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When asked if he felt “responsible for the ‘alt-right'” during a Q&A following his talk with David Remnick at the New Yorker Festival on Friday night, Seinfeld replied, “No,” adding that it was tough for him to have issues with any of the faceless investors involved with Seinfeld.
“I mean, there are dozens and dozens of investors and people you don’t know about,” he added. “These are giant multinational corporations. NBC [and] Turner, and [NBC] got bought by Comcast.”
When Remnick asked the comedian if he knew that Bannon made a sizable fortune from Seinfeld before Bannon rose to prominence through his role at Breitbart and then as a Donald Trump ally, or ever even saw him, Seinfeld emphatically said no. The Hollywood Reporter revealed last year that neither Seinfeld or anyone at the show’s production studio Castle Rock knew that Bannon took participation rights in the NBC sitcom as part of his payment for advising Castle Rock owner Westinghouse Electric in Turner’s acquisition of the company in the early 1990s. The hit sitcom has raked in money for all of its profit participants, partly through lucrative syndication deals.
Seinfeld and Remnick’s chat mostly avoided politics and focused more on the technical aspects of comedy, which the comic has worked to master.
But Remnick did bring up Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episode with then-President Barack Obama and asked if viewers could expect him to do a similar episode with the current president, Trump.
Seinfeld stopped him right there. “Please don’t,” he said, holding up his hand.
“You have to have some comedic credential to get on that show, and Obama was always so great at those correspondents dinners. He was good,” said Seinfeld, adding that he has seen Trump (who declined to attend last year’s correspondents dinner) laugh, but he thinks his friend Colin Quinn put it best in his characterization of the president’s disposition.
“Trump’s happy face — that’s the scariest face of all time,” Seinfeld said, recalling Quinn’s assessment. “He’s kind of a water-gun clown.”
As for his Comedians in Cars experience with Obama, Seinfeld called tapping on the window of the Oval Office “the greatest moment of my life.”
“Who gets to do that? No other ever comedian in history will ever get this opportunity that I got,” he said. Seinfeld later added that he wasn’t as nervous as he was before he made his first appearance on The Tonight Show until he did the Obama episode of Comedians in Cars, “which again seemed like an absolute once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be funny with a president in the White House.”
Friday’s conversation covered Seinfeld’s stand-up career and experience on his hit eponymous sitcom, with Remnick bringing up near the end of the chat that former Seinfeld co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus is battling breast cancer.
“I talked to her right before I came over. She’s doing well,” Seinfeld said of his friend.
Other insights he shared about the show included revealing his favorite joke on the series and calling the finale an “impossible” task and that perhaps they shouldn’t have done the big finish others wanted.
“I sometimes think we really shouldn’t have even done it,” Seinfeld said of the famously divisive finale. “There was a lot of pressure on us at that time to do one big last show, but big is always bad in comedy.”
As far as he’s concerned, comedy should be “small and cheap and quick. That’s why TV is always funnier than movies, because you don’t have much time and you don’t have much money.” In fact, Seinfeld doesn’t really find current comedic movies that funny.
“Because they’re spending too much time and money on it,” he said. If you just write something and do it, it’s going to be looser and lighter. Movies, they grip the tennis racket too tight.” And — perhaps not surprisingly, given his assessment of the medium — he’s not interested in making movies after doing 2007’s Bee Movie, which he admitted “was a lot of fun.”
“I don’t really like making movies. Again, the size of the project worked against the funny,” Seinfeld said.
His favorite joke over his NBC series’ nine seasons was when George (Jason Alexander) revealed he pulled Kramer’s (Michael Richards) golf ball out of a whale’s blowhole on “The Marine Biologist” episode (see below).
“The hardest thing in comedy is to have the biggest laugh at the end, and it’s the most satisfying thing,” Seinfeld said. “We got very lucky. Larry [David] and I came up with it the night before we were shooting. We wrote it late at night, and Jason memorized the whole speech in one day.”
As for his favorite joke of his own, Seinfeld said it was the physical bit he did to accompany his joke about the Olympic silver medal. He explained that he used to act out the photo finish, sticking his chin out and pulling it back in to denote the gold, silver and bronze winners (see below).
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