1.2: Male Unbonding
Joel, an old school friend, visits a reluctant Jerry; Jerry tells him they have nothing in common but is then overcome with guilt when his friend gets upset.
Another aspect of the stand-up bits is that, while Seinfeld’s act is based on common touchstones and broad generalisations (“This is what all guys do”), his writing with Larry David distills these points and feeds them through quirky and distinct individuals. What they do may be easily identifiable with but the exaggeration involved is what makes it really work. I’ll go on about the framing bits less and less, because there’s usually little to say about them content-wise that’s not covered in the episodes. There are a few memorable lines here about “breaking up with a guy”, though.
Kevin Dunn, a readily recognisable film and TV supporting player, excels as Jerry’s boorish best friend, and some of the series’ tropes are already fully formed. Jerry speaks his mind, and then his better nature causes him to backtrack. Kramer always comes out on top despite blithe indifference to proprietorial norms (here he ends up going to the Knicks game with Joel, with tickets that Jerry gave to Joel to ease his conscience).
Kramer’s already getting the pick of the dialogue, and it’s easy to see why studio audiences quickly started cheering whenever he made his hipster-doofus entrances (to rigourous Richards ‘chagrin; that wouldn’t happen now, of course…) Whether it’s offhandedly imparting sage commentary (“They’ve got a cure for cancer, you see. It’s all big business!”) or trying to get his business venture off the ground (“A pizza place where you make your own pie” – which the series will revisit in due course), he makes an indelible impression.
George’s miserliness makes itself known (taking a jar of coins to the bank), but the real event of this episode is the introduction of Julia Louise-Dreyfus as Elaine. She’s a delight from her first scene, showing upmost ease and enjoying effortless chemistry with Seinfeld (“You made a man cry? I never made a man cry!”)
This is still nascent stuff, not yet confident enough to take in other plots except obliquely. I guess the difference is that in this show even the material where characters just stand around talking was innovative, but in terms of the series it’s still exploring and finding its groove.
George: I know a guy who took a vacation on his change.
Jerry: Yeah? Where did he go? An arcade?