Coffee looks good only as it is being poured in slow motion in a white cup on Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘Comedians in the Car Getting Coffee’ (CCGC). It does make me want to reach for my own cup of coffee, which, by the way, I do not particularly like. I don’t like coffee much, although I don’t seem to mind watching CCGC with unfailing regularity. Not that one is a prerequisite to the other. I mean I do not have to drink coffee to watch CCGC. For that matter, I do not even have to watch CCGC or drink coffee. I do it because that’s the sort of thing I do.
Look at the brew in these two pictures. It is like pouring molten ebony glass. I think the test of a great coffee brew is that it does not splash when you pour it. I just made that up because it sounds so knowledgeable, as if it could have come from the mouth of a legendary coffee connoisseur.
It is hard for me to rationalize why I watch CCGC. At one level, it merely indulges two people who hardly need any indulging. After all, what is comedy if not pouring your angst without splashing? The line sounds nice but is quite meaningless, quite like the show I occasionally write about.
In the latest episode Seinfeld invites French comedian Gad Elmaleh for coffee. If Bassem Youssef is the Egyptian Jon Stewart, then Gad Elmaleh is the French Jerry Seinfeld. I have never understood this need to describe someone as the something someone. Why can’t Bassem Youssef just be Bassem Youssef and Gad Elmaleh as Gad Elmaleh? Why do they need a qualifier in order to be lifted out of their obscurity in the United States? Why must they be dressed up in American pop references? But then why am I getting worked up when Youssef and Elmaleh do not seem to mind it?
Coming back to why I watch CCGC, it is partly because it has no particular structure to it. Basically, it is Seinfeld engaging another famous person in an almost incidental conversation about this, that and the other. It works mainly because that’s what Seinfeld and his guests have excelled at doing for a long time. Of course, a certain level of fame and celebrity are essential for a format like this. For instance, I could not pull it off simply because no one knows who I am. For most of the people who appear on this show it is mostly their long-nurtured reputation that makes it work. As they say, they could phone it in. As a journalist, I often send my reputation on assignments.
Having watched every episode, I have observed that more often than not it is not so much what they are saying but who is saying it. I call it humor by association. The audience is so used to expecting humor from these people that they are already primed to laugh no matter what they say. People often laugh as if they are giving them the benefit of the doubt. What are the odds that a professional comic is being funny? Even when they are not deliberately being funny, they become funny by being ironically unfunny. For successful comics, life is pretty much win-win.