A sitcom for the rest of us: ‘Seinfeld’ two decades later
‘Seinfeldia’ author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong examines how the show about nothing changed our culture forever
ed note–as we have said here on this website many times, the single most devastating piece of pro-Israel/pro-Jewish propaganda that contributed more than anything else to the giant black mass/Judaic ritual murder we see taking place in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Gaza, Yemen, etc, is not/was not the handiwork of Richard Pearle, Paul Wolfowitz, Pamela Geller, Douglas Feith, Frank Gaffney, etc, but rather what inarguably became a television addiction for Americans lasting over a decade in the run up to the Israeli-engineered terrorist attacks on the morning of 9/11 and the wars that followed–Seinfeld.
Below are excerpts of an interview with Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, author of the book ‘Seinfeldia’ wherein she discusses her thoughts on the impact that Seinfeld has had on the collective American mind, exposing the extent to which Americans were–shortly before 9/11–subjected to an extended, superbly-executed program in mass mind control whereby they were disarmed of whatever suspicions they might have possessed about Jews as a group and instead came to see them as funny, harmless, and affable, thus setting the stage not only for American support for wars in the Middle East for Israel’s benefit, but as well, pre-conditioning the American mind against any and all future suggestions that organized Jewish interests may have had a direct hand in the events of that day.
The only thing coming close to the black magic of Seinfeld was the blockbuster film ‘Independence Day’, also released–surprise, surprise–shortly before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and whose central plotline featured planet earth being invaded by a race of extraterrestrials bent upon the complete annihilation of all human life and which certainly would have occurred were it not for the heroic, selfless efforts of a nerdy, harmless, affable Jewish guy named David and his very-Jewish father.
Times of Israel–Tell us more about the show’s “Jewish sensibility.” Would you go so far as to say it’s quintessentially a Jewish sitcom that became mainstream?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong–Oh yeah, for sure. They weren’t going to synagogue every week or anything, but they started to sneak Jewish things in. It gets more apparent as they get more confident. I wrote a little about this in a blog post. I was a Midwestern girl. I grew up in the South suburbs of Chicago where the fact that I wasn’t Catholic was weird. I’m not kidding. I was the exotic one who was Orthodox Christian instead of Catholic. I knew one Jewish girl and she moved away after a few years. I knew nothing about Jewish culture and basically my first big entry into Jewish culture was Seinfeld and suddenly I was asking what’s this “babka” business.
‘There’s a hugely Jewish sensibility to Seinfeld and to both of their comedy’ It’s more of a cultural thing than a religious thing on the show, but they do have an episode about Elaine’s shiksa appeal that comes from them going to a bar mitzvah. It comes into play more and more as the show goes on. There’s also this strange disconnect with George Costanza. His last name is Costanza but his parents come off as pretty Jewish. Jerry Stiller, who plays his dad, is Jewish. There are implications that maybe his mother is Jewish and his father is Italian. That’s how they kind of bridge that gap eventually. It’s very obvious from Curb Your Enthusiasm that Larry David is very interested in exploring Judaism through his comedy.
Times of Israel–What do you think makes all four characters on Seinfeld so lovable and relatable?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong–I don’t know about lovable, but that’s one of my favorite things about them honestly. Relatable, absolutely and that’s what makes them lovable. It’s not their sweet characters, but that we get what they’re going through. They give voice to what we go through everyday. I think the key to the characters is that they kind of do and say the things that we wish we had the guts to say or do. I’m not sure I want to go around acting like George Costanza but he’s giving voice to that side of us.
One of my favorite things that the writers told me when I interviewed them was that Larry David had told them to use stuff that happened to them in their real lives as inspiration for their story lines. He wanted them to have the characters do what they wish they had done in a particular situation. To me that encapsulates Seinfeld’s appeal. They’re doing things we wish we had the guts to do or say in annoying situations.
I’d add that the characters, especially George, are constantly posing the question “why” and addressing social mores.
That’s exactly what it is. When I did this podcast interview with Vulture one of the other people who was on it with me said something about how it seems like George is simply asking why does everyone keep asking me to do stuff in life? We all feel that way sometimes and think “Oh my God, what now?”
Times of Israel–In fact, don’t you find yourself having “Seinfeld moments” almost daily?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong–That’s the whole point of it. There are just so many things that happen to us and the more you watch and think about Seinfeld the more you’re going to notice these almost on a daily basis.
Times of Israel–Why did you entitle the book “Seinfeldia?”
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong–One of the things that I found most interesting about Seinfeld is the way it’s been around in our pop culture for so long and because it draws so much real life inspiration for its plots. There’s a little world, a little dimension that has sprung up between reality and Seinfeld. You can’t miss it if you’re a fan. For example, the guy who played the Soup Nazi, Larry Thomas, does appearances all the time. He basically makes a living playing the Soup Nazi. He’s also the spokesman for Original Soup Man, which is the company owned by the real guy who inspired the episode.
John Peterman is a real person and J. Peterman is a real catalogue. You can still order from them online today. It uses ridiculous catalogue copy that inspired that character and his dramatics. The guy who inspired Kramer, David’s former neighbor, gives bus tours of Seinfeld-related sites in New York City and that’s his thing. He’s a man about town and he even came to my book’s launch party. Then there’s this new element to it, which is that online there is some very intense Seinfeld activity. For example, there are warring Twitter accounts that imagine Seinfeld if it was on today. There’s Seinfeld emojis and other stuff that just continue to perpetuate Seinfeld in our actual lives as opposed to just this thing we watch on television.
Times of Israel–In what way did Seinfeld change TV comedies forever and is anyone writing comedy for television today trying to recreate something similar?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong–Definitely, and I think they raised the bar significantly for comedy overall. I don’t want to say that there was nothing artful about comedy before that, but I think that it raised the bar, as did a few other shows in between. However, Seinfeld taught us that we could take comedy seriously and that it’s a real art form.
In our current world driven by social media we don’t see the same interaction between people as we did on Seinfeld. Would you say that the show’s lasting appeal is that it depicted personalities in all their complexity?
‘They could obsess about a marble rye because they had the space to do that’ It’s true. I don’t like to use the word “nostalgia” for the show. However, I think it’s a nostalgia factor of the 1990s and a time when we were a little less overwhelmed with all of these devices and communication. Like you said, the characters on Seinfeld went to their various apartments and interacted. It feels a little simpler and it was a simpler time. The pre-9/11 time was a simpler time period. They could obsess about a marble rye because they had the space to do that and they interacted with each other in this way through discussing all these social mores.
Times of Israel–Seinfeld coined many new words and phrases, which have become part of the American lexicon. Could you relay a few of them?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong–Yeah, there’s so many right? I think this is a huge part of the show’s enduring appeal because they give us ways to talk about stuff essentially that didn’t have words. For example, the word “shrinkage” is just one of those things that men deal with. This was perfect for George who is constantly humiliated and emasculated all of the time.
Another is “double dipping.” People love to do that around me now. When you write a book about Seinfeld people think they’re very cute when they say “Seinfeld things” to you. “Yada-yada” is one that really caught on. The writer who wrote that episode, Peter Mehlman, just heard someone say that once in a meeting and he thought it was funny and put it in the show. He didn’t know that it was really going to catch on. He was surprised. “No soup for you” is also very popular.
Times of Israel–I know you’ve probably been asked a million times, but what’s your favorite Seinfeld episode and why?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong–I am actually so into this question because everyone does ask it.
Times of Israel–Does it get boring?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong–No, it doesn’t because I always preface it by saying, “It depends on the day.” Each time I answer it I pick from a variety of episodes to talk about and I always go with whatever immediately pops into my head. The first thing that pops into my head today is “The Finale” because it’s so hated. Therefore, I feel the urge to defend it more. I feel it got a bad rap at the time because the hype was so huge [76 million people tuned in to see in on May 14, 1998]. I don’t know what people thought was going to happen. That said, I like the way it not only makes a statement, but also brought back a bunch of characters we loved.
Times of Israel–What foremost message do you hope those who read “Seinfeldia” will come away with?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong–I think and hope that it would make people happy to learn even more about a show that they love and allow them to revisit it in another way yet again. I hope it shows the magic that some television shows like Seinfeld can have. People love the real human interaction they’re having with this show. I think it’s cool that a television show can actually connect with people on such an everyday level that they’re quoting it all the time and continue to go to events like “Festivus.”
Maybe that’s silly, but life sucks so hard right now in so many ways that I think this little bit of human connection among millions and millions of people in the US and throughout the world is amazing. Having this thing that they can connect on is special, important and magical.
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