“Yes, I picked Oakland. Why shouldn’t I come to Oakland? I like Oakland.”
With that declaration, Jerry Seinfeld endeared himself to a sell-out Thursday night crowd at the Paramount Theatre. Not that he had to kiss up; a standing ovation greeted him before he strode over to the microphone and the water glass sitting on top of a barstool.
Marriage, fatherhood or living on sitcom royalties has spruced him up. With his dark suit, purple tie and close-cropped haircut, Seinfeld looked more like an executive than a comedian. Then again, he was probably dressed up for the gilt and red-trimmed environs of the old movie house, and for fans willing to pay $35-$50 to see him in his first live formal concert since his last stand-up on Broadway in August 1998.
Seinfeld is not a gut-buster; he needles you with niggling frustrations or pet peeves you’ve already considered thousands of times. He followed up strong after his Oakland pandering by discussing the need for human beings to create occasions, only to set themselves up for disappointment. “How stupid did you feel the day after the millennium?” He then slickly segued into how people’s lives have been sucked into America’s addiction to coffee, smoothly slipping in a zing about his celebrity status and the envy-tinged adulation of his audience: “My life sucks, your life sucks I’m sure my life doesn’t suck as much as your life.”
What Seinfeld didn’t do as well was integrate his new roles as father and husband into his 75-minute routine. His specialties are making much ado about nothing and use of wordplay, with the occasional double-take joke (“do you think the kamikaze pilots were the good pilots?”). Life-changing events like having a baby don’t carry the vitriolic momentum that sustains him.
Seinfeld also hasn’t spit-shined any really good new material yet. His distaste for the terminology “surfing the Web” and reality television sounded dated, and his observations about weddings and marriage only worked because they were more a diatribe against singlehood. The two best things about marriage, he said, were commitment and the rejecting of other people. “That should be part of the ceremony.”
He sustained his first peak for a good 15 minutes, picking on women who use excessive pencil outlines around their lips.
“I wish I could say to all the women on behalf of the men of planet Earth: We see your lips!'” he said, addressing the audience in his bent-kneed, beseeching posture. “There’s no need to grab a marker. We’re not parachuting in This is not a crime scene!”
He took shots at Los Angeles, which he referred to as a “breast implantation.” Then the segues became disjointed or nonexistent as he wondered why baby products always had to have pictures of babies. He revived the set with his comment on kamikaze pilots, and he obviously sensed it because he paused for a sip of water which the audience duly picked up as its cue to applaud.
His ending was literally his posterior, namely mocking the need for Los Angelenos to follow up compliments with the assurance, “and I’m not blowing smoke up your .” He even dug deep into his own colon; after all, as a 46-year-old man, colonoscopies are a part of medical checkup. He said he drew the line at cameras in his innards. “I feel the press has already invaded my life No to the pooparazzi!”
Seinfeld returned for a quick Q&A, but before the clock struck 9 p.m. he had bowed out and was off the stage. Undeniably, the man has comic timing, down to the commercial breaks and when to turn off the set.
Vera H-C Chan is the Times event editor. She can be reached at 925-977-8428 at firstname.lastname@example.org