“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)

“Well, this has all been one big tease!”
August 30, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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)

“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.

“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

“But I don’t want to be a pirate!”
February 21, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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

“That’s not sweetening the deal.”
December 4, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Giddy-up!”
November 23, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

“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

“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

“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 are the doofus.”
October 2, 2010

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

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

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

And all hail Kramer for giving us a better oxymoron.

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

“That’s kooky talk.”
September 22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

“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)

“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

“You’re a great guy. I love you, but you’re a pod.”
August 30, 2010

A back-slapping shout-out to use on those people in your life who look like human beings, act like human beings, but every time they open their mouths it becomes clearer that they’re from another planet.

Thanks to Jerry, Elaine landed the chance to rent an apartment in his building–a gesture he soon regretted when he realized she’d pop in even more. After the rent deposit turned out to be more than Elaine could afford, Jerry rejoiced…until Kramer suggested Jerry lend Elaine the money. Elaine took the offer, and Jerry looked at Kramer like he was less “K-Man” than “K-Pax”–an alien being whom Jerry wasn’t sure had come in peace.

The cosmic Kramers in your life put you in Jerry’s dilemma: these people could be phenomenally brilliant or galactically stupid, you’re not sure which; you just know you’ll never really rid your world of these lovable creatures because they are your friends. Putting up with them is part of the universal pact of friendship. So is reminding them every once in a while, as Jerry did here with Kramer, that you see through their pretense of being from planet Earth.

Indeed, if any one of these people became suddenly, consistently down to Earth, you would think they’d “been replaced”: Who are you and what have you done with _________ (insert the extra-terrestrial’s name)?

From “The Apartment”
Episode 8, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 13:58

“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

“That seems about right.”
August 16, 2010

A hard-hitting observation to use when someone brings up a personal subject–assuming everyone will keep their distance–and you decide to hit that thing like a pinata.

Kramer’s acting gig at a local hospital–portraying different ailments for medical students to diagnose–soon landed him a role he thought was beneath him. When he later walked into Jerry’s apartment and announced “Well…I got gonorrhea,” Elaine admitted outright that she didn’t see anything wrong with this picture.

People sometimes reveal something about themselves, inviting you to comment in a discriminate way: do you juggle the subject (“Are you sure?”)?; deflect it (“You need to talk to…”)?; duck it (“I’m hungry–let’s get something to eat”)? These are the times that try men’s souls, because what you’d like to say is the truth–except most people can’t handle the truth.

Which is why, sometimes, you must speak the truth, even if it has all the effect of pulling out a bat. People may furrow their brow and stand back a little because they’re not sure what you’re going to do next. “I really dorked that up,” your cousin says; and with the four words of Elaine’s line you say not only “Yes, you dorked that up” but also “Because you are in fact a dork.”

Imagine the more meaningful conversation that would follow that.

From “The Burning”
Episode 16, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 7:52

“Rusty!”
August 10, 2010

A ripcord-pull of a shout-out for when you head unexpectedly into the winds of change–someone else’s, that is, forcing you to change direction before others think the wind came from you.

Kramer got the opportunity to manage a hansom cab, making a lot of money giving people a “rustic” tour of New York City. His windfall soon fell victim to a certain wind coming from the direction of Rusty, Kramer’s equine buddy in this buggy business. Kramer the driver or Rusty the horse? The customers in the carriage couldn’t tell at first where the smell was coming from. Kramer’s announcement cleared the air…sort of.

Kramer had no idea what buckets of “Beef-A-Reeno” would do to the digestive tract of a horse–just like you have no idea what you’re getting into when you walk down that greeting card aisle, around restaurant tables, or into any other non-bathroom place where you a bathroom-specific odor lurks. You might stop to look for the source, but what you’re likely to find instead are other people looking at you like you’re a character straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail—and they don’t think you’re funny.

You’re not trying to be funny if you give a shout-out to Rusty when stumbling into such a situation. But if they do laugh—all the better. Because if they’re wondering who this “Rusty” is, that means they’re off of you—and you…you’re riding off into the sunset.

From “The Rye”
Episode 11, Season 7
Seinfeld Volume 6, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 17:40

“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

“You’re quite breathtaking.”
August 4, 2010

A flat-out put-down (disguised as a flattering observation) to use in lieu of what you really want to say…which would take the listener’s breath away–huffing at the horrible insensitivity of your comment, that is.

Vacationing with friends who had a baby, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer finally got a good look at that baby and–Gehhh. Evidently the baby (which we never see) would have made some of the world’s ugliest leaders (de Gaulle, Golda Meir, etc.) run up a tree. Enter the handsome family doctor, Ben, who refers to Elaine as “breathtaking” and now she really likes him. When Ben then pays the baby the same compliment–Errr?–confusion builds in Elaine until Ben later explains, “Well, you know, Elaine, sometimes you say a thing like that just to be nice.”

The initial reactions of Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer to the baby–in front of the baby’s parents–said it all, about the predicament most of us face when telling others what we really think about them: Jerry and Elaine masked their repulsion; Kramer’s reaction, witnessed in another episode that included this baby, was to snap his head back as if he’d just been hit, literally, with an ugly stick.

Wish for it though we might, we can’t all be Kramer, whose life was, as George once put it, a “fantasy camp”—weekly activities that included mooching off neighbors, sex without dating…and giving opinions without repercussion. We can’t, for example, tell that micromanaging boss what Kramer once told an actor friend of Elaine’s, “Why don’t you just give up?

Dealing with people’s feelings involves a number of reactions that typically fall between two options: you might suck the air out of the room (e.g., “No soup for you!”) or you might blow smoke into it—using “breathtaking” at will, to describe what you will.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 7:20

“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

“I must be at the nexus of the universe.”
July 28, 2010

An awestruck observation for those times when you don’t know where you are, but you’re not lost. Nooo. Because that’s not how you see it.

Kramer ventured beyond his little world in New York City to maintain his “long-distance relationship” with a girlfriend who lived downtown. Eventually losing his way, he called Jerry, who told him to look for a street sign. And there it was: 1st and 1st. His epiphany at the sight sounded less like he’d found his place and more like he’d found spacethe final frontier.

Watching the voyage of the Starship Kramerica Enterprise from I’m walkin’ here! to I need a little help here! should bring an encouraging signpost into view: we’ve all been here. It’s what you do when you get there, though–that makes all the difference. You might resign yourself to being lost and ask for help. Or you might say “Get lost” to those who tell you to ask for help.

But if you really want to get your bearings–and keep them–look at all the world around you as your little world. By taking such a Kosmo-politan view, you’ll never be lost because you’re always at the center of things…always seeing signs, not stars. Your every wrong turn will be a revelation; every misstep a chance to map that site and move on.

From “The Maid”
Episode 19, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 18:05

“Vile weed!”
July 23, 2010

A theatrical observation for those times when you’re served a dish you despise, and you must sound a barbaric yawp about it over the tabletop of your world.

Kramer had to hide from Jerry his addiction to the delectable offerings of the nearby chicken roaster restaurant, so Kramer enlisted Newman to pick up food from the restaurant without Jerry knowing it. When Jerry happened to pass Newman with an armful of takeout, a container of broccoli–something Newman despised–caught Jerry’s eye. Jerry asked Newman to take a bite. Newman’s attempt to maintain the Newman/Kramer subterfuge led to this little ode to the sprout…as it ejected, half-masticated, from his mouth.

Unlike Newman himself, there’s more here than meets the eye–more to this observation than excoriating what sprouts out of the ground. With these two words, the sky is the limit: you can trash whole eateries (“Vile bistro!”), dump on culture (“Vile movie!”), and even categorically castigate people (“Vile celebrity!”). Brush off any accusation that you’re exaggerating to make a point; exaggeration is the point. Announcing your repulsion, at the moment you are repulsed, is to seize the day as Newman did. In carpe newman, subtlety is not a good quality.

From “The Chicken Roaster”
Episode 8, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 2
Timecode for the scene: 17:09

“You better think again, mojumbo.”
July 22, 2010

A snappy comeback to use on those who come at you with good reason—You were wrong!—but you still don’t want to admit they are right.

Newman traded his motorcycle helmet to Kramer for his radar detector, which Kramer knew didn’t work (and he didn’t tell Newman). When Newman was later slapped with a speeding ticket…he detected a foul smell rising from this sweet little deal. Voice heaving with A pox on you! ire, Newman went toe-to-toe with Kramer, demanding both helmet and recompense for the speeding ticket. Kramer tap-danced around him with this comment.

Keep the tap dancing in mind here. Admitting that you are wrong is a country line dance: difficult to master but automatic once mastered. Admonishing someone to rethink their position about your wrongness takes fancier footwork, different with every dance. Try too hard—working the dance floor like a full-body dry heave—and you’ll make the person wince. Tippy-toe the whole number—a little too delightful—and you’ll make the person laugh.

Do the Kramer two-step—boldly inciting the person to a second thought while lithely calling him or her a name (preferably something mumbo-jumbo)—and you’ll make them think they are wrong.

From “The Pitch”
Episode 3, Season 4
Seinfeld Volume 3, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 9:55

“Boutros-Boutros ‘Golly.’”
July 15, 2010

A brilliant observation to express childlike wonderment when you’re faced with something so stunning that coherence escapes you.

When Jerry, Kramer, and Elaine encountered a half-naked woman on the beach where they were vacationing, the first words out of Jerry’s mouth were “Boutros-Boutros Ghali.” (The last word pronounced “golly.”) Momentarily awed, like a schoolboy peeking into a beautiful neighbor’s bedroom window in a 1980s’ movie, Jerry didn’t say, “Wow, look at those….” No “Hubba hubba.” Not even a “Breathtaking.” Just the name of the Egyptian man who served as the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1992 to 1997.

Golly evokes the younger days of talking for hours on end—“What do you think of this?”; “What about that?!”—but your vocabulary only filled five minutes with original material. Translated from the adolescent tongue, it means “I don’t know what to say but I’m working on it.” Boutros-Boutros “Golly,the adult version of golly, will leave people around you nodding. If they are as smart as you, the name drop will also leave them thinking, “That reminds me of a Trivial Pursuit question I once had….” This is a win-win situation either way.

You don’t know what to say but you’ll come off sounding like you do.

From “The Hamptons”
Episode 21, Season 5
Seinfeld Volume 4, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 4:00

“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

“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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