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Netflix Binge Watch: Sponge-worthy, No. Binge-worthy, Yes.
March 23, 2020  | By Alex Strachan  | 1 comment
 


Jerry Seinfeld has an infectious laugh, which is funny in itself because it's a silent laugh. He straightens up, throws his head back, and contorts himself in spasms of mirth as if imitating Edvard Munch in The Scream.

A silent scream comes out of his mouth, but it's the scream of laughter. His whole body starts to shake — unless he's driving, of course, in which case he throws his head back, makes like The Scream, and grips the steering wheel with whitened knuckles, while other drivers glare at him in traffic.

In these challenging times — are you tired of winning yet? — Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee just might be the ideal choice for binge viewing. The episodes are short and brisk and full of light-hearted moments that make one feel good about life, even life in the age of COVID-19.

By now, you no doubt know the deal driving Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

At the opening of each episode, Seinfeld chooses a fancy car, usually loaned to the show by the likes of Audi, Ferrari, and other high-end carmakers — which would be the ideal example of product placement except that 98% of the audience watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffeecan't afford the product — and then invites a well-known comedian to accompany him a cup of coffee and a brisk conversation about comedy, working the room, hecklers, what makes a good joke, what works with audiences and what doesn't, and memories — good and bad — of a life spent on the road.

The coffee part of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee works better as product placement than the fancy cars, because most Netflix subscribers can afford a cup of joe, even the neurotic, highly specialized kind they brew in places like Firenze and Torino.

The Scream has been described as an expressionistic construction of Munch's actual experience of a scream piercing through nature while on a walk, after his two companions, seen in the background, have left him. When you see Seinfeld laugh in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, though, it's difficult not to think of The Scream. And why not? Life can be hard, after all. It's good to have a laugh on occasion.

And Seinfeld laughs a lot.

He finds everything funny, from the way Jim Carrey pours sweet drops of sugar into a tiny cup of joe while standing on a chair in a diner, for example; to the police officer who stops his car for a traffic violation, with a suddenly nervous Chris Rock sitting on the passenger side; to the taxi driver who shouts at Seinfeld through the open driver's window: "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! I need a job! I need money! I need a job that pays better! Hire me!"

"Yes!” Seinfeld yells back, without missing a beat, "but then you'd still be driving."

Seinfeld's detractors dismissed him as a less-than-terrific actor in Seinfeld, when it was losing Emmys to Frasier with wearying regularity, even as it topped the weekly Nielsen ratings charts and anchored NBC's classic "Must See TV" Thursdays.

Seinfeld has a quick mind, though (most successful stand-up comedians do) and razor-sharp wit, and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee was created in part to show off his quick mind and lightning-quick comedic reflexes, and his knack for seeing the humor in just about everything.

Seinfeld also enjoys it — it's not as if he needs the money, after all — and the conversations with comedians he's had over the years while getting coffee are both illuminating and life-affirming.

Episodes are on the short side. They run about 15 minutes on average, but that's longer than it sounds when you consider that each episode of Seinfeld, as with all broadcast sitcoms, ran around 23 minutes, once the commercials were taken out. Netflix doesn't have commercials! (The exclamation mark is because that's how Seinfeld himself would say it, and then repeat it: "Netflix doesn't have commercials!" — just for good measure, to milk a longer laugh.)

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee began as an online web series. A canny eye at Netflix saw the potential for more and kicked in extra money for all the fancy cars and high-end coffee while talking the notoriously slow-to-decide Seinfeld into doing more.

And here we are, eight years, 11 seasons, and 84 episodes later. That's more than enough shows for a binge.

And the way the coronavirus pandemic is being kicked around from one government minder like an unwanted joke, it looks as if the phrase "social distancing" will be with us for a while yet, not unlike "yada yada yada" and "sponge-worthy."

The most recent episodes, from last July, feature drive alongs with Eddie Murphy, Seth Rogen, back-to-back sessions with Ricky Gervais (now there's an infectious laugh), Matthew Broderick, Jamie Foxx, Sebastian Maniscalco ("My wife didn't know the extent of it"), Martin Short, Mario Joyner, Melissa Villaseñor, Barry Marder (a return engagement) and, in a revealing outing, Bridget Everett, a close friend of an unnamed stand-up comedian Seinfeld has found himself in a bitter feud with. (Said comedian is not named in the show, but don't wait for a Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee featuring Bobcat Goldthwait any time soon.)

Other episodes over the years have presented a virtual parade of well-known stand-up comedians and comedy writers, all of them with a story to tell and an almost instinctive ability to tell it well.

It's a New York thing. Saturday Night Live is ably represented through Comedians' 11 seasons, with Lorne Michaels, Kate McKinnon, Norm Macdonald, Kristen Wiig, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Fallon (twice), Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers, and Tina Fey — in a truly delightful, irresistible outing — all putting in star turns.

The funny thing about that is, love or hate SNL, seeing the Not Ready for Primetime Players off-the-job shows a different side to some very familiar faces.

Don't think it's all predictable, though. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee throws the occasional curve, too. A 2017 outing featuring Inglourious Basterds' bad guy Christoph Waltz might not seem like an obvious choice for a comedy show, especially as it follows outings with Lewis Black and Cedric the Entertainer (not together, though). For me, the Waltz outing ("Champagne, Cigars and Pancake Batter") is the one that always makes me laugh.

The Austrian-born Waltz is a man of culture and refined tastes, famous at the time for winning the Academy Award for playing Nazi SS Standartenführer Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-winning Inglourious Basterds, and when Seinfeld treats Waltz to breakfast at an IHOP — which Waltz had never heard of before — the Austrian of refined tastes and high culture is appropriately appalled ("I thought they sold shoes there").

Waltz's deadpan reactions to Seinfeldian pronouncements like, "I'm Jewish, you know," are just about unforgettable. And when Seinfeld asks him to describe the difference between Austria and Germany using one word, Waltz's reply — unscripted — is laugh-out-loud funny. Seinfeld laughs so hard that for a moment there, he looks as if he might need medical attention, but all's well that ends well.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is worth watching at the best of times. In these troubled times, though, it's even better. Binge-worthy! It's binge-worthy, I tell you! Binge-worthy! Wait, watch out for that red light.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is a fun ride. Just prepare yourself for the sudden stops.

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Zeke
How many people understand "Sponge-Worthy"?
Plus, a check notes: it goes back to ... 1995!!
(Sad to say, that "war" is still going on... and on...and on.)
It is an "inside joke" -- how well is it known?
One must consider that in 1995, viewer would need to be old enough to watch, let alone understand that Episode!
Mar 29, 2020   |  Reply
 
 
 
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