Jerry Seinfeld sips from a Starbucks holiday mug as he begins an interview about his new book “Comedians in cars get coffee” (Simon & Schuster, 352 pp., out now) Commemorating the decade since his series debuted on Crackle.
“Good coffee is my drink, but I would drink any coffee,” says Seinfeld, 68.
His drink is an interesting choice considering the “comedians in cars” pitch he personally pitched when it was an idea by then-CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz and turned down.
“He said, ‘I don’t see how that’s a good fit for us,’” Seinfeld recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, maybe another big comedian is going to have a show with the word coffee in the title very soon that you’re going to love.'”
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The series first ended back in 2012 on Crackle, but after nine seasons, it has found a new home on Netflix. The eleventh and final season of the show premiered in 2019. At this time, there are no plans for additional installments.
The Starbucks story is a well-known oral history featured in the book, which also includes an introduction from Seinfeld and written excerpts from episodes divided into sections on getting started in comedy, relationships, the art of comedy, and the “Seinfeld” series.
Over 84 episodes, Seinfeld has interviewed comedy legends like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Eddie Murphy, and Steve Martin. The “Comedians in Cars” host was “even more nervous” about his conversation with then-President Barack Obama for Season 7.
“I didn’t want to waste his time for obvious reasons,” says Seinfeld. “I was so appreciative that they let me do it, that he was willing to do it. It’s not like sitting down with Jamie Foxx. It’s a whole different energy.”
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Seinfeld says Obama surprised him in every way: “That he wanted to do it, that he was comfortable doing it, that he enjoyed doing it. There aren’t many great presidents… I don’t think I could have a conversation with most presidents or even want to.”
Making it to the White House is an impressive feat for a show that Seinfeld wasn’t sure it would bat at along. He had a suspicion that he didn’t test at the start of the eponymous sitcom that was billed as “nothing.”
“I knew the Seinfeld movie was going to be a hit,” says the star and co-creator. “I didn’t know how, in what way, but I knew people were ready for a show where people would talk differently.”
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But with “Comedians in Cars,” Seinfeld says the project was so personal, he wasn’t sure how it would be received. “Another aspect of my life was just hanging out with these crazy people and it was just as cool to me as the career part.”
Seinfeld says hangouts on camera with fellow comedians are “less dirty” than they are off. But he wanted the show to be family friendly. He says, “Comedians are very, very evil in our discourse. Whatever the exact opposite of political correctness is, that’s the way comedians talk. It’s vile. It’s evil, and it’s unsympathetic to anyone in every situation.”
“Steve Harvey had a great line in his episode about if there’s tragedy, comedians need to know how long until we can talk about it,” Seinfeld continues. “But we’ve got the jokes already. The jokes are ready right away, that second.”
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Nothing too sacred to be mocked, says Seinfeld. Nothing is forbidden.
“That’s not the point, it’s the joke,” he explains. “How good is the joke? Obviously, the worse it is, the better the joke must be to justify its action.”
It’s a conversation with Don Rickles, the Season 2 guest star who died at age 90 in 2017, that Seinfeld says influences his career today. Outside Rickles’ condo, “his leg was bothering him and he was trying to wiggle his leg, and he just looked at me and said, ‘I have to keep working,'” Seinfeld recalled. “I don’t know why, but I think about it a lot. I think about this thing of just working to death. Is this the right or wrong thing to do? Is this a good light to follow in life and only work till you are dead? I have decided that it is.”
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