Jerry Seinfeld on Making a Life in Comedy (and Also, Pop-Tarts)


Jerry Seinfeld: Dr. Remnick.

David Remnick: Sir.

Jerry Seinfeld: You really, really look like a doctor. Doesn't he look like a doctor?

David Remnick: I do.

Jerry Seinfeld: If he walks, he's your car. I'm your cardiologist. You would just feel so calm.

David Remnick: Would you?

Jerry Seinfeld: Right. Yes. How'd feel? Oh, I'm in good hands here.

David Remnick: Jerry, it's nothing to worry. Take a few tests.

Jerry Seinfeld: Oh, you got the tone.

David Remnick: You know that voice, or I think you do, but for the record, it's Jerry Seinfeld who came by our studios recently so he could determine, as my mother once did that I should have been a doctor.

Speaker 3: What's going on with you and Melanie? I know you're not getting married.

David Remnick: Seinfeld was famously this show about nothing or maybe not nothing exactly, but we broke up about very small, very petty things and the ludicrous amount of mental energy we expend on.

Speaker 3: Well, we were having dinner the other night and she's got the strangest habit. She eats her peas one at a time. [laughter] You've never seen anything like it. It takes her an hour to finish them. We've had dinner other times. I've seen her eat corn niblets but she scooped them. [laughter]

Speaker 4: She scooped the niblets.

Speaker 3: Yes. That's what was so vexing. [l;daughter]

David Remnick: That fixation on the preposterously minor has always been at the core of Jerry Seinfeld's comedy, and it's certainly at the core of Unfrosted, his new movie, which takes a footnote in culinary history, the invention of the Pop-Tart, and treats it like an epic national battle. Now, this isn't Seinfeld's first feature. He wrote the animated Bee Movie, but Unfrosted is his debut as a director.


David Remnick: How did this project, which is hilarious and nuts in many ways, and it's so funny--

Jerry Seinfeld: Oh, thanks.

David Remnick: It resonates with all kinds of things in the '60s and movies about the 60s, which we'll get to. How did you decide on this project?

Jerry Seinfeld: COVID [laughs].

David Remnick: You were going out of your mind, weren't you?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes. My friend, Spike Feresten, the writer who wrote the Soup Nazi episode, we used to joke about making a movie about the Pop-Tart. It was a joke.

Speaker 4: The Kellogg's Pop-Tart suddenly appeared at Battle Creek Michigan, which as you cereal fans know, is the corporate headquarters of Kellogg's in a town I have always wanted to visit. [laughter] Because it seems like a cereal Silicon Valley of breakfast super scientists conceiving of a frosted fruit-filled heatable rectangles in the same shape as the box that comes in [laughter] and with the same nutrition as the box it comes in too.

Jerry Seinfeld: I go, "There's no movie here." He goes, "Give me one meeting. Let's just get the two writers that I love from Bee Movie, Barry Marder and Andy Robin. Let just the four of us do a Zoom and give me one meeting." Andy Robin says, "Do you remember the scene in The Right Stuff where Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer run down the hall and they burst into the conference room and LBJ is sitting there, and they go, it's called Sputnik."

Speaker 5: It's called Sputnik.

Speaker 6: We know. Sit down.

Jerry Seinfeld: He goes, "That's what this is." I went, "Oh yes."

Speaker 7: As I was saying--

Jerry Seinfeld: Sitting with four comedy writers who love each other's sense of humor, the first 20 minutes, I do a 20-minute warmup of just nonsense, what'd you do last night? What'd you eat? What'd you watch? You just start laughing and having fun. This is how comedy is done. You can't have anybody in the room that doesn't have the same brain disaffect.

David Remnick: What does that mean?

Jerry Seinfeld: Regular people need courtesies and respect to converse and socialize with them. You can't say hostile things to them, to their face, but comedians love that.

David Remnick: You don't get offended.

Jerry Seinfeld: No.

David Remnick: There's no offense in the room.

Jerry Seinfeld: The offense is if it wasn't funny. That's the offense.

David Remnick: The other person is never offended if you insult them, rag them, or something.

Jerry Seinfeld: As long as it's funny, which usually insulting someone in their face is pretty funny. [laughter] We don't think that there is much value in everything else in life. Everything else in life is pretty much a nuisance. If you can get a laugh out of it, it's worth it. That's the way you go through life. You only care about laughing and being funny.

David Remnick: Describe these meetings to me, how they went during the course of however long they lasted.

Jerry Seinfeld: They were all the same. They start off with 15 to 20 minutes of absolute nonsense. There's a lot of really vile profanity, complaining about absolutely everything in anything. Then you go, "Okay. What were we working on yesterday? What was the scene? Where are we going from here?" Then you start to write, but you're in this mood now. That's how you write comedy. If somebody else walks in the room, everybody, you have to stop. What do you want? Yes, I know what-- dinner is fine. It's 6:00. That's fine. Could you please leave?

David Remnick: You experience it as fun or you experience it as work, as effort?

Jerry Seinfeld: 50/50. It does have to make sense to an audience. That's the work. All you want to do is be totally insane.

David Remnick: In the film, you play a marketing executive for Kellogg. It's set in '63. JFK is the president. The story centers around this race between the Kellogg Company and Post.

Jerry Seinfeld: Which is true.

David Remnick: Which is another popular cereal maker. They're both working toward a trip to the moon.

Jerry Seinfeld: That's right.

David Remnick: They're working toward the creation of Pop-Tarts, whether they know it or not. Tell me about how that storyline originated.

Jerry Seinfeld: Well, the storyline is the truth of the story, which I have always loved that Post came up with this idea. Kellogg's heard about it. Months before they were about to debut it in supermarkets, they freaked out. They go, we have to have the same thing as them. We have to get there before them. We have to make it better than them. That's what we came up with it's the right stuff. It's the US versus the Soviet Union to put a man on the moon.

David Remnick: [laughs] Now we're of a similar age. We grew up on similar breakfast foods [laughter] and a lot else. I have vague memories of Walter Cronkite, who by the way, has a great role in this movie.

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes, he's fantastic.

David Remnick: A drunk, insane Walter Cronkite.

Jerry Seinfeld: Kyle Dunnigan created a lot of that on the set.

David Remnick: Very funny.

Speaker 7: Direct from CBS News in New York, this is the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.

Walter Cronkite: This just handed to me some major news from the Breakfast World. The Post cereal company of Battle Creek, Michigan has reportedly invented a shelf-stable heatable fruit pastry breakfast product. Shelf stable. Boy.

David Remnick: Did you really like Pop-Tarts all that much growing up?

Jerry Seinfeld: Oh, yes.

David Remnick: How about now?

Jerry Seinfeld: Still, yes.

David Remnick: Really?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes. I love them.

David Remnick: That's a good breakfast for you.

Jerry Seinfeld: No, I don't eat it for breakfast. I eat it after a bad show on a Wednesday night.

David Remnick: I see. When have you ever had a bad show?

Jerry Seinfeld: A lot of times. To me, a bad show is I'm going to do four new pieces tonight. If three of them tank, it's a frustrating night.

David Remnick: Now, you could do for Pop-Tarts what Barbie did for Barbie. This could be a big thing for them.

Jerry Seinfeld: Except that Kellogg's did not even know we were doing this.

David Remnick: No.

Jerry Seinfeld: No, they did not. We only called them three weeks ago-

David Remnick: The way that the lawyers--

Jerry Seinfeld: -to tell them, "By the way--"--

David Remnick: The lawyers didn't freak out?

Jerry Seinfeld: We found a lawyer in the Valley.

Jerry Seinfeld: -who said, "Could you write us a letter saying that this is okay to do that We can show to Netflix?" Netflix, when we pitch them this idea. is going to go, "I assume you've checked this all out legally and the clearances." I go, "Of course we have a letter right here."

David Remnick: It's a guy from the Valley [laughs]. He says it's great.

Jerry Seinfeld: He says it's no problem.

David Remnick: There's no fee paid to Kellogg's or Post, and no permission given or taken?

Jerry Seinfeld: No. Do you think--

David Remnick: I think you're in big trouble.

Jerry Seinfeld: Do you think that Kellogg's would make a movie where people lose their lives trying to invent a pastry or dive into dumpsters?

David Remnick: Two children diving into dumpsters looking for the special fruit paste.

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes.


Speaker 9: Are your kids okay?

Speaker 10: Oh, sure. We live in nice homes and already had a complete breakfast.

Speaker 11: We come here for this.

Speaker 9: It's garbage.

Speaker 11: Is it, or is it some hot fruit letting the man doesn't want you to have?

Speaker 10: No wait. You have to have it like this.

David Remnick: Now, you've got an amazing cast here, Melissa McCarthy, Jim Gaffigan, Sarah Cooper, Kristen Wiig.

Jerry Seinfeld: Hugh Grant.

David Remnick: Hugh Grant, which he's a little famous for being not so easy on set. Was that your experience?

Jerry Seinfeld: Oh, yes, yes.

David Remnick: Tell me about that.

Jerry Seinfeld: I love this man. My apologies to all the other people I've met. He's my favorite human.

David Remnick: Hugh Grant?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes, he's my favorite human.

David Remnick: Why?

Jerry Seinfeld: Because his charm and funniness is what I dreamed of when I was a kid in the '60s. I want to be a charming, witty man. That never happened.

David Remnick: You wanted to be [unintelligible 00:09:47] Grant?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes. Like you say, we grew up Muhammad Ali and JFK and Sean Connery. Those are men. We want to be like them. They were all witty and handsome-

David Remnick: What was it like to work--

Jerry Seinfeld: -and had broad shoulders.

David Remnick: Well, he apparently--

Jerry Seinfeld: He has all these things.

David Remnick: He has the broad shoulders too.

Jerry Seinfeld: He has the shoulders, he has the wit. He knows how to have fun. He knows how to put people at ease. A lot of these actors, they're primadonnas and he told me he would be. I go, "That's fine. I don't care what you are."

David Remnick: Right off the bat he said, I'm going to be a pain in the neck.

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes, yes. I don't care. What do I care?

David Remnick: What do you mean?

Jerry Seinfeld: I don't care if someone's an asshole if they're charming. A charming asshole is way better than a boring polite person.

David Remnick: How did it play itself out on set, for example, him being a charming asshole?

Jerry Seinfeld: I'd say, "Hugh in this scene you're wearing these sunglasses. Would you be completely against the idea of not wearing sunglasses in the scene?" This is a negotiating technique I learned. The answer you always want to get from your counterpart is no, not yes.

David Remnick: Why is that?

Jerry Seinfeld: Because people love to say no. They hate to say yes. Saying yes makes you feel vulnerable. Saying no makes you feel secure. You ask a question where the answer you want is no. "Hugh, would you be totally against not wearing the glasses?" "No, I wouldn't be totally against it."

David Remnick: [laughs] That's the finesse.

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes, that's the finesse.

David Remnick: Did you enjoy this new activity of directing?

Jerry Seinfeld: With these people when you have Melissa McCarthy, or Hugh, or Peter Dinklage-- Directing Peter Dinklage--

David Remnick: He has a great [crosstalk] in the movie.

Jerry Seinfeld: Thank you. It's like someone saying, "Would you like to take this Ferrari out for a drive?" It can do anything you ask it to do, anything. That is a lot of fun. He is a thrill.

Speaker 6: Are you a milkman?

Speaker 7: The name's Harry Friendly. You might say I am the milkman. You know the first taste a human being experiences at birth?

Speaker 6: Applesauce.

Speaker 7: Oh. Milk, Mr. Cabana. In the milk business, we are not just part of the American dream. We are the white in the red, white and blue. We are the cream that rises so famously to the top. You, Mr. Cabana, have become the annoying white ring that sticks to the bottom.

David Remnick: Jerry, you must get any number of ideas for films either-

Jerry Seinfeld: No, wrong. Wrong.

David Remnick: -brought to you or you have. No.

Jerry Seinfeld: Never got an idea. This is the only idea I've ever had for a film.

David Remnick: Really?

Jerry Seinfeld: I never get asked to do a film.

David Remnick: Really?

Jerry Seinfeld: Never.

David Remnick: Why the hell would that be?

Jerry Seinfeld: I don't know. When I was at Dreamworks and we were casting Bee Movie, this casting director came in and she had two cards, a blue card and a pink card. On each card were the biggest male stars, and on the pink card were the biggest female stars in the business at that time. This is 2000s. We go through the names. By the way, there's like 12 names on each card. That's it. We were casting the thing, and before she leaves I go, "Can I ask you? Am I on that blue card?" [laughter] She says, "No."

David Remnick: Nice.

Jerry Seinfeld: I went, "Why not?" She said, "Because everybody knows you won't do it."

David Remnick: Was she right?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes.

David Remnick: Well, Hamlet maybe but you wouldn't do any number of other things if the project is right.

Jerry Seinfeld: You have to realize if you look at my career, I have never succeeded at anything that wasn't my material. Not one time. I've only done it once, and it was a huge failure when I did Benson in 1980.

David Remnick: You felt it to be a failure. You thought it was a critical failure.

Jerry Seinfeld: It was a total failure. I have to write my own material or I stink.


David Remnick: I'm talking with Jerry Seinfeld. His new film is called Unfrosted. We'll continue in just a moment on The New Yorker Radio Hour.


David Remnick: This is The New Yorker Radio Hour. I'm David Remnick, and I'm talking today with Jerry Seinfeld. I was going to say the comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, but that feels a little New York Timesy, like the renowned physicist, Albert Einstein. Seinfeld co-wrote and directed the new film Unfrosted. He's not one of those people who had to find himself exactly. As a kid, Seinfeld fell in love with the comedians on television, and he was still in his 20s when he got a spot on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

Johnny Carson: Would you welcome him, please? Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry.

Jerry Seinfeld: Wow. Good evening. Boy, this is so exciting for me. I'm so excited to be here.

David Remnick: After nine seasons of Seinfeld, Jerry quit while he was way ahead. He's become a professor of comedy, continuing to do standup and shooting the series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Cars, driving around and joking and analyzing comedy with every great comic of our time. Back to my discussion with Jerry Seinfeld.


David Remnick: It's possible that you've probably made a dollar or two from Seinfeld and yet you still work so hard, why?

Jerry Seinfeld: Because the only thing in life that's really worth having is good skill. Good skill is the greatest possession. The things that money buys are fine. They're good. I like them, but having a skill, I learned this from reading Esquire magazine. I did an issue on mastery. Do you remember that?

David Remnick: I don't.

Jerry Seinfeld: I'm surprised.

David Remnick: [laughs]

Jerry Seinfeld: You definitely read Esquire.

David Remnick: Oh yes. Of course.

Jerry Seinfeld: I loved Esquire in the '60s. A magazine for men, remember?

David Remnick: Yes, I do.

Jerry Seinfeld: They did one issue. In fact, I got to get this issue. I get it on eBay. I'm sure it's there. It's a very Zen Buddhist concept. Pursue mastery, that will fulfill your life. You will feel good. Nothing else. I know a lot of rich people, so do you. They don't feel good as you think they should and would. They don't. They're miserable. I work because in standup comedy, if you don't do it a lot you stink.

We call it a phone. We don't even use it as a phone. Nobody's talking on the phone. [laughter] Once they gave you the option, you could talk, you could type talking into that day, it's over.[laughter] Talking is obsolete. It's antiquated. I feel like a blacksmith up here sometimes to tell you the truth. [laughter] I could text you this whole thing. We can get the hell out of here right now. [laughter]

David Remnick: Who did you start listening to or watching in comedy and say, "That's the skill I want to learn."

Jerry Seinfeld: Robert Klein and Jay Leno were the two guys, and George Carlin. Bill Cosby, I loved, but I thought I could never be that good.

David Remnick: I mean as a kid.

Jerry Seinfeld: You mean like six, seven?

David Remnick: Yes, or junior high school, or whatever.

Jerry Seinfeld: Peter Sellers was a huge obsession of mine as a kid. There's one line in Unfrosted that a lot of the producers did not like, and they said, "You got to take it out. It's too stupid. It really makes no sense at all." I go, "But for one second in my life, I got to be Peter Sellers."

David Remnick: What was the line?

Jerry Seinfeld: The line is at the funeral and we have this elaborate full serial honors scene and the widow of--

David Remnick: Say who you're burying?

Jerry Seinfeld: We're burying Steve Schwinn who lost his life trying to create the Pop-Tart. His wife says to me, looking at this insane ceremony, and she says, "Did you plan this?" I go, "I don't know. I don't know." [chuckles] Which is impossible. You can't not know that. Either you planned it or you didn't plan it. You can't not know. Inspector [unintelligible 00:18:46] would say that.

David Remnick: Jerry, tell me about being a beginner, just a funny kid who wants to take the big leap into comedy.

Jerry Seinfeld: The leap was so terrifying. I don't know why, but I had no confidence in that I might be funny to people that don't know me. I drove to this club, the Golden Lion Pub 143 West 44th Street, no longer.

David Remnick: What year?

Jerry Seinfeld: 1975. I'm still at Queens College and they have a audition. I think there were just a few people there. I did this joke about being left-handed, and it got a laugh. Then they booked me on the--

David Remnick: I want to hear the joke.

Jerry Seinfeld: The joke is-- [laughter]

I'm left-handed. Left-handed people do not like that the word left is so often associated with negative things through left feet, left-handed compliment. What are we having for dinner, leftovers. [laughter] You go to a party, there's nobody there. Where'd everybody go? They left.

David Remnick: Oh, it's a pretty cute joke.

Jerry Seinfeld: It's not a bad joke.

David Remnick: It's a cute joke.

Jerry Seinfeld: It's not a bad joke

David Remnick: How did it go over?

Jerry Seinfeld: Huge, and it got a huge laugh, and--

David Remnick: Can you remember the feeling?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes, and the applause. You know that scene in the Elton John movie when he's at the Troubadour, he goes off the ground, and the audience comes off the ground? I love that scene. That's what it felt like. I felt like, "Oh my God. I'm a plane, and I just left the ground." I just knew from that moment, "That's it. I now know what I will do the rest of my life."

David Remnick: That's incredibly inspiring, and at the same time, huge pressure.

Jerry Seinfeld: Why is it pressure?

David Remnick: Because you then have to write more jokes and repeat it.

Jerry Seinfeld: The book that got me into comedy is a book called The Last Laugh by Phil Berger. I read it in high school. There's a joke in there that Jimmie Walker told at Catch a Rising Star. It's a pouring, rainy night in Manhattan. He goes on stage, he's soaking wet. He goes, "It is raining so hard out there, I just saw Superman getting into a cab." I read that, and I go, "How in the world can a brain come up with an idea like that?" I still love that joke. I love that joke. I go, "How do you think of that?" I didn't know how. When I did the left thing, I went, "Oh, there's a guy in there that knows how to do it, and he's going to now work his off for the rest of my life."

David Remnick: You became disciplined right away?

Jerry Seinfeld: Not right away. It was after I saw a comedian do a couple of Tonight Shows and get bounced that I realized--

David Remnick: Who was that?

Jerry Seinfeld: I don't want to mention the name. He went on, he did well. The second time he went on, he did less well. The third time he struggled, and they never had him back. I went, "Oh. Now I get how this racket works. This is a writer's game. If you can write you succeed. If you can't, you will not make it." To perform and being funny on stage, that's great, any comedian can be funny on stage, but the bullets are the writing.

David Remnick: Not long ago, I was watching on YouTube, not for the first time and maybe for the thousandth, Rodney Dangerfield's performances on The Tonight Show, which are insanely good and like filled with rocket fuel.

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes.

Rodney Dangerfield: Expect it all. When I was born, a doctor told my mother, "I did all I could, but he pulled through anyway." [laughter] I mean, I don't get no respect from anyone. Last week, my house was on fire. My wife told the kids, "Be quiet, you'll wake up Daddy." [laughter]

David Remnick: He's a great writer. He's invented this character, which is himself times 11, I guess. How did you invent how you wanted to be on stage, the persona?

Jerry Seinfeld: It's like sculpting. Sculpting is removing everything that isn't the sculpture you want to make. You're not adding, you're removing. Stone sculpture, not clay. When you do a joke and it gets a laugh, and something inside you doesn't feel quite right, you don't do that joke. You do the jokes that you feel connect to your anger, your attitude, your personality. Success in comedy is very much conducting, so the face, the voice, the body, the joke. When all of us are working together, it hits, bang. You just feel it. You feel it like hitting a baseball on the button. When one of them is a little off, it's not there.

David Remnick: What do you think about the difference between doing a comedy film for Netflix and doing a night at the Beacon? It's the same thing, and yet it's not.

Jerry Seinfeld: The only similarity is your sense of humor is an essential tool. After that, it's all different. There's no similarity. A night at the Beacon, to me, is like if you're a great jazz player, and people come in and they want to hear you play, and you're going on and go, "I know this instrument. I'm good at it. Let's all enjoy the playing."

David Remnick: For the jazz musician or any musician, they want to hear Round Midnight or Born to Run or whatever it is again, and again, and again. Do you feel that's okay for jokes, or is there constant pressure to make it new and make it new all the time?

Jerry Seinfeld: We don't have enough time for that conversation. That would take another hour.

David Remnick: What do you mean?

Jerry Seinfeld: It's a heavy conversation. It's a constant issue in the comedy world. Everybody has a different opinion about it.

David Remnick: Give me the short version.

Jerry Seinfeld: The short version is there's no answer. If I love a bit that somebody does, and I go and they do the bit, I love it. If you see them after the show, they go, "You did the peanut bit. I love the peanut bit," you go, "I know. I'm trying to get it out of my act and do something new," they go, "No, I love that bit." Who's right? There's no answer. I think if you go see a comedian and he does some great stuff that you know and a bunch of stuff that you don't know, the audience is happy.

I think comedians now try so hard to be all new all the time, I think the quality suffers, because none of us are really that good. Chris Rock and I have determined that a great comedian working his ass off his entire career writes two good hours. The rest is--

David Remnick: How many specials have you done for Netflix?

Jerry Seinfeld: Two, and I don't think I'll do another one.

David Remnick: Really?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes.

David Remnick: Why not?

Jerry Seinfeld: Again, we don't have time for that. These are gigantic subjects in comedy, but I won't put it out there unless I think it's of a certain quality, and I doubt I could get to that in the time I have left. I don't like old people either. Even though I'm 70, I don't like old people.

David Remnick: You're about to be 70, right?

Jerry Seinfeld: Whatever.

David Remnick: How are you feeling about that?

Jerry Seinfeld: I don't care.

David Remnick: Really?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes.

David Remnick: You look good.

Jerry Seinfeld: Thanks.

David Remnick: Do you feel good?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes. That's it.

David Remnick: You're working?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes.

David Remnick: When you say you don't like old men, do you mean that in a kind of Friars Club sort of way?

Jerry Seinfeld: No, I don't like old people, Period. They don't look good. Everything's deteriorating. I don't want to see this. If you want to hang around, fine, but we're moving on to younger people. I feel like God is like, "I'm with you up to about 38. If you want to stay, you can stay, but I'm moving on."

David Remnick: Did you not like old comedians?

Jerry Seinfeld: No, I love old comedians. I do because they just get better. This is the great blessing. On the other side of the material, torture. On the other side of that, the blessing of it, you just get better and better.

David Remnick: Tell me how you deal with the weight of the world, or the serious aspects of the world weigh on you, and how that affects comedy?

Jerry Seinfeld: Nothing really affects comedy. People always need it. They need it so badly, and they don't get it. It used to be you would go home at the end of the day, most people would go, "Oh, Cheers is on," "Oh, M*A*S*H is on," "Mary Tyler Moore is on," "All in the Family is on." You just expect that, "There'll be some funny stuff we can watch on TV tonight." Guess what? Where is it? Where is it? This is the result of the extreme left and PC crap, and people worrying so much about offending other people.

Now, they're going to see standup comics, because we are not policed by anyone. The audience polices us. We know when we're off-track. We know instantly, and we adjust to it instantly. When you write a script and it goes into four or five different hands, committees, groups, "Here's our thought about this joke," well, that's the end of your comedy.

David Remnick: Have you had that experience?

Jerry Seinfeld: No.

David Remnick: Isn't that what Curb is all about?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes. [crosstalk] Larry was grandfathered in. He's old enough that, "I don't have to observe those rules because I started before you made those rules." We did an episode of the series in the '90s, where Kramer decides to start a business of having homeless pull Rickshaws, because as he says, "They're outside anyway."


Kramer: What about the homeless?


Newman: Can we worry about them later?

Kramer: To pull the rickshaw.

Newman: They do have an intimate knowledge of the street.

Kramer: Oh, he's walking around the city. Why not just strap something to them? [laughter]

Newman Now, that's the first sensible idea I've heard all day.


Jerry Seinfeld: Do you think I could get that episode on the air today?

David Remnick: Do you think Larry got grandfathered in, and there could be no 35-year-old version?

David Remnick: Right. If Larry was 35, he couldn't get away with his like the watermelon stuff, and Palestinian chicken, and you know. HBO knows that's what people come here for, but they're not smart enough to figure out, how do we do this now? Do we take the heat, or just not be funny? We would write a different joke with Kramer and the Rickshaw today. We wouldn't do that joke. We came up with another joke. They move the gates like in the skii. The gates are moving. Your job is to be agile and clever enough that wherever they put the gates, I'm going to make the gate.

David Remnick: You think this is going away now? What you're describing as PC, is exceeding?

Jerry Seinfeld: Slightly. I see a slight movement.

David Remnick: How do you see it?

Jerry Seinfeld: With certain comedians now, people are having fun with them stepping over the line, and us all laughing about it. Again, it's the stand-ups that really have the freedom to do it because no one else gets the blame if it doesn't go down well. He or she can take all the blame themselves.

David Remnick: Who are the young ones that you like?

Jerry Seinfeld: Nate Bargatze. I love Ronny Chieng. I love a Brian Simpson, really funny. Mark Normand, really funny. Sam Morril, really funny.

David Remnick: Do you ever go to clubs?

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes, I go all the time. I don't go and sit there and pay for two drinks and watch and go, "This guy's fantastic." No. I go to work out my own stuff. [laughter]

David Remnick: Jerry, for Unfrosted, you actually wrote a song titled Sweet Morning Heat. You wrote the lyrics with Jimmy Fallon.

Jerry Seinfeld: No, I wrote it with Mark Ronson. Jimmy sang it.

David Remnick: By the way, who can sing. He and Meghan Trainor sang the tune, and Mark and Andrew Wyatt produced it, right?

Jerry Seinfeld: Right. David, when I walked in this studio and I had this piece of paper where I wrote, and I spent hours on it because there's certain lines you can sing, there's certain lines you can't. I don't know anything really about singing. I said to Mark, "I wrote these lyrics," and I started reading them, and he nodded his head and there was a long pause, and he went, "That's not bad." Oh, my God, that was one of my greatest moments of my life.

David Remnick: "It's not bad."

Jerry Seinfeld: Yes. He said that's not bad. I went, "Really?" He said, "Yes, that's not bad. We could do something with those." I don't know if you could make out the lyrics when you watch the movie. I haven't seen it in the movie.

David Remnick: That's why I'm asking. Would you like to sing us a little bit?

Jerry Seinfeld: No, I can't sing.

David Remnick: Can you recite it?

Jerry Seinfeld: Why?

David Remnick: [laughs]

[Music- Sweet Morning Heat-Jimmy Fallon & Meghan Trainor]

Please, give me that sweet morning heat

Every single day of the week

David Remnick: Jerry Seinfeld, thank you so much.

[Music- Sweet Morning Heat-Jimmy Fallon & Meghan Trainor]

If you've got all the loving I need

Give me that sweet morning

Give me that sweet morning

Give me that sweet morning

David Remnick: Jerry Seinfeld is the director and star of Unfrosted. He worked on a TV show called, let me see if I can think of it, Seinfeld. This is the New Yorker Radio Hour. Stick around.

[Music- Sweet Morning Heat-Jimmy Fallon & Meghan Trainor]

But somehow it wasn't ever enough

Is there a reason I just can't stay away?

I like a rectangle that I can heat up

The moment we connected

It was written on the box

My toaster is electric

It's the top that--

[00:33:36] [END OF AUDIO]


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