We were watching a "Seinfeld" rerun, an episode about nothing, the other night when Jet looked at me and then looked at the TV, and then looked at me. I studied his body language and said, "You're right. Conservatives love Seinfeld. Both of them. But why?"
Sen. John Thune, Republican, calls it one of his fav. TV shows. A battle-hardened three-star Army general, speaking at an august Washington D.C. think tank last summer, quoted Jerry's pal, George Costanza. He was explaining counter-insurgency strategy. Mitt Romney quoted the same character during his campaign, to explain political strategy.
But why, I asked Jet again, do conservatives love that show (last episode nearly 17 years ago. Reruns still strong)? Hollywood is mostly enemy territory for Republicans. Its left-wing gliterati collect more cash for Democrats than any other industry, except, maybe, trial lawyers. (Ah. trial lawyers. You are getting warm.) Larry David, Jerry's comedy club buddy and co-creator, hates Republicans. I mean, he really hates them. He refused to have sex with Cady Huffman the instant he spotted a portrait of George W. Bush in her dressing room. Now that's hate.
But there is something Larry hates even more. Or, is at least willing to ridicule: political correctness. Jerry shares the hate. Recall, they devoted an entire show to the offended class––those who find wrong in asking an Asian-American mailman: where is the nearest Chinese restaurant?
Thus, to conservatives, a "show about nothing" is actually a show about something––stuff that is fairly important in a democracy: Individual liberty. Independent though. Freedom of expression.
All are under assault, they believe, by a national political correctness movement pushed by college professors, left-wing activists, the main news media and, yes, Jerry-Larry's base––Hollywood.
Besides those weighty issues, "Seinfeld" is funny. So, lets grab a booth at Monk's, order coffee, an egg-white omelet, chicken salad on rye, and talk this out:
1. The Postal Service.
There is no better icon for a big, inefficient federal bureaucracy than USPS. It loses millions of dollars––and lots of mail. An internal report recently found that its employees are rude. And guess what management's reply was?: we don't care.
Now, who better epitomizes this inertia than Seinfeld's down-the-hall bete noir––Newman. He's a letter carrier who does not deliver mail if the weather is bad. He stashes undelivered letters in Jerry's storage locker. He ignores the "fragile" package stamp.
As the soup Nazi would say: Next.
2. Trial Lawyers.
No profession is hated more by conservatives than the filers of millions of law suits against anything that walks, breathes, eats and has money.
What do conservatives get from Seinfeld? Jackie Childs, a greedy, unethical trial lawyer who on occasion sees Jerry's sidekick, Kramer, as his ticket to riches.
In one episode, Kramer expands his cigar smoking to include cigarettes and pipes. His apartment becomes a smoker for the likewise addicted. All that tobacco accumulates into lifetime of inhaling, the damage told on Kramer's face, which is leathery and discolored. He looks in the mirror and proclaims, "I'm hideous."
He goes to see Jackie, who gleefully proclaims, "Jackie's going to cash in on your wretched disfigurement."
Another episode: Kramer burns himself when jostled in a movie theater.
"You had to sneak the coffee in the movie theater? That's an enfringement on your rights as a consumer!" Jackie declares.
3. Ribbon Tyranny.
Larry-Jerry chose an AIDS walk episode to poke fun at the ribbon culture. We wear them for all sorts of causes. And, if you know what's good for you, you'll wear them on the right day and in the right place.
But not Kramer. On walk day, he signs up, but when handed an AIDS ribbon he refuses. It's not his style to wear ribbons, he tells the offended registrar. You have to wear the ribbon, he is told. News of his boycott ripples through the crowd, until a Latin street-tough hears the news. "Who? Who doesn't want to wear the ribbon?" he demands.
Sans ribbon, Kramer is beaten up by politically correct vigilantes. He staggers across the finish line and collapses.
4. Government Tyranny.
Nozzles. Yes, "Seinfeld" did a show on shower nozzles. The city mandated low-flow shower heads in all bathrooms. Jerry protested the government interference in his hygiene. For one thing, no one's hair got clean after a low-flow shower. Newman gets a tip about a Yugoslavian shower-head black market. A guy is selling vintage plumbing fixtures out of the trunk of his car. Kramer buys one used to wash elephants.
A very touchy subject. Conservatives just feel there is too much talk about a person's skin color and not enough about all the wonderful opportunities out there. "Seinfeld" loved to make fun of the whoe topic.
Elaine Benes, Jerry's gal pal, introduces a new boyfriend. Jerry later asks her if he's white or black. She says white, but then has doubts and embarks on a number of tricks to get him to reveal his true color. Meanwhile, George becomes paranoid for even talking about the subject in public, at Monks, warning Jerry the topic is taboo. "Should we be talking about this," he says.
In another episode, George tells Mr. Morgan, his boss at Yankee Stadium, that he looks just like Sugar Ray Leonard. Offended, his boss replies that he guesses George thinks we all look alike.
George is rattled. Does his boss think he's a racist? He quickly goes on a furious hunt to find a black friend. He has none. Desparate, he recruits a pest exterminator who had once serviced Jerry's building. He shows him off at the restaurant where Mr. Morgan is having dinner.
6. The Homeless.
We all have compassion for the homeless. Conservatives just believe there are root causes that trace to the popular culture of drug-alcohol abuse, and dependence on the welfare state. I recall one survey of the homeless done years ago showing the vast majority had a drug, alcohol or mental problem––or all three.
"Seinfeld" does not romanticize the homeless. It makes fun of what Jerry called "bums."
The legendary "Puffy Shirt" episode in which Jerry unwittingly agrees to wear a pirate shirt during his appearance on the "Today Show." In the end, the shirt ends up at the Goodwill and then on the back of a homeless man whom Jerry passes on the street.
In another show, Kramer provides food to a homeless man. When he goes back to retrieve his Tubberware, the man refuses to give it back.
The best homeless episode: Kramer and Newman decide New York City needs rickshaws. They order one form Hong Kong. But who to pull it?
Kramer has the solution: the homeless. "They're always walking around the city. How about strapping something to them."
Jerry: "Now that's the first sensible idea I've heard all day."
Kramer and Newman recruit three homeless men. The training begins with a speed test. But the first trainee runs off with the rickshaw. Stolen.
When Jerry's latest girlfriend says her soup kitchen has just one menu item, he says,
“They serve soup at 6 a.m.? Do the bums ever complain, ‘Soup again?’”
7. Big-Breasted Waitresses
Elaine's feminism could get out of control at times. She would not date a man who was pro-life. She went to a lesbian wedding before such ceremonies went mainstream. But she was at her best when she went to city hall, office of anti-discrimination, to file a complaint against the owner of Monks, Jerry's second home.
The complain: Monks only hired waitresses with large bosoms. Elaine did a survey and they all looked alike. The investigators show up. Elaine informs the owner he's in big trouble for discriminating against normal-breasted women. Yes, they all look the same, the owner says. They are my daughters. A family business. Defeated and embarrassed, Elaine grabs a booth.
8. The Final Episode.
What better example of government overreach than the good samaritan laws. The government decrees you have to intervene to stop a crime or face criminal charges.
That's what happens to Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine. They laugh instead of helping the victim of an armed robbery. The town charges them with violating its good samaritan law, locks them up, puts them at the mercy of an ambitious prosecutor and then sends them to prison.
In February 2014, Jerry Seinfeld appeared on "CBS" morning show, interviewed by a Buzzfeed reporter, who asked why his show, and his ongoing production, "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee," is so white.
“People think it’s the census or something,” Seinfeld said. “This has gotta represent the actual pie chart of America? Who cares? Funny is the world that I live in. You’re funny, I’m interested. You’re not funny, I’m not interested. I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that.”
In June 2015, Jerry appeared on Colin Cowherd's ESPN radio show. Jerry struck another blow against PC, this time taking aim on colleges, the birthplace of political correctness.
“I don’t play colleges but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges, they’re so PC.’ My daughter’s 14. My wife says to her, ‘Well, you know, in the next couple of years, I think maybe you’re going to want to hang around the city more on the weekends so you can see boys.’ You know, my daughter says, ‘That’s sexist.’ They just want to use these words. ‘That’s racist. That’s sexist. That’s prejudice.’ They don’t even know what they’re talking about.”
In the online "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," Jerry always picks up his guest in a special vintage car, some of which he owns. For "Saturday Night Live's" Seth Myers, he arrived in an ultra-expensive 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS. Jerry explains it's a car that only passes hands via dead guys. He bought it from a dead guy and it won't be sold again until he, Jerry, dies.
I silently protested at that point. If there is anyone who will never die, it is Jerry Seinfeld. Like "Seinfeld" the show, the man is timeless. He could have done stand-up for Caesar or The Founding Fathers, or at Gettysburg before Lincoln's famous address.
On that gig, btw, he would have had the presence to stay up there long enough for those pre-digital, Daguerreotype cameras to capture his performance.
"President Abe is dying to get out here. But before he does, a couple of announcements," Jerry would have told the crowd at Gettysburg. "To you Revolutionary War baby boomers––that brown whiskey that is circulating around us is not specifically good. It's just that you might want to stay away from that. Of course it's your own trip."
"Also, the battlefield coffee shop is closed for renovations. Those Confederates and their cannon balls. It was supposed to be off-limits."
"The gift store is open, however. Thaddeus told me he has no idea what he's going to do with 20,000 Robert E. Lee T-shirts. That's what happens when you bet on the wrong team. Try to help him out."
"And, when this is over, folks, please stay seated while the president exists. No stampede to the trains. One Pickett's Charge is enough."