Jerry Seinfeld created with Larry David the most successful TV comedy serial ever, “Seinfeld”, which ran for nine seasons on American TV and garnered every conceivable award. Many professional comedians rate it as the best sitcom ever created. Remarkably, Jerry walked away from his creation right when ratings were at their highest. Subsequently, this creative giant has created two successful series for Netflix alongside an acclaimed web series. So how does Jerry Seinfeld produce comedy of the highest standard decade after decade? Three things stand out in this outstanding interview:
Firstly, the sheer length of time over which Jerry Seinfeld has dedicated his life to understanding and producing superior comedy: “So if I look back at my whole life starting about second or third grade, it was all this inexorable march towards this pursuit of the comedy arts. There was nothing else about comedy. Albert Brooks did an album or did an article in Esquire called School For Comedians…He grew up in L.A. and he was making fun of what comedians might need to learn to be comedians. …I just wanted to learn about this world…It is a completely hermetically sealed world that is frankly, unrelated to the rest of the entertainment industry. It’s really unrelated to almost all other creative arts. It is a very sealed ecosystem, the world of comedy, particularly stand-up comedy. I was desperately thirsty for any scrap of data about it.”
Secondly, as highlighted in Saurabh Mukherjea and Anupam Gupta’s book ‘The Victory Project: Six Steps to Peak Potential’, Jerry Seinfeld too believes in the power of a daily routine to help you produce outstanding results: “I still have a writing session every day. It’s another thing that organizes your mind. The coffee goes here. The pad goes here. The notes go here. My writing technique is just: You can’t do anything else. You don’t have to write, but you can’t do anything else… But my writing sessions used to be very arduous, very painful, like pushing against the wind in soft, muddy ground with a wheelbarrow full of bricks. And I did it. I had to do it because there’s just, as I mentioned in the book, you either learn to do that or you will die in the ecosystem. I learned that really fast and really young, and that saved my life and made my career…”
Thirdly, like other professionals who achieve outsized success, Jerry Seinfeld has turned something which is creative and instinctive into something which is process driven and yet fresh, original and impactful: “So I have two phases. There is the free-play creative phase. Then there is the polish and construction phase of, and I love to spend inordinate really, I mean, it’s not wasteful to me, because that’s just what I like to do, amounts of time refining and perfecting every single word of it until it has this pleasing flow to my ear. Then it becomes something that I can’t wait to say. And then we go from there to the stage with it. From the stage, the audience will then — I imagine, it’s a very scientific thing to me. It’s like, “Okay, here’s my experiment,” and you run the experiment. Then the audience just dumps a bunch of data on you, of, “This is good, this is okay, this is very good, this is terrible.” That goes into my brain from performing it on stage. Then it’s back through the rewrite process and then new ideas will come.”
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