I'm Telling You for the Last Time

There was a curious paradox at work during Jerry Seinfeld’s final performance of his tried-and-true stand-up routine (HBO, I’M TELLING YOU FOR THE LAST TIME). His spiel examines the annoyances and absurdities of everyday life — this from a man who no longer lives an everyday life. When was the last time the lionized multi-gazillionaire had to fly coach and watch that little curtain separate him from first class? It makes you wonder what Jerry’s future bits will sound like: Didja ever notice that when you’re on your own private Learjet, they never have enough pate de foie gras? What is the deal with that?

No matter. If you suspended your disbelief, you were happier than Kramer puffing on a Cuban. Jerry’s hour-long performance — broadcast live from New York’s Broadhurst Theatre on Aug. 9 — was elegant, seamless, and as tidy as that fictional apartment 5A. Yes, the material was downright ancient (there was nary a Clinton zinger to be heard, thank God). And if you ever saw Jerry’s little Thursday-night sitcom of yore, you could almost recite the punchlines. But so what? Do we whine when the Stones play ”Satisfaction” for the 432nd time?

Working on a spare, gimmick-free stage, Jerry looked quite the gentleman in his black suit and silver tie. His delivery was equally civilized — he never raised his voice, never uttered a word naughtier than humping. But underneath the refinement lay a contempt for humanity rivaling the Soup Nazi’s. People are idiots. Cabbies have BO. (”Don’t they have time for a shower?”) Stewardesses show you how to use a seat belt ”in case you haven’t been in a car since 1965.” Pharmacists have to stand two and a half feet over you to feel important: ”Clear out, everybody. I’m working with pills up here.” And what’s up with those bizarre biathlons combining skiing and riflery? ”To me it’s like combining swimming and strangle-a-guy. Why don’t we have that?”

Hearing this shtick in person wasn’t much better than watching it on HBO. The only added excitement for us lucky theatergoers: spotting mid-level celebs (Richard Belzer! Joel Siegel!), braving a phalanx of protesters upset by the Puerto Rican Day episode, and listening to our neighbors’ ”Amen”-ing of Jer’s every punchline. ”It’s true!” a lady helpfully informed me in the wake of a grocery-store joke. The elite 1,000 attendees also got treated to Kevin Meaney’s warm-up routine — a shrill, fat-joke-laced affair that only made Jerry look more masterful in comparison, sort of like what Union Square did for Seinfeld.

Jerry’s stand-up, like his series, is TV perfect. There’s no faux intimate where-are-you-from interaction with the crowd. He’s like Bubble Boy up there on the stage, stuck in his own hermetic world, dispensing with hecklers in a trice. ”I love you,” an overzealous fan shouted out. ”I love you too,” Jerry shot back, ”but I do feel the need to see other people.” We know he doesn’t really love us. We know he thinks we’re a bunch of morons like the rest of the world. And that’s okay. As long as he’s funny. A-

I'm Telling You for the Last Time
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