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Jerry Seinfeld, during an MLB Network special broadcast last week, deconstructed the classic Abbott and Costello routine "Who's on First?" for host Bob Costas and anyone else lucky enough to have been watching.
“Any great comedy,” Seinfeld noted, “is how far can you take this silly idea.”
He was talking about Bud and Lou – but could have just as easily been referring to Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer, who spun nine seasons of comedy gold ("That’s gold, Jerry – gold!" as Seinfeld nemesis Kenny Bania would say) out of the silly idea of a show about nothing.
In the 14 years since the end of "Seinfeld," the comic has dabbled in variations on that theme, rebooting his observational comedy stand-up career, starring in funny commercials and producing the amiable NBC show "The Marriage Ref," in which he and other entertainers riffed on the nothingness confounding mere married mortals.
Seinfeld hasn’t promoted the venture much. But judging from clips and the show’s name, which employs the "Snakes-on-a-Plane" strategy of summing up the premise in the title, the effort appears to be pretty much as advertised. The concept might sound thin, except that the comedians include the likes of Ricky Gervais, "Seinfeld" co-star Michael Richards and Bob Einstein, who plays gravelly voiced sad sack Marty Funkhouser on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
Preview snippets pack the undeniable thrill for "Seinfeld" fans of seeing show co-creator Larry David and Seinfeld banter at a restaurant table – much like the way they presumably did more than two decades ago when they devised their TV history-making minimalist concept at a Monk's-like diner.
“You have finally done a show about nothing,” David tells Seinfeld in the new program.
David, ever the contrarian, earns Seinfeld's faux wrath by ordering herbal tea instead of coffee. "I can talk just as well holding this cup as if there were coffee in it," David growls, in full Costanza mode. "What's the difference?"
The difference, of course, is that unlike "Seinfeld,” the new show isn't scripted and segments will only be as strong as the conversations that mushroom during drives and coffee breaks. But we have great hopes. Seinfeld, as we saw in the recent MLB show and in the HBO “Talking Funny” special last year in which he, Gervais, Louis CK and Chris Rock discussed their craft, knows how to get laughs out of discussing comedy.
Besides, nothing ever stopped Jerry Seinfeld before.
Check out a preview of the new show, which debuts Thursday at 9 p.m. – the old longtime "Seinfeld" timeslot:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.