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Posts Tagged ‘comedians in cars getting coffee’

I really enjoyed the first episode of the new season of Comedians in Cars Getting CoffeeJerry Seinfeld’s web series. The featured guest was Louis C.K., a comedian I admire for both his comedic chops and his business savvy.

As is standard on the show, Jerry and his guest talked shop. Aside from the stark contrast in style between the two—Jerry is known for his clean-as-a-whistle humor while Louis C.K. is anything but—the two comedians have a lot in common. They both have or had their own eponymous TV series, they both started out and continue to do stand-up, and they both seem self-aware enough to know how big a part luck (in addition to their immense talent) has played in their success.

During the 20-minute episode, Louis tells a couple of funny anecdotes, including one about grounding his boat the first time he takes it out, and being ship-wrecked for an entire day with his young daughters. He tells another story about going to the movies stoned and sneaking in candy. In that one, he mentions that for this mission he hired an Uber car to drive him to the theater. (Uber is a new-ish car service app.)

I don’t know the first thing about shooting a TV show, but I happened to notice that the camera was not on Louis when the word “Uber” was said (if you watch the episode, it’s at the 15:04 mark). And while Uber made sense in the context of the story, something about its mention seemed fishy–meaning I suspected it was a paid product placement by Uber edited into Louis’s story after the fact. (It was also possible that I was simply piecing together the words “Seinfeld” and “Uber” after recently reading an article about how Jerry’s wife overpaid for an Uber ride for their kids during one of Uber’s price surges. That or the news of Uber’s kitten delivery promotion back in October took up permanent residence in my brain.)

Whatever the impetus, I was suspicious about the Uber mention and was left wondering if anyone else had seen the episode and felt the same way, so I took to Twitter and wrote this:

Like most of my tweets, it didn’t receive much of a response.  At that point I let it go for fear of sounding a little too obsessive about something so meaningless—but not before I told a few people about my product placement theory, including my co-worker.

Fast forward to this week, when that same co-worker told me that she’d watched recently the episode of CICGC after the Louis C.K. one and that there was a much more overt mention of Uber. The car Jerry was driving with his guest, comedian-actor Patton Oswalt, broke down. (In each episode, Jerry drives a super-rare antique car. That episode featured a DeLorean.) Ostensibly stranded on the side of the road, Oswalt used his Uber app to hail a car (with a close-up of him using the app on his phone), and the show “restarted,” now featuring an Uber car instead of the DeLorean that had broken down. The Uber car that came to pick them up was a Honda, which makes sense considering the show’s sponsor is Acura (and Honda owns Acura).

Now it was clear that Uber had been a product placement all along, and that Louis C.K.’s Uber mention was simply laying the groundwork for the Oswalt episode.

I have nothing against product placement, per say, but it’s a little tough to stomach considering the show is already book-ended by two Acura commercials written by Jerry Seinfeld himself.

Seinfeld was notorious for using brand names in so many of its episodes, though it was never clear whether they were paid because they seemed so organic to the story. Off the top of my head I can think of quite a few (incidentally all snack-related): Junior Mints, Snapple, Twix, O’Henry, Yoohoo, Snickers. Not to mention the not-so-ringing endorsement for the U.S. Postal Service and its finest employee, Newman.

In a new world where everyone’s trying to get native advertising just right on sites like Buzzfeed, Uber didn’t quite hit the mark for me because it seemed too forced and didn’t quite match the laid back, informal environment the show tries to cultivate.

Although come to think of it, I just wrote a 600-word blog post mentioning Uber multiple times–and some of you probably hadn’t heard of it before. So maybe it wasn’t as far off the mark as I thought.

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I know what you’re thinking: What’s the deal with this blog post? Does Jerry Seinfeld really need more appreciation?

Without listing his résumé, I think we can all agree that Jerry (who I’ll refer to by first name as not to confuse him with his somewhat popular TV show, Seinfeld) is about as successful as a human being can be within his chosen profession.

That being said, anything else he does for the rest of his life, in comedy anyway, will inevitably be less successful than Seinfeld.

Since his show went off the air in 1998*, Jerry’s body of work might be considered unremarkable. He participated in a 2002 documentary, Comedian (about being a comedian), in which he retired his old stand-up material and started his comedy career from scratch (apart from his obvious name recognition). He wrote, produced and starred in the animated Bee Movie (grossed $257 worldwide) and NBC reality series-slash-game show The Marriage Ref (canceled after 19 episodes over two seasons). He appeared throughout the seventh season of Seinfeld co-creator Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm for a faux Seinfeld reunion. He’s toured his stand-up act. And now he’s got a web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, a talk show about, well, you can figure it out.

*While most hit shows stay on air past their prime these days, Seinfeld was still putting up huge ratings numbers in its ninth and final season. As Jerry told Louis C.K. on CICGC, “My show was about four single people living this certain type of lifestyle. We didn’t want to do Kramer’s fiftieth birthday party.”

“Man, I gotta get on that internet,” Jerry once quipped on Seinfeld. Now 59 years old, he certainly seems to have gotten a hang of the web. In addition to CICGC, he recently participated in a Reddit AMA (ask me anything), where he discussed with his fans everything from cars to failed Seinfeld scripts (Jerry buys a handgun?) to the revelation that the secret behind Seinfeld‘s success was that Jerry was actually the straight man to Kramer, George and Elaine.

It’s not that I appreciate Jerry Seinfeld because he can still achieve success four decades after he started his career. I appreciate him because he’s still trying new things. The media, especially the internet, can be a cruel place, even for its most treasured celebrities. Jerry Seinfeld, or any other performer of his status, has very little to gain from putting himself out there again and again.

Maybe it’s an addiction, and he simply can’t help himself. It’s the idea, which Jerry himself has talked about, that he simply can’t stop looking at the world from a comedian’s perspective. So many little things in life will always be funny to him, and he’ll always be looking for ways to articulate and disseminate those funny moments in a stand-up routine or a script or simply a filmed conversation with a fellow comedian.

In his Reddit AMA Jerry he hinted at a new “big, huge, gigantic” project he’s working on with Larry David, which has fans like myself intrigued. Will it be as successful as Seinfeld? Probably not. But that’s not really the point, is it? The point is that, in Kramer’s words, Jerry’s out there, and he seems to be loving every minute of it.

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