Last night, while some decided to hit up the free Wale concert, and others combined humor with a philanthropic cause, I chose to be entertained by the comedy stylings of one of the most recognizable voices of show business, Jerry Seinfeld. And I wasn’t disappointed.
While the show started a bit late, most probably due to the parking situation, everything else went perfectly. The opening act was Pittsburgh native, and good friend of Chris Rock, Mario Joyner, who made sure to warm up the crowd for the main event. After a quick set revolving mostly around travel and life as a single 50-year-old, peppered in with some slightly edgy jokes about “mutes” and a couple of topics that Jerry would later bring up as well, Joyner took a bow and left the stage as the whole Eisenhower Auditorium went dark. Jerry Seinfeld sprinted on stage, jumping around, feeding off of a nearly packed auditorium crowd clapping and cheering.
For an established comedian, the need to pander to the audience was less acute, and after a first joke about whether we were in State College or University Park (unfortunately for the numerous people screaming out “State College,” we were technically in University Park), his hour-and-a-half routine had no other local elements, except for the professorial tone Seinfeld took from time to time, because of “where we are right now.”
As professional as you’d expect someone that’s been in comedy for 36 years, Jerry Seinfeld was able to innovate his style of comedy while holding on to the core of what made him famous (his tone of voice when he gets angry, observations on society’s flaws, and most importantly, his pitch-perfect humor). The initial part of the act set the theme for the night, as Seinfeld’s humor revolved around a hyper-aware version of his former shows. Giving an accurate and funny description of the preparations and troubles members of the audience go through in order to come to a comedy show like his, “it’s hell,” he summed up, quickly moving to a critique of the aimlessness of our daily lives and activities.
He addressed the only two things important in life, chairs and beds; how everybody’s life, even his, sucks, and most importantly, he addressed how we communicate (from phrases and idioms, “shitty and great are alike and even the same thing”, to the tools we use to communicate “the lack of face-to-face conversation these days is scary” and “Facebook is the ultimate whoring out of the word book” while “scrolling on a smart phone makes you look just like a gay French king”). While the general theme of the night was crafted around this area, he sprinkled in some observational jabs at marriage, coffee, energy drinks (5 Hour Energy – “meth lab Hawaiian punch jello shots”), sleeping pills and the overuse of the word “ass” in very common expressions.
Of course, older jokes came up as well, and his observational wit took a more professorial approach this time, denouncing “The X Culture” (where X was anything from drink to strict parenting). As clean as his humor has always been, he challenged the audience to think about how we socialize and what we take for granted, even his own role (“my role is to slightly distract you from life’s problems while sitting in a different seat”). His transformation into a grumpy, yet hilarious man of a different time is on track, the show being packed with stories about how things used to be better. All this being said, the laughs never stopped, as Seinfeld’s jokes have the distinctly unique attributes of cracking you up and being about nothing, while actually being about something.
As the audience gave him a standing ovation at the end, he kicked off the encore just like he did at the beginning of the show, by commenting on the inherent awkwardness of the logistics of standing O’s. With the night rapidly growing to a close, he started an impromptu Q & A series during which we found out his favorite line from the TV show (Elaine: “Can you believe people?” Jerry: “They’re the worst!”) and that if he had 24 hours to live, the most important thing he’d do, besides personal concerns, would be a stand-up show, which got a great reaction from the crowd. He explained that stand-up is a great art form because it’s “intimate, yet at a considerable distance from you people”.
Outside of the theater, after the show, you could overhear groups of people not sure about the show and groups of people in awe of Jerry Seinfeld’s comedic genius. But one thing is for sure for both groups, last night, they laughed really hard, which means that Jerry succeeded in slightly distracting them from life’s problems.