackers box_stansberrymasonry dot com

Returning here after more than two years–after I went bye-bye in 2013, after saying Helloooo!–I was tempted toward a good George-ism to capture the moment. Maybe the simple, ebullient “I’m back, baby!”

Or the subversive, Eeyore-ish voicemail he once left Jerry, “Hey, it’s George… Pfft. I’ve got nothing to say.” (BEEP)

But even Costanza comes up short here. (Sorry, George. I’m really sorry. It’s not you, it’s me.) To capture such an unexpected turnabout…I turn to the one-and-only Kramer.

In one of Kramer’s bass-ackwards falls into a legit job (Brand/Leland was the poor, unsuspecting company’s name), his boss called him on the carpet about his output. “I’ve been reviewing your work,” Leland said. “Quite frankly it stinks.”

He went on to tell the Ritz-cracker-smacking Kosmo that he must move on. I don’t even really work here! was Kramer’s crack-me-up reply.

As to why exactly that cracked me up…consider my absence, yes (I don’t even really blog here!)…but do read on.

The What-Happened

My absence was not intentional. Not even in my mind was I gone (although there is that, sometimes.) I still love this blog. I still love this show–even though some of it is not as funny to me as I near 20 years of great marriage and my mid-40s, and seriously/sillily raise 52 children.

(Actually we only have 5 but jokingly refer to “our 52 children” because, despite the joy, the laughter, all that Schmoopie…sometimes the comments, the questions, all that snap, make it seem like we have way more children than we do.) 

Still, much of Seinfeld is as funny to me now as it was when I first discovered it. Some of it is even funnier. Which is why I never meant to, in early 2013, stop adding to this Seinfeld survival guide to Life.

Around that time, in an Seinfeldishly ironic twist, Life dispatched a plane across the landscape of the Bounds family, unfurling a banner that read “Survive this”–and started dropping circumstantial bombs. We wanted to yada yada yada over the whole thing…in the George-negative, not the Elaine-positive way.

Then came a Newman-ic depressive phase. You know, where you’re denouncing vegetables and calling for shots and doing other foolish things that have people wiser than you saying life-saving things to you like you better think again, mojumbo.

The dance of Life didn’t halt, per se, during that time. It just shifted into a full-body-dry-heave kind of dance. Arms flailing, legs akimbo. Feet moving the family halfway across the country…that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, in another ironic, Seinfeldian twist during that long hiatus…this blog’s readership took off across the two years I stopped writing. See for yourself:Seinfeld-ism stats on WordPress 2010-2015

I can hear George now: Your chances of success in this blog are only hurt by you continuing to write it.

Even with that attractive power of the Opposite apparently boosting my work, I still stayed away. Then, later, an idea: If I get back into it someday, I’ll do some new material then get out. Take a bow. Cue the curtain drop.

Then, much later–nearing the debut of the get-out plan–the plan got a good-surprise “Get out!” push.

The Times

Seinfeld cracking me up over Life itself–for me and for those around me–is what led me to launch this blog-ode to the series on July 5, 2010. Five years to the day, that is, coming up here soon. The final-bow plans came up about a year ago. I crafted a Seinfeld-ism “bucket list.”

While I dabbled with the plan–fast headed to the five-year anniversary–yet another Seinfeldian twist occurred: my blog got linked in the New York Times. This week. (Scroll down to the “George’s love of cheese” line.)

I can hear Jerry now: Costanza*…Benes**…Bounds***?!

*Recall George’s hand-clapping joy over a “NEW YORK YANKEES!” job.
**Recall Elaine’s hip-swinging joy over a “NEW YORKER!” gig.
***Pardon my laptop-tapping joy over a NEW YORK TIMES! nibble.

The New York Times exposure leaves me grinning a la Jerry’s “And you want to be my latex salesman” grin AND looking unfazed a la Newman’s “Hi-lar-ious” deadpan face. Not at the New York Times. At literary agents. Because back in 2010, when I started this blog, I had been trying to publish this material as a book.

The rejection-letter emails that followed (coming mostly from literary agents based in NEW YORK CITY) are best summarized by this one line from one such agent:

“I don’t think anyone outside of New York is really that interested still in Seinfeld.”

Cue the look on my face akin to Jerry’s when that Donna Chang gal he was dating used the word ridicurous.

The High Note

Scores of Seinfeld lines come to mind in witty retort to that agent’s comment. But I’ll just end where I began here and reach back into the Kramer-working-for-Brand/Leland episode. The morn of Kramer’s first day on the job, Jerry saw Kramer in a suit and tie and–dazed and Uncle-Leo-level-confused at his notoriously jobless friend now gloriously dressed for a job–Jerry said, “How long have I been asleep? What year is this?”

Have you been asleep? I wanted to say to that agent. Do you know what year it is?

Seinfeld has conquered the world!

That was 8 years ago.

Now look at Hulu.

“That people will only watch television like this in the future is so obvious,” Jerry himself cracked-wise at the April announcement to the world of the Seinfeld/Hulu duo.

Yes it is, Jerry. Yes it is.

So now I turn to George, to do as he once did and–as he learned from Jerry (“Showmanship, George!”)–get out on a high note.

Time to publish that book myself.

(Giddy-up!)

Stay tuned.

“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)

“I never met a man who knew so much about nothing.”
April 1, 2012

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.

“Oh…let him kill me. I won’t have to do any more sit-ups.”
September 3, 2011

(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.

“I don’t know what your parents did to you.”
August 20, 2011

(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.”

“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

“I’m gonna read a book. From beginning to end. In that order.”
July 31, 2011

(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

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

(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

(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.

“You call yourself a lifesaver. I call you Pimple Popper M.D.!”
July 18, 2011

(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.

“Hire this man!”
July 13, 2011

(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…

“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)

“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)

“You ask me to get a pair of underwear, I’m back in two seconds.”
February 8, 2011

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

“He’s bebopping and scatting…!”
January 17, 2011

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

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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“Worlds are colliding!”
November 2, 2010

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

“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

“These pretzels are making me thirsty.”
October 20, 2010

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

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

“Khaaaaan!”
September 10, 2010

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.

“Serenity now!”
September 8, 2010

An insane shout-out for those You vs. the World moments, because you’re trying to get it together—and you’d like the World to get it together too.

George’s mom, Estelle, had just ignored Frank’s advice in the car, which led to Frank’s outburst for peace and quiet. Frank’s doctor had given him a relaxation tape that exhorted the use of this line in stressful times. “Are you supposed to yell it?” George asked. “The man on the tape,” Frank answered, “wasn’t specific.”

TV Guide magazines shelved in the right order, a son who knows what the standard bra sizes are—these were just a few of the specifics that kept the stars aligned in the world of Frank Costanza. So when he started randomly yelling this line, we knew…something was missing. We don’t know what exactly. The reason Frank’s doctor gave him the relaxation tape is no clearer than why the man on the tape wasn’t specific.

Even if something is missing with you too, Frank’s “tape” is now yours to use anytime, anywhere. Any explanation to others for your outburst—that can be missing too. Because if you’re mad enough at the World to open your mouth like this, you’re sufficiently mad to keep it closed too…and no one will think anything of it.

Indeed, as George and company showed, everyone else will probably get in on it too.

From “The Serenity Now”
Episode 3, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 1
Timecodes for the scenes: 00:15 (that’s the main scene, described above), 00:40, 2:58, 8:15, 17:29-30, 22:08 (all of those were from Frank!), 8:45, 22:20 (George), 14:38, 14:50-51, 14:58, 15:06, 17:55-56, 18:07-08, 18:15-20, 18:28-40 (Kramer), 17:31, 17:48 (Lloyd Braun)

“…there’s not enough voltage in this world to electroshock me back into coherence!”
September 6, 2010

A rare confession for those times when circumstances leave you speechless–and you’d like the same to happen to anyone who asks you about it.

George’s parents, Frank and Estelle, had argued themselves into a seemingly irreconcilable difference of opinion and separated. Discussing her newfound singlehood with George over coffee, Estelle talked of getting an eye job because she was now “out there.” She was out there alright, came George’s reply in so many words: out of her mind. And if she didn’t get back into it, well…

None of us lives in some emotionally-impervious bubble, keeping to ourselves within it and others outside of it. If we fashion a “bubble” of time and space, the unexpected soon occurs and emotions strike—lighting us up like one of those see-through orbs with the lightning-y bolts. The effect is no mere salty discharge from the eyes, but a stunned state of mind from electrical charges in the heart. You can’t talk about it, except maybe to zap a line like this—introducing it either conditionally (“If I lose my job…”) or declaratively (“And now that I’ve lost my job…”).

An “Oh, let me guess…” right into someone else’s delicate situation works as well. The stark image of this line—and your determination to stick it to them—should be enough to pop their bubble.

From “The Fusilli Jerry”
Episode 21, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 1:47

“Something’s missing alright.”
August 25, 2010

An under-the-breath observation to make when confronted with someone who doesn’t understand why the pieces of the puzzle before them don’t fit. But you understand.

When George’s parents joined him and his fiancee, Susan Ross, for dinner with Susan’s parents, the cornish game hen they were eating set Mr. Costanza to pondering aloud which bird—the chicken or the rooster?—procreates with the hen. “Something’s missing!” he effused, and Mrs. Ross, just as she sipped her wine, amused everyone with this reply.

A penchant for puzzles is a part of human nature, hence the great range of things that come in pieces for us to try to put together: the epic picture on soft cardboard, the plot points of a mystery movie, the instructions for a new household appliance. Emphasis on the word try. To try is human, and to solve—that’s not divine; that’s human too. Some people just require a little encouragement–and maybe a glass of wine for anyone standing around watching them–until they arrive at the solution.

Which brings us to Mrs. Ross’s brilliant reply, a commentary on Mr. Costanza’s shortcomings without bringing him up short—like the famed nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty. Ole Humpty might’ve been too complex for anyone to reassemble, but all the king’s horses and men might’ve also just been idiots.

From “The Rye”
Episode 11, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 6:56

“I would lose that.”
August 23, 2010

A decisive comeback to use on anyone who drops a tired expression into a conversation.

When a trivial conversation sidetracked Jerry and Elaine from talking to George about his piano-playing girlfriend, George cut in with a Can we cut to the chase? Cut to the chase?” Jerry mocked. “Who are you, Joe Hollywood?” George had an answer for why he said it–and Jerry told him what he could do with it.

No, we’re not battening down the hatches–we’re preparing for difficult times. Yes, we’re pretty satisfied with our station in life at the moment, but we wouldn’t describe that location as cloud nine. The list of expressions we can do without is long, but your patience with people who use them doesn’t have to be. Knit your brow at every By Jove…! or Happy, Pappy? and repeat that expression back to them.That should be enough to rid them of their idioms. Most people don’t know–or can’t explain with a straight face–the origins of such phrases well enough to defend them.

If that doesn’t work, Jerry’s four-word declaration should be enough to make them go cold turkey.

From “The Pez Dispenser”
Episode 14, Season 3
Seinfeld Volume 2, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 7:23

“We mustn’t disturb the delicate genius!”
August 20, 2010

A cutting comeback to make of those people you must deal with because they have a specialty (medicine, law, etc.), and they go and do something that reminds you they’re not that special.

A pain in George’s arm led him to seek the medical attention of Elaine’s physical therapist friend, Wendy. When he missed an appointment without cancelling within 24 hours, Wendy charged him. Then when George showed up for another appointment and she wasn’t in—the whole thing had become a pain in George’s butt. And this was how he mitigated that pain.

Their degrees hang on their walls like windows out into the rarefied air of some higher-intelligence climate. But you see through them: yes, you’re standing in their ivory tower, but these people have two feet like the rest of us—feet they trip over now and then. Cases in point: you’ve had to move your appointment, pay more money, suffer phone calls to reconcile their errors…. The insufferable list goes on; they remain high and mighty. And now, thanks to George, you’ve a line to bring them down to earth.

Telling them this would fall on deaf ears, of course—dizzy as they are from all the pressure exerted on their heads at that egotistical altitude. So you lob your comment like a roll of toilet paper at the people who serve these professionals—the people of the front offices, on the phone lines, etc. You, for example, move another appointment (“Will that work for the delicate genius?”) and they won’t mind your missive—because they are as down to earth as you are, and so will get where you’re coming from: you’re just tee-peeing the ivory tower (and you’re not sparing a square).

From “The Kiss Hello”
Episode 17, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 3
Timecodes for the scenes: 3:15, 12:00, 19:15

“Is it alright if I go to the bathroom now?!”
August 18, 2010

An illustrative observation to use on married couples who’ve taken the “We’re two people who’ve become one” so far that they need to be taken to school on a few subjects—like biology.

Jerry and George made a pact to grow up, which included getting married: George would look up a former flame who still dazzled him; Jerry would look closer at a woman who still puzzled him (she ate her peas one at a time). When Jerry told Kramer, Kramer taught Jerry about married life: no TV during dinner, etc. When Kramer mimicked what it would be like even trying to use the restroom when betrothed, Jerry’s thoughts of growing up turned to thoughts of throwing up.

Kramer’s mockery of marriage as stifling actually reveals how liberating marriage can be: a couple of individuals, a blissful co-existence. This is the lesson to give those you know whose marriage is one of awful codependenceMake your next chat with them a class, with you at the lectern, and Kramer’s line a ring of the bell to begin (e.g., “Is it alright if he goes to the bathroom now?”). With their attention at that point, cover any one of a number of subjects to illustrate: politics (e.g., “Marriage is like two nation-states…”); geography (e.g., “…settling on mutual territory…”); literature (e.g., “…the two-headed monster being, of course, a myth”); etc.

You want them to see their commitment as the institution that it is–not as an institution they commit themselves to.

From “The Engagement”
Episode 1, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 4:45

“You’re Schmoopie!”
August 13, 2010

A chameleon-like comment (observation, put-down, etc., depending on the context) to use on people who’ve really opened their hearts for their loved ones, and–Moses smell the roses–it’s one of those heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Soon after Jerry and Shiela, his latest love interest, took up this sugary manner of addressing one another, they strolled unwittingly down their Candy Land lane until George and Elaine nearly vomited from all the gumdrop comments that kept falling on their heads. When Jerry clued them in that he and Shiela might be on the outs, George couldn’t help upchucking all over the schmoopie-ness: “People who do that should be arrested!”

People who do that (i.e., the die-hard romantics) demand that others tolerate their greeting card life–where words rhyme but have no reason–and schmoopie is their piece de resistance. People who can’t stand that (i.e., the saccharine-intolerant) can learn from George and Elaine’s derision: call out the schmoopie. You witness a couple locking lips like their ship is going down and you interrupt: “Hey–Schmoopies. Would you mind….”

Just be careful not to overextend yourself in calling out the schmoopie–and don’t focus so much on any one person or couple that your calling-out becomes a “death to schmoopie” campaign. You may end up dating or even marrying one of these people someday.

From “The Soup Nazi”
Episode 6, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecodes for the scenes: 00:45, 1:10, 15:15, ad nauseam

“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

“You know we’re LIVING in a SOCIETY…”
August 11, 2010

A grandstanding observation to use on someone who flouts Order, and rather than confront the person, you prefer to make a scene (and you just might win an Oscar while you’re doing it).

George tried to use the pay phone at the Chinese restaurant where he, Jerry, and Elaine were waiting to be seated. The man already on the phone ignored George’s request to use it, and when he got off, a woman got on and she wouldn’t get off–much to George’s ire. Rather than use brinkmanship in chastising the woman, George chose showmanship and chastised the World.

Take the stage with this line when you take umbrage at someone’s unruly behavior. Take the stage. This is “go to the mattresses” (minus any Godfather-ish confrontation) or “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” (minus the Network cameras)—a line that may not endear people to your character or even move them by your message, but it’ll be entertaining to them…and cathartic for you. Few things are more entertaining and cathartic than a scene from a good movie.

And that’s all you can hope for, really, in situations like this: the good that can come out of it for you, without bringing the bad out of somebody else. You don’t ask a friend to watch your back while you dress down some stranger. You ask a friend to kick back with you over dinner while you recount your scene then wash it down—that’s how people normally act when airing their grievances.

And a particular person’s rudeness followed by your rebuttal to no one in particular—that’s entertainment.

From “The Chinese Restaurant”
Episode 6, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 8:03

“Maybe I can get an extension cord and hang myself.”
August 9, 2010

A lighthearted observation to drop on those close to you, during those times when you’ve had enough of them standing so close to you.

Jerry’s weekend getaway with a woman he’d recently started dating turned quickly into a weekend he wanted to get away from. Jerry had thought it would take their relationship to “Phase 2,” never mind that George had warned him it was a “phaser” set to stun (“…you’re going to be with her 72 hours? That’s a dating decathlon“). Talking to his date at one point during the Lost Weekend, Jerry began talking to himself–thoughts we get to hear–when this bright idea arose.

Forget saying this one to yourself during, say, your Lost Week with the family for that annual summer vacation. Keep it to yourself, but on your tongue, ready to drop at the moment you feel like you’ve had enough. Subtlety born of peace at any cost–so common to many families–is not good for anybody at this point. Don’t even bother trying to be funny (e.g., “When you said ‘Beach-front sort of hamlet for the weekend RSVP,’ I didn’t know you meant ‘Near the ocean this year for all the Shakespearean drama, BYOB'”). Just let it all hang out there with this line.

No house is big enough for two (or more) families, they say–what you might call a precursor to this observation of Jerry’s. We don’t know who “they” are, but we’re betting they’re not hanging around with family that much anymore…and they’re probably happier for it.

From “The Stock Tip”
Episode 5, Season 1
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 17:42

“Up here…I’m already gone.”
August 5, 2010

A delightful confession for those stressful times when you drift, those closest to you ask “Where are you, exactly?” and so you tell them: nowhere near them.

Bitten by the acting bug after a failed stint in a Woody Allen movie, Kramer decided to move to the L.A.nd of opportunity on the West Coast. When he confided in George about the plan, George doubted aloud: “You’re not really gonna go to California, are you?” Leaning in close, Kramer showed him the x that marked the spot.

An upcoming vacation, Friday night lights, or that car-battery-sized block of cheese you can’t wait to nosh–whatever x marks your hoped-for spot, you’ll leave your listener in uncharted territory about it if the right body language doesn’t accompany the line. Point to your head as you say the words Up here, then at the words I’m already gone shimmy that hand toward the horizon.

Now freeze that mental image and Photoshop yourself into a better background: sun-struck sand beneath your feet, for example, a Corona in the other hand, and nothing in the world to distract you. You could see a beached whale with something in its blowhole and you couldn’t care less (let someone else call for a marine biologist) because you’re just…there.

With that postcard in mind, plus Kramer’s line, to keep you from the edge, you’ll always be going somewhere. Just don’t forget Kramer’s moves and their timing to the line: there’s a reason it begins with elevating that one hand to your head as if gesticulating “I’ve had it up to here….”

From “The Keys”
Episode 22, Season 3
Seinfeld Volume 2, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 8:35

“When they pull that needle out, I let the ex-ple-tives fly.”
August 2, 2010

A colorful confession to share with those who know you to talk like a saint (but there’s a sailor in you too).

Jawline sagging from a little novocaine hangover, Kramer met Jerry and George at the gym after a visit to the dentist. When Jerry brought up their dentist’s new “adults only” policy, Kramer lauded his freedom to let his language go. “You find the need to use a lot of obscenities at the dentist’s?” Jerry asked. 

Life tees up many opportunities to tee off with a lot of obscenities. Yet we watch our mouths most of the time because, while we may think in phrases reminiscent of an R-rated Martin Scorsese movie, we must talk more like a PG-rated Steve Martin flick. Because that shows maturity, courtesy…all that crap. The problem with that dichotomy is, censoring yourself is sometimes a real pain in the *ss.

Catharsis is here, thanks to 1) studies showing that profanity enables people to better deal with pain, and 2) the ease of making Kramer’s confession yours, as you adapt it to any curse-worthy situation (paying the bills, etc.).

Don’t forget to pronounce each syllable of the key word (“ex-ple-tives”). It’s not a flourish–it’s a must. You’re telling those around you that, not only will you not bleep yourself, you’ll frickin’ spell it out for them too if need be.

From “The Jimmy”
Episode 19, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 9:40

“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

“No soup for you!”
July 21, 2010

A brazen shout-out for when you need to let someone down a la You’re out of luck, and you don’t mind bludgeoning their feelings while doing it.

George and Elaine fell victim to this verbal assault from the culinary genius known as the Soup Nazi, whose zeal for his craft so focused him on that craft, that normal communication was beneath him in the presence of anyone who didn’t pay his craft the respect it deserved—people who, for example, kissed on their “schmoopie” while standing in line rather than saying “One mulligatawny” and stepping to one side.

No need to substitute for “soup” another subject you want to dish up, a la No raise for you! (The approach has obvious delicious merits, but if you’re not fully committed to the blunt wording and psychotic exclamation, your substitution will only produce quizzical looks, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.) The universal images conjured by the word soup—ordering a favorite one in a fine restaurant, receiving an efficacious one from a friend while you’re ailing, etc.—all have to do with being provided a comfort food.

Being denied that comfort, courtesy of you channeling the Soup Nazi, is punishment enough for anyone, in any discussion.

From “The Soup Nazi”
Episode 6, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 1
Timecodes for the scenes: 4:00, 8:35

“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

“Tell us more, Mr. Science.”
July 12, 2010

An easygoing comeback to use on those who rear their heads mightily in conversation to show that they know so much more than you do.

While George, Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine were vacationing, Jerry’s date walked into a situation that gave her a little hunch about the real George Costanza, and she couldn’t help saying something about it to George’s date. Trying to dispel their false notions about his true dimensions, George later illustrated his point by discussing what laundering does to a t-shirt. Elaine promptly popped his bubble.

Adjust Elaine’s comment—Mr. Medicine, Mr. Sportscaster, etc.—to fit whatever bulbous head is struggling to find its way through the neckhole of your finely-knit conversation.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 15:35

“You know the message you’re sending out to the world with these sweat pants? You’re telling the world ‘I give up.'”
July 9, 2010

A plain observation to make to those for whom the show What Not to Wear was invented. They go on with their carelessly-clothed lifestyle then wonder why people are staring at them as if contemplating pulling out a twenty and giving it to the homeless-looking sap in the pajama-looking pants.

George showed up at Jerry’s apartment wearing sweat pants, and Jerry let him have it. This was one of Jerry’s favorite angles of friendly attack: the Costanza sense of style. In the Seinfeld saga, George was derided for a too-puffy coat, a too-small tux, and a winter parka with a snow-skiing lift ticket still attached to it, among other fashion faux pas. Jerry was not surprised.

And neither should you be if you encounter a George wearing his misery on his cheap velvet sleeve. Simply lower your voice to a taken-aback tone and register an indifferent look. Substitute the targeted clothing article for “sweat pants” in this line and let it fly. The only surprise here for you is not that this person did this—the surprise is what he or she is wearing.

“The Pilot (Part 1)”
Episode 23, Season 4
Seinfeld Volume 3, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 4:35

“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

“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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