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Thursday, October 16, 2008

What is the deal with this "Seinfeld" flashback?

If this were Jerry Seinfeld’s first trip to Green Bay and not his third in a little more than four years, the acclaimed comedian’s arrival might be met with one of those forceful, Elaine Benes “Get OUT!” pushes that felled many a male counterpart during the ’90s.

In truth, tonight's Green Bay tour stop (Jerry likes us! He really likes us!) is still a pretty big deal around here. One of the greatest stand-up comedians of all-time, the sitcom megastar could enjoy a lavish retirement by spit-shining his massive car collection or diving into a big money pile ala Scrooge McDuck. Instead, as master of the observational comedy domain, the 54-year-old New York native enjoys returning to his humble stand-up roots every few years, primarily to talk about marriage, child rearing, and yes, the occasional “did you ever notice?” riff on cereal and superheroes.

If it seems like Seinfeld never really went away because of a recent syndication barrage, that’s only partially true. Other than a much-ballyhooed “30 Rock” guest spot last year, he hasn’t gravitated to other TV projects since his namesake show memorably signed off a decade ago. Instead, he made the media rounds during a promotional swarm for his animated feature “Bee Movie,” and more recently, paired with fellow comedy savant (ahem) Bill Gates in Microsoft ads to the tune of a reported $10 million.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

To celebrate Jerry's return to Green Bay, here's a "Seinfeld" breakdown written prior to his performance two years ago, as well as the review that followed his Weidner Center show. He'll be performing twice tonight -- at 7 and 9:30 p.m., the first of which is sold out. Look for a review of the 7 p.m. show online tomorrow and in the Press-Gazette on Saturday.

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If every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings, whenever someone re-gifts a label maker or names their baby boy Seven, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David should get residual checks.

Whether it's glossing over a story with "yada, yada, yada," laughing at the deeper meaning behind a box of Junior Mints, or using Bosco as your PIN code, life plays out like one long "Seinfeld" episode.

But while it's been almost eight years since the series finale aired, the "excruciating minutiae" of life as regularly examined by Seinfeld, George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) continues to resonate with the masses in syndication and on DVD.

Named the No. 1 show of all-time by TV Guide in 2002, "Seinfeld" spawned a pop culture legacy unrivaled by any other series. So while it's virtually impossible to pick 10 moments, quotes or characters from its nine-season run on NBC, here are some of the most memorable highlights.

Giddyup!

Man Hands

Jerry's disparaging remark about an attractive date's "meaty paws."

Quotable: "It's like a creature out of Greek Mythology. I mean, she was like part woman, part horrible beast." -- Jerry

"The Contest"

Arguably the most infamous "Seinfeld" episode of all-time. Based on an actual contest co-creator Larry David participated in, the writers managed to talk about a form of self-gratification without using the actual word throughout the entire episode. Since they didn't use it, we won't either.

Quotable: "We have to do it. It's part of our lifestyle. It's like, uh, shaving." -- Jerry

"Not that there's anything wrong with that."

The disclaimer used at the end of Jerry and George's spirited refutation of claims that they are not a homosexual couple, as is believed by a college newspaper writer who was eavesdropping on a playful conversation.

"No soup for you!"

The Soup Nazi's marching orders to customers who don't follow the established rules of his soup stand.

Quotable: "So, essentially you chose soup instead of a woman."-- Elaine

"It was a bisque." -- Jerry

"A Festivus for the rest of us!"

Frank Costanza's non-denominational December holiday that is celebrated annually, with varying degrees of seriousness, by fans of the show. Unique touches include an aluminum pole instead of a Christmas tree and the "Airing of Grievances" at dinner. Traditionally, Festivus is not over until the head of the household is wrestled to the floor and pinned during the "Feats of Strength."

Quotable: "Frank invented a holiday? He's so prolific." -- Kramer

"Dolores!"

Jerry only knows that his girlfriend's name rhymes with a female body part, which leads to memorable guesses like Mulva, Bovary and Gipple. It's revealed on the "Seinfeld" Season Four DVD's that the script actually called for the name to be Cloris, but during a public screening, an audience member guessed the name Dolores, which writers felt suited the episode better. Also notable because of a lawsuit filed in the early '90s on behalf of a Miller Brewing Company worker who was fired for talking about the running gag with a female co-worker.

J. Peterman

Elaine's boss and the brains behind the J. Peterman clothing catalog, itself a real publication. One of "Seinfeld's" quirkiest characters, John O'Hurley, the actor who played Peterman, later became a fan favorite on ABC's reality hit, "Dancing with the Stars."

Quotable: "You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me." -- J. Peterman

"Hello, Newman"

Jerry's contemptuous greeting for postal worker/neighbor/ nemesis Newman.

Quotable: "I know the chunky who left these Chunkys!" -- Jerry

Shrinkage

Like when a man goes swimming ... afterward.

Quotable: "It shrinks?" -- Elaine

"Like a frightened turtle!" -- Jerry

"Believe it or not, George isn't at home ..."

George's cheesy answering machine message, which uses the background theme to "The Greatest American Hero."

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How could anyone not like him?

It's a rhetorical question Jerry Seinfeld's TV mom asked during a successful nine-season run that ultimately seeped its way into the pop culture sphere of influence like no other sitcom in history.

But even with a self-admitted life of doing "nothing" since "Seinfeld" ended on top in 1998, the man behind the laughter is still as likeable and funny as ever doing exactly what got him on Hollywood's A-list.

After opener Mark Schiff warmed up the sold-out Weidner Center crowd for about 20 minutes, Seinfeld immediately broke through the curtain with an impromptu slide as if he were a five-year-old kid who couldn't wait to perform a new song and dance routine for a dinner party of adults.

On his show, Seinfeld played a "thin, single and neat" stand-up comedian enthralled with Superman and cereal. So, it wasn't a huge surprise when he began to muse about the constant promotion of more raisins inside a box of Raisin Bran.

"More scoops, deeper scoops, longer scoops ... enough scoops, c'mon!"

Whether it was a riff on the expertise of Japanese kamikaze pilots -- "You've broken the landing gear your last three times out ... We've got a special mission for you" -- or the purported bird flu pandemic -- "So a bird has to stay home from work for three days. Who cares?" -- for a little more than an hour, Jerry was master of the Weidner Center domain.

Ah, but there's also a new, equally-interesting side that fans never got to see on their TV screens -- Seinfeld as 51-year-old husband and father to three young children.

The life transition led to memorable exchanges about the head sizes of youngsters who visit his home -- "Don't other people's kids look strange to you?" -- to the importance of a man's tone once he gets married -- (The tone of) "my actual speaking voice, that I'm using to communicate with you right now, is not welcome in my house. That's why I'm here talking to you."

With even Jerry noting during a short Q&A following the 7 p.m. show -- a 9:30 performance was also scheduled -- that "Seinfeld" is on about "19 times a day" in syndication, it's safe to say the man doesn't have to leave his home if he doesn't want to.

But Seinfeld knows how he got his start, and he knows that his comfort zone is on stage with a microphone.

"They didn't tell me to come here. I asked to come here," Seinfeld emphatically said about a return visit to Green Bay, in February no less.

We're glad you asked, Jerry. And dig out that winter jacket again next year.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski, trozwado@greenbaypressgazette.com

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1 Comments:

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