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Published: Thursday, 2/17/2011

COMMENTARY

Seinfeld's everyman material delivers consistent laughs at Stranahan

The Blade's blog Culture Shock is a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.

As the co-creator and star of “Seinfeld,” Jerry Seinfeld broke new ground with the sitcom format.

As a comedian, though, his material is average. Which is what makes his stand-up so appealing and successful. His humor is accessible, everyman even. 

And his onstage observations at a sold-out performance Friday night at the Stranahan Theater almost never failed to deliver audience-wide laughs, including jokes about meteorology, dads, Pop Tarts, Star 69, bathroom stalls, marriage, and Facebook.

While Seinfeld is hardly breaking new ground by poking fun at these subjects, at least his jokes are funny. For instance, the ridiculous marketing ploy beer companies use to emphasize how cold their beer is before it lands in store shelves.
“[It's] frost-brewed, it's ice-bottled. We pack it in a glacier, put it on the back of a frozen truck driven by a polar beer, and by the time it gets to you it's one degree below room temperature. That's the best we can do.”

Seinfeld, soon to be 57, has been a professional comedian since he turned 21. He crafted quite a collection of material until he retired it all in favor of a fresh act nearly a decade ago.

While his nearly 90 minutes of jokes was consistently funny Friday night, and occasionally spilled over into hysterical, it was never quite the gut-busting laughs you thought were just ahead for one of the top comic minds of our time. Instead it was a steady B+ to A- worth of laughs from a stand-up whose chief asset is the ability to describe the world in a way we would wish we could.

For example, his bit about being bored in an office meeting or church service, causing your mind to wander and a voice to pop into your head suggesting an act of indulgent violence: “Who is that mean person in there, the little person that lives in your head? ‘Why don't you trip this guy carrying a big box who can't quite see where he's going?' ” Seinfeld said to the receptive crowd. “Ever been in the middle of a conversation with somebody and a thought popped into your head, ‘I can probably kill this guy right now and he'll never see it coming. He's looking for a scissor. What if I took a scissor and stabbed him with it?' ”

Then his jokes got angry -- at least, for Seinfeld – as with the bit about someone rebuking a request to leave a restaurant because he's still drinking coffee: “I'm sorry,” the comic replied. “I didn't mean to put myself on the same level as your third-world, brown bean water.”

Even worse than uppity coffee drinkers in restaurants? Coffee drinkers who put down stakes in coffee shops.

“I love it when people move into the coffee shops. They bring their laptops and their electronics and their stackable washers and dryers … “ Seinfeld said. “Get your coffee and get the hell out of here. A cup of coffee is not an apartment.
“I'm going to open up a coffee shop called ‘Beat It.' The coffee comes in three sizes: get lost, see you, and scram. And don't forget to try our Hit the Bricks muffins on the way out.' ”

Again, clever material and not so left field as to make someone wonder just how Seinfeld comes up with his routine. Seinfeld is the guy everyone knows and thinks is funny, only the comic is actually funny.

Making his second appearance in Toledo in less than three years, Seinfeld even had a few lines during his show about our fair city. Dressed in a black suit with a purple tie, he remarked moments after taking the stage, “How do you take the excitement of living here all the time? I just got here and I can barely catch my breath. [But] you just deal with it.”

Agree or disagree with a posting? Lemme know. Have a topic or suggestion? Lemme know that, too. Send an e-mail to kbaird@theblade.com or call 419-724-6734.



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