'Jerry Seinfeld: The Homestand': Concert Review
The veteran comedian makes New York City's Beacon Theatre his home base for a series of monthly shows throughout the year.
If it were up to Jerry Seinfeld, neither he nor the audience would have been at the Beacon Theatre Thursday night.
The veteran comedian began his show with a hilarious diatribe about how much sheer work is involved in the simple act of "going out."
"It's like working two jobs," he complained.
"A lot of people got pushed into this," he added, before grandly waving his arm in the direction of the auditorium and proclaiming, by way of definition, "This is out!"
The evening was the first in a series of monthly shows Seinfeld will be performing through the rest of the year at the ornately decorated theater. ("Was this a part of the Roman Empire?" he asked, seemingly distracted by a large golden statue near the stage.) His first extended stint in the city, not to mention the Upper West Side neighborhood he calls his home, since a ten-performance Broadway engagement way back in 1998, the shows are modeled after Billy Joel's hugely successful Madison Square Garden residency, which has no end in sight.
Seinfeld is currently riding high with his popular Internet series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, with no less a personage than President Obama on board as a recent guest. But the comedian, now 61, seems to be getting crankier with age. His observational comedy is sharper and more acerbic than ever, projecting not so much bemusement as existential rage.
Like a modern-day Alan King, Seinfeld angrily rants about topics big and small, from the absurdity of five-hour energy drinks to loiterers with laptops crowding coffee houses ("I want to open a coffee shop called 'Beat It') to people addicted to their cell phones.
Stopping at one point as if deciding what to rail against next, he rhetorically asked, "What else is annoying in the world besides everything?"
Some of the material, including very funny bits about the absurdities of bathroom stalls and movie theaters asking us to pick up after ourselves, are familiar from his talk show appearances. Other routines feel a little dated, such as his lengthy riffs about the *69 telephone function and the invention of the Pop-Tart.
Seinfeld has never been a confessional comic, so it's no surprise that his segment about married life has a generic, albeit no less hilarious, feel. His plaintive jokes comparing marriage to the lightning round in a game show and a marital tiff to white-water kayaking garnered huge laughs from the mostly middle-aged crowd.
Having steadily worked as a comedian for some 35 years, Seinfeld's experience is well reflected in his expert timing and body language. Nearly every gag lands, thanks to his perfectly calibrated vocal mannerisms (his voice rises to a pained screech when he's particularly aggrieved) and delivery that seems spontaneous but has clearly been honed to perfection. Spontaneity doesn't enter into the equation.
Except, that is, for the Q&A session he conducted with the audience as an encore. (He explained, not too convincingly, that he was doing it just for us since we had managed the difficult feat of procuring opening night tickets.) He gamely answered questions ranging from his recent experience performing in Israel ("It was good, I didn't get stabbed") to his feelings about Donald Trump ("We'll all miss him"), and fended off several attempts to establish a personal connection (people also came from his hometown of Massapequa, Long Island) by sarcastically commenting, "We should be doing this in my living room."
His most personal moment came when he talked about his decision to return to stand-up comedy after his hit sitcom ended in 1998 following nine seasons. He made it movingly clear that it's what he most loves doing. Judging by their rapturous response, the audience seemed to heartily approve.
Venue: Beacon Theatre, New York City