Now in his mid-6 0s, the comedian continues to deliver beautifully sharpened, brilliantly occasioned observations on everyday life
‘I feel like a blacksmith up here sometimes ,” says Jerry Seinfeld in a routine addressing 21 st-century communication. Talking has been supplanted; it’s an outmoded thing to do. That may be true when it comes to phones- or true enough to make a joke out of- but there’s nothing unfashionable about talking a la Seinfeld, whose brand of observational slapstick spawned hundreds of thousands of imitators and remains standup’s dominant mode. Tonight, we see it implemented with perfect mastery by a male whose performing abilities seem undiminished at a hard-to-credit 65.
Laughs flow freely throughout his 70 minutes on stage. Revelations into the real Jerry, or new perspectives on the world- well, there are fewer of those, in a established whose proficiency feels a little facile, only a teensy chip soulless. Two-thirds in, he steps away from the gags to promise us a change of tack, a peek of where his life is in 2019. But what follows is more of the same common-touch comedy, in this case about marriage( he’s at 19 times and counting) and kids. Several of the” boys do this, women do that” gags are retrieved from his back catalogue. His take on family life you could call timeless- or lack access to novelty.
But, technically, the jokes are so neat- and the give, exemplary. This boy can do comic timing like Paul McCartney does music. The opening string is a belter, as Seinfeld anatomises the night-out experience. Why are we here? Why is he? This is a” bogus, hyped-up , not necessary special event” designed to pass the time and induce us feel our lives are great. But then- next gag- “‘ suctions’ and’ great’ are pretty close”, says Jerry, and isn’t everything a bit rubbish anyway?
It’s a deft start, constricting the gap between megastar and audience, then extending it again as comedy requires. But there’s little in tonight’s show to suggest the rarefied life multimillionaire Seinfeld must lead. His modern-life-is-funny gags are hard-wired to be relatable, from the procedure about all-you-can-eat buffets to the number addressing the cult of “hydration”. Each is drolly brought to life as our host role play-acts gluttonous overeaters or energy-drink junkies exhaustedly craving a fix.
Perhaps because what Seinfeld is saying is often inconsequential, attention strays to how he’s saying it- with a sense of rhythm and rhythm so finely tuned it could be applied to almost anything and still attain you laugh. You might doubt there’s more fun to be wrung from that hoary standup theme, mobile phones. But Jerry manages it, with a routine looking at the anthropology of Uber, and wondering( as he did about dog possession many moons ago) whether nowadays the human rights owns the phone, or vice versa.
As per his wonderfully withering gag about the vapid word “it is what it is”, the material zeroes in on how ludicrous we all are. But the committee is also promotes senior citizen Seinfeld’s increasing detachment from the whole rigmarole. In the only section he couldn’t have delivered any earlier in his career, he celebrates life as a sexagenarian, when you can say no to everything with impunity, and foresees his next decade, when – why fus speaking?- a contemptuous wave should suffice.
It’s a lovely joke, but an unlikely scenario. Because nothing tonight therefore seems that, even at 65, Seinfeld’s appetite for talking- far less his aptitude- is remotely on the wane.