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The Part Every Seinfeld Fan Ignores - Op-Ed Piece



 

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Introduction

Hey readers,

We have for you a few questions to answer and we present a part to a famous sitcom that we have to ignore every time we watch it.

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Fun Question

Do you like the show Seinfeld?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Never seen it


 

Writing Prompt





Write a story about nothing.








 

Literary Quote



"All I know is that I know nothing." - Socrates









 

Short Poem


Believe This by Wilhelmina Stitch


You’re winning. You simply cannot fail. The only obstacle is doubt; There’s not a hill you cannot scale Once fear is put to rout.

Don’t think defeat, don’t talk defeat, The word will rob you of your strength. “I will succeed,” This phrase repeat Throughout the journey’s length.



 


 

The Part Every Seinfeld Fan Ignores - Op-Ed Piece


Seinfeld is an inescapable force in the world of American comedy, in that you can’t go too far if you are a comedic writer and not take something from the show, whether it is the mundane, casualness the characters interacted with one another, the comedic timing of the actors, or the interwoven storylines, that at first seem random, but by the end of the episode puts things together as if they were there all along. You can’t live in a world consumed by the media of television and not go without seeing Seinfeld or its influence somewhere. Whenever a scene occurs where the characters talk about some minor issue as if it is a major problem in an amusing yet relatable tone, we are watching a Seinfeld scene.


Personally, I like to go back and watch the show every so often as a lesson in writing a scene or a joke as much as any enjoyment. (Although I will say that the show still makes me laugh) I take note of the quick lines that made me laugh and why they do. If you want to learn about something, then you might as well learn from the best, and there are few funnier than the show about nothing.


I was talking to a student the other day, and he brought up how some of the classics he reads in school don’t have characters who speak normally or, as I would say, colloquially. Every day speak. The type of stuff you say to your friends when you are watching the game or at the workplace when complaining to a co-worker. Grammatically speaking, people, more often than not, speak poorly. Even natives of the language. The reason is two-fold.


First, if you speak to someone who understands you and the situation, you say less to them. Take George and Jerry from Seinfeld when they want to go get a bite to eat. Sometimes, one says to the other, “Coffee shop?” Now, everyone knows what is being said in a grammatical sense. Do you want to go to the coffee shop? But Jerry and George know each other so well that they don’t have to spell it out for the other. They reduced their words because they knew what the other was talking about. Fewer words were needed.


The second reason people speak that way is similar to the first, but regarding the situation, not the other person involved. If you do something more and more, you create shortcuts in your brain to improve at that task, especially if it is a job or important. One of these shortcuts is reducing the words you use. Have you ever spoken to yourself about your daily tasks? How do you do it? You probably abbreviate much of what you are saying. For example, “Gotta go the bank. Get some gas. Then call Henry.” Grammatically, if your SAT teacher was around when you said that, it is wrong, and they would shake their head since you should have said, “I have to go the bank. Then I will get some gas. Lastly, I will call Henry.” Do you see how understanding the events allows you to reduce your language?


Also, why do English teachers have a snobbery about them as if they are royalty who inherited the throne of riches? They know the symbols and punctuation. They are better than you. Calm down, Teach. It is not that this is hard; it is that nobody cares about grammar rules, aside from a few select people. Even writers look at them and say, “Eh, that is more like a guideline. I can break a few rules for the story.” On the one hand, your English teacher will boast of their MBA; on the other, they will praise Seinfeld as brilliant. Am I the only one who finds that ironic?


Anyway, there was a point I was making with this, and that was I instructed the student I teach to watch the modern sitcom if they want to learn about how modern people speak. For the most part, a show like Seinfeld, Friends, or The Office is a good indication of how most of us comprehend the English language. We are not experts, most of us shudder when a word is called an SAT Word. (We all know what that really means. It means a word only smart people say cause we dumb people didn’t do that great on the SAT) We are not speechwriters or politicians, so long prose doesn’t interest us. (I kid you not, I had an editor tell me that they didn’t want pieces that were over a few hundred words since people don’t read them. I am glad I took that advice seriously) We aren’t poets or musicians, so rhymes wear thin after initial use. (Try going throughout your day rhyming everything you say and see how people will look at you as if you are crazy) We like quick, direct language that the other person we are with can communicate with at the same level. Don’t make it complicated. Don’t make it long. Don’t make it rhyme. Simplify it, please.


When was the last time you saw a character in a show go on a five-minute rant on the scene in front of him? Or how about the presidential debates, where a few minutes of consecutive words is considered a long time to talk? The truth is that we like our language a certain way, like a fast food meal, easy to obtain and for everyone. The modern writer has to adjust to this trend in audience acceptance of language. Sitcoms are the best at this and have perfected this craft more than dramas because sitcoms have characters involved in everyday life, which means they are required to talk as they would day to day. There is no dramatic buildup, only words we all can understand.

There are ways that stories play around with the words, and one of them is who can hear the characters and who the characters are even talking to. For most stories, the audience is on the outside and has no engagement with the characters because, to the characters, the audience doesn’t exist. The dialogue is between Jerry and George. There is never a time in Seinfeld where Jerry talks directly to the camera as if he knows he is on a show (or is there?)


I have had a few sit-throughs of Seinfeld, watching all the episodes, skipping a few I don’t like, like the one where Jerry has to babysit a dog, and whenever I do, a few moments in the show intrigue me, and then are never mentioned by the show, the creators, or the writers ever again. That is when Jerry talks directly to the audience. I am talking about the TV audience, not the standup audience, when he is doing comedy. No, I am talking about you, the viewer. Jerry is talking as if he knows you are there.


This strange scene happens a few times in the show when Jerry introduces the highlights of the show in the 100th episode and the last episode. (I think there are one or two more instances of this out-of-character speech, but don’t quote me on it)


This is an actual scene that is really a part of the show. Now, if we take this at face value, we have to say that the character of Jerry Seinfeld knows he is on a show. But that is stupid, so most of us disregard it and ignore the scenes. Mind you, this is for a TV show renowned for observing the acute disturbances of everyday life. They wrote about the unwritten rules and how we as a society are supposed to react to them. Surely someone in the writer’s room would have noticed the amateurish error in the scenes. Moreover, it’s inconsistent with the rest of the show. Jerry never talks to the TV audience other than in those moments. We are never led to believe he knows he is on a TV show outside of those moments. So what is going on here?


My take is that a writer was assigned the scene and thought it was funny for Jerry to speak to the audience about what was happening, and they all thought it was funny without any thought to the story’s ramifications. There is no sexy conspiracy with this. I know. I want there to be one too. But the truth to the scenes inclusion is probably not as interesting as I am making it out to be (I admit)


What makes this even stranger is that in one of the scenes when Jerry talks to the audience, Kramer addresses that Jerry is talking to someone, and when confronted about it, Jerry says he is not doing that, and then they leave the apartment. As a writer, I gave Jerry an awareness of the show’s reality that the character Kramer doesn’t know. Of course, you can say it is all for the gag, but that is about as out of the left field as a joke can be.


This is significant in another aspect of the show because the one character that seems to be the more perceptible of his surroundings or one that doesn’t let much go by him is Kramer. I have an example of this too. In an episode, Jerry tells Kramer and the other friends that he drugged a woman to play with her toys. Now, out of context, this seems to say that Jerry is taking advantage of this woman sexually. I drugged a woman to play with her toys is not the beginning of a joke but the beginning of a prison sentence. Of the characters in the episode, Kramer acknowledges the severity of Jerry’s claim. Jerry doesn’t think there is anything wrong with what he is saying. The joke is that Jerry is literally playing with classic toys like GI Joe that the woman owns, so his innocence is warranted. Still, you can’t say that Kramer is not a smart character. If anyone on the show knows the show is fake, it would be Kramer, not Jerry.


Before I get back to the original post, that is a good example of two-tier writing or having two levels to a script. You can watch the episode with the notion that the whole thing is an analogy for taking advantage of a woman, or you can see it as a literal occurrence. Most of us take it for the latter reason, but having a deeper meaning in a script helps with making it great. I wouldn’t be surprised if the kid toys that Jerry plays with can have some sort of sexual meaning, too, one that can work with the analogy. No, I am not going to go into details for every toy used in the episode; I am only saying that the writers were smart enough to include a deeper meaning in the episode, which means they were probably smart enough to make symbols for that deeper meaning too.

Let’s get back to the original question.


Does Jerry know it is all a show? Does he know that Seinfeld is an actual show he is on? Because that is what I think whenever I watch those few short scenes of him talking to the TV audience.


Take two characters from other movies who talk to the audience, but we all know that is a part of their act. Ferris Bueller and Deadpool. Part of the reason we like those characters is their insight into knowing what they are doing is scripted. It is funny when Ferris Bueller monologues about his day as if we are there with him. Or when Deadpool looks at the camera and says, “Play the music.” Breaking the fourth wall adds great elements to a story, but if it happens at an infrequent rate, the audience is left to wonder if the fourth wall breaking was done purely for a joke. Nobody wonders if Ferris knows he is in a movie because the story goes out of its way to let you know that they are.


When The Simpsons or Family Guy breaks the fourth wall, that is acceptable also, in my opinion, because we know there is a sense of extraordinary measures they can pull off since they are a cartoon. The gag joke works when Homer says it. These shows have already broken the rules of our reality by having the characters never age and never be able to die, so having the fourth wall broken is not that much of a reach. But does it work for Seinfeld, which is not a cartoon, or going out of their way to let you know he knows? Whenever I see those scenes, I tell myself to ignore them since they make absolutely no sense in the context of the show.


If this is true, that means that Seinfeld is a TV show, and on that show, Jerry Seinfeld is, playing himself, who in that show pushed for a show called Jerry to be made, which had Seinfeld playing himself. So it’s not a show within a show. It’s a show within a show within a show.


I have never heard anyone talk about these random parts of the popular sitcom, so I wanted to tell you how I felt about it. I know what will happen to me, the same thing that happens to me whenever I watch the series. I will enjoy the episodes, note scenes I forgot about, and act like Jerry breaking the fourth wall didn’t happen because it didn’t. It couldn’t.

 



 
Ending

Hey readers,

What do you guys think? Is this poor writing on the show's end, or is this us making something out of nothing? (Pun intended)

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About The Blogger

Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes the reader shares that passion.

 

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