The Jerry Seinfeld AMA is online and filled with numerous Easter eggs for fans of the classic series.
The self-titled show is the best sitcom ever filmed and maybe even the best TV show, period. I admit that in recent years it’s received some pretty stiff competition from Breaking Bad. Nevertheless, if I’m about to re-watch one or the other, I’ll nine-times-out-of-10 reach for my Seinfeld DVDs. Over the years, I’ve probably seen each episode 100 times, including the oft-maligned pilot episode (which I also happen to love).
Recently, Jerry Seinfeld did a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) in which he, among other awesome responses, hinted at a “big, huge, gigantic” project he’s working on with Larry David that we “will eventually see but I can’t reveal what it is at this time.”
We’re hoping for a Seinfeld movie or perhaps one more 22-episode season reuniting the entire cast. That would be awesome but we’re not holding our breath for it. Instead, we’ve decided to take a look back at The Show About Nothing and share some of our favorite business lessons from the Jerry Seinfeld AMA.
One: Build A Team That Goes Beyond Business.
In the Reddit AMA, Seinfeld touches on one small but important aspect that really made the show work: “…the key to the entire show, was that we really felt like together we were funny, and then the audience felt it, and that’s how you can somehow catch lightning in a bottle.” In a separate response, Seinfeld added that he didn’t mind playing the straight man to Kramer, George, and Elaine. “The reason I would play straight was it was funnier for the scene. And very few people have ever remarked on this, because it was a conscious choice of mine, only because I knew it would make the show better, and I didn’t care who was funny as long as somebody was funny and that the show was funny.”
Business lesson: it’s better to find a team where credit is secondary compared to what you can accomplish together.
Two: Have Fun.
In one episode of Seinfeld, Kramer destroys his facial features — his “twinkle” — by cramming “a lifetime of smoking into 24 hours.” Kramer, in his unique way, looks horrified when he sees what his face has become, and then says to Jerry, “Look away. I’m hideous.” It’s an uproarious moment when paired with Michael Richards’ gift for physical comedy. Seinfeld admits to cracking up to this and many other scenes while doing the show.
“I can still remember how brutally funny that was to me,” Seinfeld said. “The thing about the show is that you have to realize that I had to look into the faces of those people, six inches away, so if you think Kramer is funny on TV, imagine his real face six inches from your nose, how funny that is. You can’t imagine. It’s impossible not to laugh. So I would.”
Business lesson: Throughout the series run, the cast never failed to turn out high-caliber work. Most of us fans will argue that, save for the clip shows, there isn’t a single episode of the series that turned out bad. But — and you’ll get this by watching scenes closely or checking out the DVD bloopers — there were plenty of takes that went awry because the cast couldn’t stop laughing. They kept the show fun, and that enabled them to turn out their best product in spite of not always working at their most efficient.
Three: Become A ‘Heckle Therapist.’
Fans of the show know that Seinfeld dealt with his share of hecklers, but his often unique way of dealing with them resulted in some amusing moments that kept things from getting out of control. Jerry explains:
“Very early on in my career, I hit upon this idea of being the Heckle Therapist,” he explained. “So … when people would say something nasty, I would immediately become very sympathetic to them and try to help them with their problem and try to work out what was upsetting them, and try to be very understanding with their anger. It opened up this whole fun avenue for me as a comedian, and no one had ever seen that before.”
Seinfeld continued: “Some of my comedian friends used to call me — what did they say? — that I would counsel the heckler instead of fighting them. Instead of fighting them, I would say ‘You seem so upset, and I know that’s not what you wanted to have happen tonight. Let’s talk about your problem,’ and the audience would find it funny and it would really discombobulate the heckler, too, because I wouldn’t go against them. I would take their side.”
Business lesson: The customer isn’t always right, but if you can help them feel that they are, it will disrupt their anger to the point that they’re more likely to get to the route of the problem and tell them how their problem can really be solved. So be a “Heckler Therapist” with your customers.
Four: No Matter What, You’re Never A ‘Show About Nothing.’
The show joked often about being “a show about nothing,” and we even used that phrase as a synonym at the beginning of this article, but in reality, Seinfeld was always about something. On the surface, it was a show about how a comedian gets his material. But throughout the entire run it held true to one principle: making fun of social faux pas and ridiculous rules of etiquette that we all enforce despite of the stupidity. It was also about obsessing over the mundane, another frequent human practice everyone does from time to time.
Business lesson: you always have a point behind what you’re doing, and that point goes beyond “to make money.” Seinfeld (the show and the comedian) always had something to say. That’s why we embraced it, and why after all these years, we’re still listening.