Jon Stewart on ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’
I am almost annoyed that I regularly watch Jerry Seinfeld’s increasingly smug net-only series ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’. To the extent that any performance art demands a measure of self-absorption, the core of this series makes sense. However, one finds that Seinfeld elevates the tribe of comedians to a level which they do not necessarily deserve. He sees charming quirks in almost everything that comedians do even when they don’t exist. It is as if he falls in love with his craft and those who practice it with manifest success over and over again. He presumes a uniqueness to his profession that no other can come anywhere close to.
Take for instance, the latest episode with Jon Stewart. Seinfeld calls Stewart who answers with a why-are-you-calling-me? hello.
Seinfeld and Stewart laugh even as the former says, “See, that’s what I like about comedians. They can’t even answer the phone normally.” Stewart says, “yeah.”
There is nothing even marginally funny about this but it becomes so for some simply because of who is saying it. The viewer is primed to laugh because of the reputation of those involved. It is not necessarily funny because it is funny but it is funny because it is expected to be funny given who is saying and doing things. In that sense, he is just glides on his reputation as does Stewart.
Having watched every segment of all seasons, I can say that it is only a marginally humorous series where jokes are often of inside variety. It is not even meant to be a comedy merely because it is about two comedians in a car getting coffee. The tone of the show seems to be to tell the viewer “You are not really invited but now that you are here, sit in that corner and enjoy without interrupting the two of us talking about whatever catches our fancy.” The fact that this is my third or fourth piece about the series proves that notwithstanding my growing resentment I still watch it unfailingly. I do not know what that says about me other than that I am sucker.
This is what I said last June about the series: “One minor quibble is that like all great comedians she (Sarah Silverman) too has developed that smug self-assurance that most great comedians have about their material. They know they are unlikely to fail once they have reached a certain level of success. That self-assurance gives them an unintended look of smugness. I mean this as a compliment.”
Seinfeld has loads of that smug self-assurance. Having made hundreds of millions of dollars on that very approach, one can hardly hold it against him. However, it might help to remind him once in a while that there is nothing intrinsically lofty about what he and his fellow comedians do. They perhaps justifiably feel special because they make people laugh. But that is just about it. There is no need to look for that specialness in every stupid little thing that they do including not answering the phone “normally”.