Is This Anything?
Did you ever read a book where it’s obvious the author has no burning desire to write a book, where he puts down phrases in staccato bursts that are not really sentences or paragraphs or even proper English? A book where the author admits he has little patience for story structure in the first ten pages?
That book must suck, right? Wrong!
If you’re Jerry Seinfeld that book is very funny indeed. The first couple of sentences above are an attempt to write like Seinfeld but it’s tough because he is so funny that virtually all of his bits (and this book is nothing but a compilation of bits collected over a 40-year career) leap off the page and, yes, make one laugh out loud.
The phrase “Is this anything?” is something Seinfeld says standup comedians ask themselves and each other all the time. They’ll have a funny observation, try to expand it into something a little longer and a little funnier and test it on another comedian with the words: “Is this anything?”
With Seinfeld of course the answer is more often than not, yes!
Many of his observations are silly and trivial but so what? Take his riff on women and cotton balls, reprinted here exactly the way it appears in the book:
“Women use a lot of cotton balls.
“A LOT of cotton balls.
“This thing I don’t understand is, I have never needed a cotton ball.
It made this reviewer laugh out loud but maybe you need to be a guy.
Here’s another one:
“You know there is an actual guy that can catch a bullet between his teeth?
“I saw him on That’s Incredible!
“And it was.
“I remember seeing it and then actually saying, ‘That’s incredible.’
“Although I can’t remember his name.
“Which is terrible.
“Because if he knew that I had seen him do that and then couldn’t remember his name,
“wouldn’t he be like,
“What the hell do I have to do to impress these people?
“Catch a cannonball in the eye?”
That’s the way Seinfeld writes, even at the start of the book where he devotes (an exaggeration) all of 12 pages describing how and why he launched a career in standup. Its sheer minimalism is refreshing in many ways. Seinfeld is no tortured genius giving us anecdotes about how he grew up—he just gets to it in a very plain manner of fact way.
He remembers exactly the way he felt when he first experienced professional comedians doing standup at the comedy club Catch a Rising Star:
“The absolute lack of glamour and/or normalcy drove me wild.
“What a completely offbeat, nonsensical existence.
“Comedians seemed to hurtle through space and time untethered to anything but the sound of a laugh.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god.
“I want to do that.
“What if I can’t?
“What if I’m not funny?”
To which, this reviewer can only write, “As if . . .”