Jerry Seinfeld back in driver's seat for comedy, coffee
JERRY Seinfeld loves cars. He's fond of coffee. And, of course, he loves to talk comedy.
But the inspiration for his online talk show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, was an episode of his eponymous 1990s sitcom.
Jerry's sad-sack pal, George, decided success might await him if he lived his failed life in the opposite manner.
"That," says Seinfeld, "gave me the idea to create a talk show that was the opposite of the typical show.
"With a typical talk show you have to go to a studio. You have to tell them in advance what you're going to talk about. You have to dress up. You have to put on makeup. It's very, very organised.
"I thought, maybe there's a different way than being stuck on a couch: Outside and moving is the opposite of inside and still.
The show's third season hits the road this week with Seinfeld joining Louis CK for a coffee after a zany ride in a 1959 Fiat Jolly, which resembles a golf buggy.
Other guests include Patton Oswalt, Howard Stern, Tina Fey, Todd Barry and Jay Leno.
"I wanted to make a show that people would like to be on" says Seinfeld in his Manhattan office, where soon he will begin another editing session to whittle the Leno episode to a tight 20 minutes from the two or three hours of recorded chitchat.
Seinfeld is now 59 and has nothing left to prove.
But he remains a stickler for detail - such as when he huddles with an editor a few minutes later to tweak the music accompanying a shot of the car (a 1949 Porsche 356/2) he and Leno will share.
Even so, the flavour of each episode is insistently no-frills, candid and off-the-cuff.
Seinfeld says he never prepares for a taping.
"Things just occur to me. Like asking Howard Stern to tell me how his life ends, what he's doing in that last moment.
"He seemed like a guy who's really afraid of death. So I wanted to ask him about it."
Unsurprisingly, Seinfeld mostly focuses on comedy with each guest. Welcome to his world.
"At least 50 per cent of the waking life of every comedian is gossiping and analysing with other comedians about comedy.
"Comedy is a very mysterious profession, so we're always trying to figure it out.
"This show is a little bit of a valentine to a certain subset of humanity," he goes on, winding up for a Seinfeld-esque riff that, even on the fly, spins out humourously.
"I wanted to put a few comedians into this one petri dish - that's what this show is - 'cause you got to get them in the wild. If you're going to study a species, you got to study them in the wild, otherwise the experiment is tainted! The evidence is tainted!"
In the untainted back-and-forth that results on his show, Seinfeld proves to be an excellent audience, clearly enjoying each guest's bons mots as much as he enjoys delivering his own.
Fine, but how competitive does Seinfeld feel in the company of another comedian?
"Zero," he declares, and flashes a quizzical smile: "I haven't done well enough?! But even if I hadn't," he adds, growing serious, "no, I do not have that gene."
And yet, as you watch Seinfeld matching wits with a guest, it's not hard to imagine he's on high alert for any fresh idea embedded in the banter that, with just the right tweaking, could end up in his act.
You bet, Seinfeld nods.
"That's my whole life," he says. "That's every single second of my life."
Watch the new season at comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com.
Here's the new season trailer: