Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything (by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong)

This history of Seinfeld seemed right up my alley as soon as I first heard about it, and I preordered it immediately. It's the classic fun book that I like to parcel out to myself at the gym, and I do love insidery books about the comedy scene (see also: the SNL oral history).

I was not the world's biggest Seinfeld fan, but I really grew to appreciate it as time went on, it appeared in syndication, and I realized how many real-life situations bring to mind this or that episode of Seinfeld. Also: it is a crime that Jason Alexander never won an Emmy for playing George Costanza. It's not quite Steve Carell levels of egregious but it's close, Jerry! It's close!

I would have enjoyed a book twice as long and with twice as much depth. This book is really great when it talks about the minutia of individual scripts and episodes, or even the stories of individual writers, but the title "Seinfeldia" is a reference to the fandom around Seinfeld, and this is interesting at first, but wears a bit thin and comes across at times as a bit of a stretch. (For example, much of the final chapter of the book is devoted to dueling parody Seinfeld Twitter accounts. Did we really need the inside story of @Seinfeld2000? Not really. Or certainly not to this extent.)

Also the photos at the end are interesting but it weirdly over-emphasizes writer Andy Robin's extended family. (There is a picture of his grandmother-in-law at one point.) This seems like Seinfeldian nitpicking but it is odd: there are seven pictures of Andy Robin and his family members, and only two of Julia Louis-Dreyfus.)

This is absolutely a fun read though, and I recommend it to Seinfeld fans. I also did immediately fire up Amazon Video so I could watch, not Seinfeld, but the Seinfeld reunion episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Pretty pretty pretty pretty good.

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Blogger Chris said...

If you're looking for more Seinfeld insider history (parts from a not-entirely-allied point of view), stand-up comedian Fred Stoller did a Kindle single called "My Seinfeld Year," about his year writing for the show. Maybe this stuff is partially covered in the book already, but I enjoyed Stoller's take on the whole process of writing an episode -- writers were required to successfully submit a Jerry storyline, a George storyline, an Elaine storyline, *and* a Kramer storyline before they could work on anything.

(Fred also wrote a full-length memoir about stand-up called "Maybe We'll Have You Back," which I haven't read and I think covers stand-up comedy insiderism more than Seinfeldia. If you think you don't know Fred Stoller, you do. He's been in everything! You'll recognize his face and voice immediately.)

9:22 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

The name definitely sounds familiar! I think I may have read "My Seinfeld Year" once upon a time because that sounds VERY familiar. I'll have to check it out. I do enjoy stand-up comedy insiderism!

8:36 AM  

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