Jerry Seinfeld celebrates 10 years of latte and laughs in ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ book

It’s been 10 years since Jerry Seinfeld first called a fellow comedian and invited him into the car for a cup of coffee.

To celebrate the show’s anniversary, his new The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Book includes transcripts and hilarious, intimate conversations.

“Seinfeld” fans will remember the episode where Kramer introduced his coffee table book in “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” – which stopped Seinfeld from using the title “The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Table Book”.

“I think we’ve already made that joke,” Seinfeld says.

The cover of Jerry Seinfeld’s The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Book. (decency)

In the book’s introduction, Seinfeld writes that he should almost apologize for the indulgent idea behind the show. After years of watching late-night shows and waiting for the comedian, he envisioned a show where the audience wouldn’t interrupt the subtle or personal moments.

“You can’t put a comedian in front of an audience and ask them not to serve that audience,” he says. “You won’t do it.”

Seinfeld compares comedians to inanimate objects or aliens from an extraterrestrial world. Raw footage of comedians in conversation shows how they move through topics faster than other people, he says.

“That’s what a standup set is. It’s compressed, hyperkinetic, fake talk. Nobody speaks in a series of jokes. It’s a ridiculous conceit that happens to be a lot of fun, but it takes a tremendous amount of work to create,” Seinfeld says. “But the comedian brain that can do that isn’t a typical brain.”

Some of the guests on the show are dear friends of Seinfeld, while others like Amy Schumer or Steve Martin he had never met.

“What I discovered on the show is that every comedian sits down with every other comedian and it feels like they grew up together,” says Seinfeld.

For a comedian, everything in life is superficial except comedy, he says. Seinfeld had to learn how to function in social situations and how to talk to people outside of the comedy world. Just ask his wife.

“Comedy is the only real thing for you, everything else you’re just trying to be kind of normal so people don’t see how bad you are,” he says. “I was at dinner the other night with Steve Martin and Seth Meyers and John Mulaney and our wives. Someone heard there was this new Chinese restaurant in town. “Oh, why don’t we meet up? We can all go to this Chinese restaurant.” And I think it was Seth Meyers’ wife who said, ‘Are we dating these autistic men?'”

For Seinfeld, meeting Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks was a “religious moment” comparable to meeting Moses.

“I love my peers, but I love the older guys the most,” says Seinfeld. “People ask what it’s like to be on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson? I used to say it’s like there’s a doorknob on the front of your TV and you just opened it and stepped inside.”

At times, the conversations in the book read like therapy, like that with “Seinfeld” co-star Michael Richards, who backtracked after a video of a racist tirade against a heckler went viral in 2006. On the show, Richards says he made a mistake by focusing on himself and his ego.

Seinfeld says he never considered ending his friendship with Richards over the controversy.

“I don’t want to belittle what happened, but how could you not understand a mistake?” says Seinfeld. “Any comedian knows what it’s like to be in that frying pan and it’s very easy to lose your balance and make a horrible mistake. I offered fist fights with spectators. I said, ‘Let’s go outside right now and work this out.'”

What Seinfeld remembers most from the conversation is Richards saying he wished he had more fun doing the show.

“And I said, ‘That wasn’t our job to enjoy it. It was our job to make them enjoy it,” Seinfeld says.

Like the hit series, Seinfeld says the book is a valentine. He wanted The Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Book to show the quality of friendships among comedians starting in elementary school, where one class clown befriends another. Since then, whenever Seinfeld walks into a room and sees another comedian, he runs right over to them.

“Because when you suddenly find yourself in a group of people who have the same things as you, you feel at home for the first time in your life. You always felt I don’t belong here. And for the first time you walk into a club and there are all these comedians at the bar and you’re like, ‘Oh, this is where I belong,'” he says. “This feeling is a life moment that gives your life. That gives you life. I didn’t know what I was here for. Now I know.”


Emiko Tamagawa produced and edited this broadcast interview with Gabe Bullard. Allison Hagan adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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