A Sense of Humor for Survival?

May 16, 2024

“Let’s start with the first scene,” the casting director said. “Sure,” I said. I was sitting across from Jerry Seinfeld who was also holding a script. Having gone through several rounds of auditions for Elaine, we were now meeting. I was young and this was my first “big audition.” The room was teaming with people laughing at every single thing he said. Anyone recall the laugh out loud Washington Mutual commercial where Ben Falcone walks in late to a company meeting and blurts out, “Sorry I’m late, I had a job interview. NAILED IT!”? That is not how I would describe this experience.Thrown by his Seinfeldian cadence, it was not my best work. Since then, I’ve followed his stand up and always marveled at his total respect for the craft and relentless tinkering of material. A few years ago, seeing him try out new jokes to mild titters, I thought, dude, you do not have to keep doing this. I fully believed this. Until I heard his Duke commencement speech. This man is not f’ing around about his passion for the value of laughter for, as he says, surviving the human condition. The guy lives to make people laugh. Despite what can feel like shallow subject matter, there is weight to how he feels about writing and performing it.

The rest of his commencement speech followed the advice-giving format, although in an unexpected direction. I.e. “Don’t worry if you’re still feeling lost,” “If you don’t love your job, quit. At lunch.” Let them wonder whatever happened to that person. This got the laughs he intended, and there were many truths in his jesting. In classic comedy structure, Seinfeld closed with a call back.

“Just don’t lose your humor. It’s not an accessory. It’s your Stanley Cup water bottle on the brutal long hike of life. And humor is not just for the stress relief or even just a simple fun of laughing, but for the true perspective of the silliness of all humans and all existence. That’s why you don’t want to lose it.”

Turns out we could have been best friends. :)