In Defense of Jerry Seinfeld
The cover story of this week's New York Press bothers me. "Bizarro Jerry" by David Blum (who, full disclosure, was the guy in charge of The Village Voice when me and most of my mates were shown the door), is basically 1,500 words about how the author doesn't like Jerry Seinfeld (who, full disclosure, created my favorite television show of all time and provided me with countless hours of entertainment plus most of the foundation upon which my sense of humor rests) with little in the way of substance.
Mr. Blum's case against Seinfeld boils down to the following:
1)Jerry Seinfeld is a jerk, because an article in The New York Times says so.
2)Jerry Seinfeld isn't creative because Bee Movie "looks as mediocre in execution as its premise appeared on paper."
3)Jerry Seinfeld isn't as talented as Larry David, who's done much better work since Seinfeld ended than Jerry has.
Let's tackle these point by point.
Point The First
"Bizarro Jerry" begins by referring to this New York Times article by Dave Itzkoff, and recounts an episode the author (Itzkoff, not Blum) was told by Seinfeld about his interaction with a fan at the U.S. Open. According to Itzkoff, "[Seinfeld] was approached by a well-attired fan who handed him a business card and invited Mr. Seinfeld to visit his brokerage house. Both men became noticeably perplexed when the offer was declined."
According to Blum, this is cause for outrage. Even though he concedes the broker "went a little too far" he still spends the rest of piece explaining how this incident proves that Seinfeld is a jerk who has lost touch with his the guy he was and the audience he had. But think about this, and forget about the knee-jerk reaction that states that all movie and television stars must be gracious and accomodating regardless of the circumstances. In an ideal world, we'd love it if they were, but look at what this guy is asking and imagine if you were approached in a similar situation; if some random dude came up to you and said "Hey! Come to my place of business! I like you!" You know what you'd do? YOU'D CALL THE POLICE.
Look, if I asked Jerry Seinfeld for an autograph, I'd be disappointed if he didn't sign one (though I wouldn't ask for one cause, really, who cares). But I think we can all agree the man should be under no obligation to honor the requests of crazy people. If Blum witnessed Jerry doing something really nasty, I'd want to read about it. But writing about other people's writing? That's not a cover story; that's a blog post.
Point the Second
I'll agree with Blum on at least one point Bee Movie does look bad. The trailers and commercials have almost convinced me, a guaranteed sale, not to see it. But I know enough about movies not to judge them on their advertising (if that were the case, then American Gangster would be the best movie of the year).
Without having actually seen the movie, how is Blum (or I) to know what it's really like? Maybe it's terrible; maybe it's a masterpiece. So far reviews have been mixed; but the film's also gotten nice write-ups from A.O. Scott and Peter Travers and Jonathan Rosenbaum. If Seinfeld is, as Blum claims, a "true genius" I think he deserves a little bit more of the benefit of the doubt. I'd like to hear Blum's thoughts about the movie; his thoughts about what the movie might be, not so much.
Point the Third
Again, I'll side with Blum: Curb is damn good television. But he's dismissing Seinfeld's post-Seinfeld work and excessively praising David's just to prove his point.
He says that while David has cranked out season after season of Curb Seinfeld's been silent, "He hasn’t developed or extended himself in any meaningful creative way; there have been no screenplays, no books, no comic essays for The New Yorker." That means that, for whatever reason, Blum dismisses Bee Movie's own screenplay, which Seinfeld co-wrote (maybe because he hasn't seen the movie). Blum also seems unaware of just how much time and effort Seinfeld's put into Bee Movie, which has been in development for over four years, roughly half the time David's been working on Curb. Animated films take an incredibly long time to produce, and I'm sure Seinfeld's hands-on style and perfectionist tendencies only exacerbated the issue. He also takes a few shots at Seinfeld's wife and her recent cookbook controversy without ever stating the fact that Seinfeld did get married, and he's also had three kids since Seinfeld went off the air.
And while Curb is a fine show, let's not forget that David's post-Seinfeld resume also includes the film Sour Grapes, one of the most odious movies ever made. It's Rotten Tomatoes rating is currently 27 points lower than Bee Movie, but you won't find a mention of it in Blum's piece.
Blum has every right to dislike Jerry Seinfeld. He has every right to criticize his work. But when it comes right down to it, his piece is basically about how he feels about an event he didn't witness and a movie he didn't see.