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Tuesday, July 14, 1998 Published at 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK


Seinfeld, your roots are showing

Now Seinfeld is going it alone (Courtesy: NBC)

By BBC News online's Giles Wilson

It was a brave decision by Jerry Seinfeld to turn down $5m an episode to make another series of his hugely popular sitcom. No, he told the bosses at NBC, he had decided to return to his roots and do stand-up comedy.

But it was an even braver decision to schedule his only two London gigs on the tour on the night of the World Cup final. If it had been England's night, instead of France's, a half-empty London Palladium could have sparked all sorts of paranoid theories about why the English didn't like him.

Instead Two full houses seemed to be ecstatic to pay up to £60 each to see the show.That may seem expensive, but when a guy's turned down $5m for a 22-minute show, it's practically social work.

[ image: (Courtesy: NBC)]
(Courtesy: NBC)
Besides the World Cup, there were two other things that could have scuppered ticket sales. Bizarre scheduling has made it almost impossible to see Seinfeld on British television, so his popularity is limited. Second, the taste of his stand-up routine in each episode is invariably the unfunniest part. As it happened, however, both gigs were sold out, even if about half of the audience was American.

His London dates were the last gigs on his world tour, the itinerary of which seems to have had the hand of Kramer in it. Iceland, Australia, the UK and, er, that's about it. Somewhere cold, somewhere hot, and somewhere in between.

But that didn't stop Seinfeld putting his own spin on UK affairs. "So there's a parade. And they're celebrating a victory in 700 something. Whoever wins the World Cup tonight," he asked. "Do you really think they¹ll still be celebrating it in 1000 years?"

He also gave a nod towards mad cow disease. ("Don¹t blame the cows, they¹re goofy, they're not all there"), but in the main his subject matter was what one would have expected.

Sexual politics, bathrooms, coffee, traffic ("They say the traffic is going to get worse. How can that happen? Is it going to start going backwards?) and, inevitably, airline humour.

It has long been an unwritten rule of the stand-up genre that one should make at least one airline or airport-related observation per performance. Neither Seinfeld, nor his warm-up act, dared break it.

On his return to America, Seinfeld plans to stop using all his material and start again from scratch, which is not a bad idea. Make no mistake, this is one domain that Seinfeld is definitely the master of - it's difficult to think of a comedian making a better job of it than him. But the whole observational comedy scene is so whiskery now that it should follow Seinfeld's material into retirement and stay there.

It is only fair to point out what a consummate performer Seinfeld is, entertaining flawlessly for an hour and a half. Some people would pay $20m for that.

Questions from the audience during the encore were strangely deferential. If there were people in the theatre seriously wanting to know how tall he was, what his middle name was, and what was his favourite cereal, then they need to take a good hard look at themselves. (His answer to the last question, by the way, was: "I like any cereal, because as far as I¹m concerned, I¹m eating and drinking with one hand.")

The audience's contribution may have lacked bite. But then again, perhaps questions about nothing were the ultimate tribute.

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