When Jerry Seinfeld appeared for the last time on a television show hosted by David Letterman in 2015, he delivered a routine that dealt with weather forecasters, wearing glasses as a child and the world’s heaviest man. Not surprisingly it was funny.
You know what’s really funny? He did virtually the same routine 33 years earlier, the very first time he was on Letterman’s show and repeated it as a final act of homage to Dave.
The networks, the time slots and the hairlines had all changed, but the laughter was the same. And it underscores a point about Seinfeld that might get lost in the haze of the acclaim he has had from his TV show: His standup is timeless and universal.
He proved that again Friday evening during a gut-busting 90-minute performance before a full house at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. It was one of two shows he did at the venerable theater because when it comes to Seinfeld, as any loyal TBS viewer or Hulu streamer well knows, one show is never enough.
It was his first time in Buffalo since November 2013 and as great as he is, even Seinfeld couldn’t resist recycling some material from that night. But I say we can hold that against him only if we ever see that “The Marine Biologist” episode of his TV show is on and we don’t stop everything we’re doing to watch it. Again.
As he has for the entirety of his career, Seinfeld dipped into a deep reservoir of familiar themes. The main difference between the Seinfeld of 1991 and the 2016 version is that he is now 61, married and the father of three children. That might make him more well-rounded, but there’s no question that it has given him plenty of new material thanks to a different outlook on things like golf, which he said is an acronym for “Get Out, Leave Family.”
Among the other strong moments:
His description of the U.S. Postal Service: “A dazed and confused distant branch of the Cub Scouts.”
The term “death bed”: “Why would you even buy a bed like this?”
Having nothing to do: “Hasn’t the Internet proven that the average person is trying to kill about 20 hours a day?”
Five-hour energy drinks: “Meth lab, Hawaiian Punch, Jell-O shot energy drinks.”
Buffets: “The buffet is basically an answer to the question, ‘Things are bad. How do we make it worse?’ ”
Marketing Swanson TV Dinners to “Hungry Men” as the box suggests: “Which segment of the public should we target? What about Hungry Men that are broke, alone and starving? Taste is the least of their problems.”
The odd breakfasts of his youth, which featured toast, frozen orange juice and shredded wheat: “You had to take two days off for the scars to heal before you could try again.”
Seinfeld operates with precision as he navigates his routine, choosing each word and inflection carefully, all the while making it seem effortless. It’s easy to miss his craftsmanship because you’re sitting there laughing at him and, as a bonus, laughing at the people around you laughing even harder.
It’s amazing because he doesn’t need it. He’s rich beyond all comprehension, has fun with his Web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” and seems to have a packed family life.
And yet he keeps returning to the stage, even on cold January nights in Buffalo, with new material when the old stuff would be fine.
It’s like his TV mother always said: How could anyone not like him?