Jerry Seinfeld’s Three Keys to Doing Virtually Anything

Hint: They’re not available to everyone
Jerry Seinfeld’s Three Keys to Doing Virtually Anything

Like stand-up comedy where every single thing is funny and doesn't waste your time? Follow Cracked Comedy Club on Instagram and YouTube for exactly that. 

Jerry Seinfeld makes it sound so easy. In a 1993 Playboy interview, Seinfeld told the tale of how he’d managed to come up with a last-minute punchline while filming on location. “We’re shooting, it’s late, it’s cold, we need a line,” he said, embracing the adrenaline thrill. “What can I say? I love that.”

The scene in question: An angry mob has destroyed George’s father’s car after George illegally parked in a handicapped spot, smashing its windows, ripping off the door and trashing the engine. The director had planned on a visual joke to end the scene, but it wasn’t working, leaving Seinfeld with about three minutes to come up with an ending line instead. Jerry’s improvised quip: “You know, a lot of these scratches will buff right out.”

The Playboy interviewer praised Seinfeld for his quick thinking, wondering if he’d always had that verbal dexterity or if it was acquired over time. The comic guessed that he’d always been fast with a quip, but that wasn’t the key to his comedy success. According to Seinfeld, it comes down to three things. “You need talent, you need brains and you need confidence,” he said. “Those are the three things you need to do virtually anything.”

Well, yeah. That’s like saying if you have money, status and incredible good looks, you can get a good table at a restaurant. But while an excess of talent and brains aren’t qualities available to every human, confidence is more accessible. It also might be the most important. “Confidence is a fascinating commodity,” explained Seinfeld. “There’s no upper limit on the usefulness of it, as long as it doesn’t bleed into arrogance. You need as much of it as you can get.”

Creating an exceptionally popular sitcom is one way to build even more. “That’s what I’ve gained from this show,” Seinfeld said. “And that’s what I wanted from day one. I didn’t want a successful TV series, I didn’t want money, fame — any of the things any normal person would want. I wanted the confidence I would have if I could do it.”

But how do you know when your confidence devolves into arrogance? “When you’re losing,” he said. “When you start making bets that you’re not winning.”

Seinfeld said he always had confidence, but as a comedian, he needed even more. “That means being strong enough to take your time with an audience. Young comedians — most comedians — work onstage at a breathless pace, and that’s out of fear,” he explained. “I do it, too. It keeps it going. But when you can slow down and hold people, that’s being good enough. Comedy strength is slowness.”

Jack Benny was the perfect example, Seinfeld maintained. “He would come out onstage, wouldn’t say anything. He would just stand there and the people would start to laugh. I mean, that is comic strength.”

“But to wait for the laugh,” Seinfeld added, “that’s balls.”


Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?