“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)

“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

“They’re the worst.”
August 3, 2010

A curt observation for categorically dismissing all of humanity, not because you’re having a bad day or even a “moment”–you just felt like doing it. Because they deserved it.

Jerry was small-talking with Elaine about nitwits who get on a plane and start talking to you because they’ve got nothing else to do. Elaine understood: “I will never understand people,” she said, articulating the word never like hers was the last word on the subject–and it was a good one. Jerry one-upped her–and it was the stuff of a Dickens novel.

Humanity is inherently good, they say, but we know that’s up for debate. Look no further than Newman (“He’s pure evil,” Jerry once said) to see why. Yet we also know that Newmans are few and far between (“He’s a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie,” Jerry also said) so that thickens the debate.

What should settle the debate is what we know from our interactions with people, which tend to leave one of two general impressions: It was the best of this personIt was the worst of that person. And in this Tale of Two Personalities we see in every person we meet, the best may be yet to come. But until then…it’s the worst.

You go to a movie theater–they’re there, loud and obnoxious. You’re driving down the road, minding all traffic regulations–they’re there, and they’re not minding. Even when they’re not there, they’re the worst. You head to the checkout lane and discover new meaning to the word checkout: the register clerk apparently did just that when she saw the line forming. You dart into an open lane–the lane light is on–but no register clerk is home.

Who are these people? “What is with these people?” People! Why? These are some of life’s most (de)pressing questions.

And now you have an answer.

From “The Face Painter”
Episode 23, Season 6
Seinfeld Volume 5, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 3:00

“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

%d bloggers like this: