'Car Matchmaker' Host on Driving Porsches With Jerry Seinfeld (Q&A)
As the Esquire Network series begins its second season on Wednesday, the show's creator also talks about Ben Affleck's vintage Chevelle and why cooling seats are amazing.
Car enthusiast and Emmy-nominated comedian Spike Feresten has written for David Letterman, The Simpsons and Seinfeld (the "Soup Nazi" episode). On the Esquire Network's Car Matchmaker, Feresten matches guys looking for new wheels with three choices tailored to their personal and professional specifications. Feresten created the show as an extension of his real-life role helping show business friends find the perfect car. The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Feresten on the eve of the show's second season premiere on June 24.
You've been connecting people with cars for years.
Before I created the show, I had a hand in selling 20 or 30 cars in one year. If you're the "car guy" in your neighborhood people call you constantly for advice and I just happened to be very good at it. It was everyone from my wife to the hair salon woman to my agent to Louis C.K. to Jerry Seinfeld. I just became either a good sounding board to help them make decisions or an outright "here are couple of choices you should look into" guy.
What, exactly, is a car guy?
There are different kinds of car guys — I'm not Jay Leno, I don't make my own wheels, I don't really enjoy learning how a Wankel engine works. That doesn't mean I don't turn a wrench. I have an old Ferrari I bought last summer and I do as much as I can. But I would never venture into that V-12 engine, yet.
How did you get into cars?
My mother's diary says: "Obsessed with cars, age 2." I eventually found my way to work for David Letterman, and Dave lets me drive his collection. I experience all those old Porsches and Austin Healeys that I didn't know existed and lose my mind and then go to work for Seinfeld, and he takes me up to the next level.
Is there a subculture of car guys in Hollywood?
Jerry Seinfeld and I drive an awful lot — he and I have been doing drives for about 15 years and it's very much like [Seinfeld's web series] Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. We meet at the Santa Monica airport where the cars are stored and drive the PCH early on weekend mornings and stop at at Malibu Country Kitchen for coffee and talk about comedy and cars and then head out into the canyons to do some canyon carving. There are a few people we invite along occasionally if they're in town: James Spader is a Porsche guy, when he's not working his ass off. [Vintage Porsche restorer] Magnus Walker is a hot rodder in downtown L.A. and I'm a big fan of his. We go driving occasionally.
How important is it to drive the right car in Hollywood?
You've seen Ben Affleck's car, right? He's got an old Chevy Chevelle that he's driving around the west side. It's really nice choice for him, a very cool car. It's burgundy, which is the only, kind of, bummer about it. Hollywood is an image business and you certainly have to take into consideration your image when you're buying a car. So, would a Lamborghini work for you as a daily driver pulling into your studio spot? I don't think so, unless you're Michael Bay. If you're an executive or a writer, I don't think you want to be sending the message to the world that, "I love Lamborghinis."
This season you'll have celebrities like Patrick Dempsey and Rolling Stones bassist Darryl Jones on the show, but mostly you feature ordinary guys.
I love when regular folks test drive cars. There are plenty of experts out there test driving cars. What's far more interesting and innovative is having regular folks test driving cars and giving us their opinions — they're more likely to tell you the truth about the window switch or just how amazing ass-cooling seats are — you don't really get that in the professional test drives. For me it's very satisfying because we get locked into these decisions. I met a woman who's had a car she's hated for five straight years. The lease was finally up and she said, 'Please help me, I can't make this mistake again, I think about my mistake every morning that I get in this car.' So it was a lot of fun to give her a few tips about how not to make that mistake again. And the show is a way for me to do that for people watching at home.
Electric vehicles — especially Tesla's Model S — are now the default Hollywood status cars.
I'm fascinated by what's going on with Tesla. I was a little skeptical because it's such an expensive car and I just don't believe that it should only be rich white guys who want to keep the environment clear who can afford these things. And I'm very happy that they're coming out with that car for the people, [the $40,000 Model 3, due in 2017]. What's a little concerning is the fact that Mercedes and Audi and Porsche and these bigger car manufacturers are gunning for them now, and they are very, very big companies with very, very big R&D budgets who also want electric cars that have the same range. What's nice is there seems to be this incredible push for electric-car success and even if one company goes down, there are another two or three that start up right behind it.
Self-driving cars are on the way — as a car guy are you for or against?
I'm all for that stuff. The tech is incredible — the stats are out there — the lives being saved by these autonomous driver's aids is incredible. The way the butt buzzers warn you when you're coming up on a car too fast or when you're veering out the lane the change assist is correcting it for you. It's all a very slow seduction for those of us who think: I'll never get in a self-driving car. You absolutely will. You will love your self-driving car. The people who are upset about it are the people were upset about cruise control back in the day. Now we all use that. It's just that the tech has to work and once it does I think everyone will jump on board. What I want to hear is what happens when I plug "Toledo" into the Nav and then say to the car, "Oh, wait. I've got to stop and take a leak." Is there an emergency safe word to stop the car?
What cars do you own?
I have a '58 Porsche Speedster, a '68 911L, a Porsche factory race car, a '68 Triumph Bonneville motorcycle, a '71 Land Rover Series 2, a '72 Ferrari 365 GTB/4, and a pair of [Porsche] GT3s: a 991, the new one, which i love, and an '07 RS.
What's your daily drive?
It's all of those cars and an Audi Q7. I rotate through everything. i drop my pre-schooler off in the Porsche factory race car.
You drove more than 85 cars for show's second season. Were any of them particularly memorable?
The RAM 2500 Laramie Edition — a big, old pickup truck, double cab with room for the family. That one really caught me by surprise. I don't often feel like a man, but that truck really made me feel like one: the storage boxes, the gun holders, things that aren't usually on my radar at all were really making me happy.
Any advice for someone contemplating dropping what they believe is way too much coin on a car?
Go for it. You cannot put the top down on your Microsoft stock and have the greatest summer of your life.