“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.

“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.

“Musicians. Get a real job.”
July 11, 2011

An impromptu observation to make when someone talks so incessantly about musical things–about, say, some new song they’re plucking–that you’re thinking Yeah, you’re really plucking something there.

“So the Raisinets are eating a box of Raisinets?” Jerry asked Elaine as they rode the subway and discussed a commercial showing various candies playing in a band: Raisinets on sax, Milk Duds on banjo, etc. At one point, the saxophonist Raisinets buys a box of Raisinets from a nearby concession stand. Elaine didn’t get it either. Jerry wrapped it up with this bon mot that he got from the scene.

You love music. (Who doesn’t?) What you don’t love are people with a mere modicum of musical skill who confuse the universal love of listening to music with the personal love of discussing music. And explicating it. And tying any conceivable topic of discussion back to it. You mention Back to the Future and in seconds your guitarist friend is onto Don Giovanni.

Eddie Van Halen did the guitar in the scene where Michael J. Fox puts the Walkman on McFly? Huh. No, I haven’t seen Amadeus. That’s why Eddie named his son WolfgangFascinating, you say–your polite “crescendo” as you bow out before you’re made to feel like you need the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rosetta Stone for Italian, and a few other “parts in your kit” to…er…be on the same sheet of music.

Wait for this person to leave the immediate area then strum Jerry’s low note with the nearby audience–or, if you’re comfortable with your conversational talent, play this rimshot while that person has a front row seat. Don’t fret about their reaction; eventually, they’ll understand: anyone with so much time and energy on their hands for one thing clearly needs something else to do. You’re just helping them get to it.

Or, to put it in terms they’ll understand: you’re giving them a friendly kick in the arpeggio.

From “The English Patient”
Episode 17, Season 8
Seinfeld Volume 7, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 00:00 (you read that “music note” right; this scene is the prelude to the episode)

“Why don’t you just give up?”
April 2, 2011

A prickly question to use on those who are so full of themselves–over their own potential–they’re practically bursting. And you’re happy to expand their horizons.

Before Jerry and Kramer bumped into Sally, an aspiring actress friend of Jerry’s, as she approached them on the sidewalk, Jerry told Kramer, “She should just give up” (on acting). Kramer couldn’t act either–he had to say the things that people think of others but don’t dare tell them…which Sally soon learned.

Thanks to such documentation as nationally televised singing contests, we now have proof that people are not as phenomenal as they think they are–and no one around them is telling them this. Picture yourself in that judge’s chair then, with a mic on your shirt and a drink at hand, because there are people around you who need your critical powers.

You know who they are: the shape (e.g., triangle) painting artists, the so-so medical students, the guys who think that transporting enough recyclable bottles to the right state will make them some dough. These people need you to set them free from their delusions of grandeur. So wait for their self-aggrandizing stories, listen for the hint of failure, then it’s Kramer time.

They’ll likely despise you now, but they’ll thank you later…if they’re still talking to you. And if they don’t, that’s okay. Because one of the unexpectedly satisfying things you’ll find in honesty of this kind, about things like giving up, is…

You’re just getting started!

From “The Cartoon”
Episode 13, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 3
Timecode for the scene: 00:15

“I’m the wiz! And nobody beats me!”
December 18, 2010

A carnival-barker shout-out to clarify for those around you that you are in fact full of yourself. Because being someone you’re not is hypocrisy…and you’re not going to be one of those people who’s full of it.

Elaine’s new boyfriend had this attractive twinkle in his eye that she couldn’t explain–until a channel-flipping Jerry discovered the explanation in a tacky commercial: the guy was a local actor whose claim to fame had him in kingly garb, a goofy grin, and this bombastic line. In the end, he was the wiz, leaving Elaine to ease on down the road.

Remember who you are. We grow up hearing it because, once grown up, we easily forget it–our true identity. This line is one way to avert the infamous identity crisis: have an identity circus. Anytime you find you’re not feeling like yourself, take that one word that summarizes who you are (architect, coach, etc.) and, like the long pole in a tent, build a three-ring show around it with these six words (e.g., “I’m the professor! And…”).

Your show may be less talent than freak in other people’s eyes, but social interaction is a high-wire act for everyone, no matter who you are. So, while you’re performing, you might as well be one of the main attractions.

From “The Junk Mail”
Episode 5, Season 9
Seinfeld Volume 8, Disc 1
Timecode for the scene: 18:31 (that’s the main attraction; for the warm-up act, see 10:48 and 11:41)

“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

“Well, now we’re gettin’ somewhere!”
September 20, 2010

A buoyant observation to make when someone or something moves you forward several spaces in the game of Life, and that just makes you feel like high-five-ing yourself.

Sitting on the couch in front of the TV one night, Jerry and Elaine shifted from gabbing about random things to strategizing about how they might hit the bedroom…then hit the couch again for more TV or hit the road or whatever–so long as it didn’t require being with each other. And Jerry rejoiced.

I’ve arrived. This is what we’re shooting for–arriving Somewhere, whether that’s a status, a location, a collection of toys, etc. We start the journey early in life, throwing it out there like a roll of the dice: “I’m really going Somewhere someday.” Then we spend years getting up each day, trying to get ahead…to get Somewhere. And now, here we are, we’re gettin’ there

The little joys that come your way, along the way–mark them with Jerry’s line, nice and loud, with a childish lilt in your voice. Not because you might spend your whole life getting there, which is true (and better than going Nowhere fast). But because, more importantly…whoever dies with the most joys wins.

From “The Deal”
Episode 13, Season 2
Seinfeld Volume 1, Disc 4
Timecode for the scene: 5:29

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