Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Comedians in cars getting coffee, who knew?

Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld / Two comedians, a classic Porsche,
getting coffee, looking happy, being funny.

Jerry Seinfeld has been a comedian his whole adult life. He's one of the best when it comes to the art of observational humor, whether talking about personal relationships or the nuances of uncomfortable social obligations.

We loved Jerry in Seinfeld. Still do. Just about anywhere in the country on any given night, thanks to cable and syndication, we can still watch Seinfeld reruns on TV.

Now, the 59-year-old Seinfeld, who is best known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the hit NBC sitcom Seinfeld, which spanned 180 episodes over nine seasons from 1989-98, has taken on a new adventure: The Internet. By showing the other side of the comedy world, something he feels talk shows and interviews can't or don't let you see, Seinfeld has created an internet-based comedy show, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. The series is broadcast on the Internet and it premiered on July 19, 2012. The show is supported by digital network Crackle, Sony's online-video site. The show's Facebook page has generated over 196,000 likes.

The third season of this American web series debuted earlier this month and it can be seen by anyone, anywhere with access to the internet, and on any web-enabled device. And, don't worry, the language is family friendly.

Episodes of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee vary in length -- "whatever feels right", says Seinfeld -- and some of the cars featured are the comedian's while others are on loan or wherever he can find them. All of them have offbeat appeal. Each episode, which is shot using DSLR and interior-mounted Go-Pro cameras, follows the premise of Seinfeld introducing a vintage car, then picking up his guest comedian in that vintage car and, finally, taking them out to have coffee or dine in a restaurant. 

Seinfeld tries to relate each car he selects to his guest and, thus far, it's made for some interesting shows. The very first episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee featured Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, in "Larry Eats a Pancake," and it included this backhanded, post-Seinfeld compliment deadpanned by David: "You have finally done the show about nothing."

Sometimes, episodes diverge from the show's format, such as the time when Michael Richards (Kramer on Seinfeld), implored Seinfeld to venture onto a side street while driving in a 1962 Volkswagen Bus. Or, when Seinfeld was asked by comic legend Carl Reiner to join him for dinner with another comic legend Mel Brooks. (That episode featured both a 1960 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II and a 1970 Porsche 911S.)

"It's a show about trust," says Daily Show host Jon Stewart.

Thus far, the list of comedians in cars getting coffee with Seinfeld is impressive and definitely A-List: Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, David Letterman, Don Rickles and Chris Rock. Some episodes are set in Los Angeles, others in New York City. The first season ran 10 episodes and last season there were six. Each episode lasts between 12 to 20 minutes and all of them can be found on the show's website. So, it definitely invites binge viewing if you love watching Seinfeld or you're new to this comedy treasure trove.

In the first episode of the current six-episode season, comedian Louis C.K., who can be currently seen in both Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine and the Academy Award-nominated comedy American Hustle, rode around New York City with Seinfeld in a small-but-flimsy, two-cylinder Fiat Jolly with wicker seats. According to Seinfeld: "For some reason, Fiat Jollys are really popular for people to go to boats or beaches. And since I knew he was going to take me out on his boat, I thought this was a good choice."

Not only did Louis C.K. take Jerry out for a spin on his boat down the Hudson River, they sipped cappuccinos from an on-board Nespresso machine after surviving the streets of New York in what one critic dubbed the Fiat Jolly as a "coral orange death wagon." It prompted this exchange between the two comedians:

Louis C.K.: "My ass hurts a lot."
Seinfeld: "From the wicker?"
Louis C.K.: "I hope so."

In the next episode, Seinfeld chose a 1981 DeLorean for his ride with stand-up comedian and social media critic Patton Oswalt. "I picked the DeLorean for Patton because he is a devotee of crap pop culture. The DeLorean is a great example of that."

Then, Jerry picked up Tonight Show host Jay Leno -- himself an avid car collector -- in a vintage 1949 Porsche 356/2. "Jay agreed to have his very first cup of coffee with me on the show and so I thought the very first Porsche made sense," said Seinfield.

In last week's episode ("So You're Mellow and Tense?"), Seinfeld and New York stand-up comedian Todd Berry are seen driving through Manhattan in a sporty red 1966 MGB convertible. They wind up cruising to the Coney Island amusement park, where they enjoy a Nathan's Famous Hot Dog, before winding up at Everyman Espresso after detouring to Staten Island.

Soon after its 2012 debut, Mike Hale of The New York Times wrote about the show: "The (series segments)... are presented in a clean, elegant template with a studiously casual pencil-drawn logo. And the filming and editing are, if you break them down, impressively complex and artful for a Web series."

If Seinfeld was indeed a show about nothing, then Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee is a show about something: the art of conversation. It's a gathering of Jerry and his friends, going for a cup of coffee, driving in cool old cars, sharing stories all the way. Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee has an amusing charm and we're along for the laughs.

• • •

A postscript: The new episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee debuted on Jan. 30, featuring Jerry Seinfeld in a witty and pleasant conversation with 30 Rock creator and former Saturday Night Live star Tina Fey talking about cronuts, drinking coffee, discussing wheat puff milk shakes and their kids, and riding around Manhattan in a 1967 Volvo 1800S.

Editor's note: A new season (the sixth) will debut on June 4, 2015. Among the season's guests are Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the star of "Veep"; Stephen Colbert, formerly of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report", who will replace David Letterman as host of CBS' "The Late Show" later this year; HBO's "Real Time" host Bill Maher; and actor/comedian Jim Carrey.

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