‘Master Race Theatre’: The HBO Short That Starred a Pre-‘Seinfeld’ Jerry Seinfeld
The opening of a stand-up special is such a strange exercise in vamping — the star recruits a bunch of their slightly less famous comedian friends to indulge them in a half-sketch, half-intro scene that gives the audience a chance to settle in and gauge the tone of the humor. Well, in 1989, one of Larry Miller’s slightly less famous friends was Jerry Seinfeld, and the tone of Miller’s comedy was “white supremacy meets PBS.”
At the time, Miller had the honor of opening the second season of HBO’s One Night Stand, a series dedicated to showcasing comics who weren’t quite ready for their first HBO hour but who could crank out a solid 30 minutes on a Wednesday night. The Best in Show actor had three minutes to introduce himself and his comedy, choosing to recruit a pre-Seinfeld Seinfeld and a pre-Saturday Night Live David Spade for “Master Race Theatre,” a sketch in which Miller plays an arrogant, sadistic aristocrat sitting by a roaring fire and sentencing the rabble to death by torture.
Walter Williams, a former SNL writer himself and the director of the short form, tweeted a video of the sketch late last week, showing that Seinfeld always had a knack for being the fourth funniest performer in any given scene.