Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has had something of a reverse career trajectory - not that there's anything wrong with that.
The Brooklyn native hit it big, and became fabulously rich, with his long-running NBC sitcom Seinfeld in the '90s. Since walking away from the series in 1998 - declining a reported offer from the network of $5 million per episode to continue the "show about nothing" for another season - Seinfeld has done commercials (American Express, HP), supplied the lead character's voice in an animated film (last year's Bee Movie), and is now sporadically doing stand-up comedy.
But that's not to say that Seinfeld's career is in decline. Far from it. His huge success in earlier years has allowed him the luxury of picking and choosing what, if anything, he wants to do professionally. And these days, what he's choosing to do mostly is stand-up.
The 54-year-old comic will be in Toledo tomorrow night for an appearance at the Stranahan Theater, part of a national tour that includes future stops in Dallas, Miami Beach, Orlando, and Las Vegas.
When Seinfeld initially returned to stand-up comedy a few years after his sitcom went off the air, some wondered if he would be merely trading on the lingering goodwill from the popular series, which can still be seen daily in reruns. They also wondered whether he could be funny on his own, without the framework of a brilliant sitcom and the comedic support of the lovable loonies from Seinfeld, like George, Kramer, and Elaine. He's proven since then that he can do just fine as a solo act.
In a handful of Toledo appearances since the series ended, the comedian has shown himself to be an exquisitely polished stage performer, with a crisp wit, breezy delivery, and impeccable timing. He strolls the stage, delivering wry observations and picking apart the absurdities of everyday subjects from dating to marriage, from eating to death. And unlike many of his contemporaries, Seinfeld's act has been refreshingly free of vulgarity.
The comedian generally makes few references to his TV show, so there is scant mention in his stand-up act of "the Soup Nazi" or "yada, yada, yada," or "Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us." He usually avoids topical humor as well, leading some to conclude that his live performances, like his television series, are really about, well, nothing.
Seinfeld himself has no problem with that characterization; he's even been known to poke a little fun at it. During a famous TV appearance with David Letterman, he pondered the idea of talking about nothing, and even better, doing nothing.
"Let me tell you, doing nothing is not as easy as it looks," he said. "You have to be careful. Because the idea of doing anything, which could easily lead to doing something, would cut into your nothing, and that would force me to have to drop everything."
If you're able to follow that line of reasoning, then you'd probably get a kick out of Seinfeld's performance at the Stranahan tomorrow night. But on the other hand, if it's as confusing to you as it is to me, then you'd probably be perfectly content sitting at home watching reruns of Seinfeld's terrific sitcom - in which all the other characters have funnier lines than he does.
Not that there's, you know, anything wrong with that.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld appears at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets range from $48 to $78 at the box office, 419-381-8851 and Ticketmaster.