Just days after hosting Louis C.K., the Riverside Theater welcomed the much broader-appealing comedy giant Jerry Seinfeld to the stage for two shows on Saturday night.
Seinfeld began his late set on Saturday night mocking the gray, rainy weather Milwaukee presented that day. Shortly into his set, he began to set up a joke about five-day forecasts on news broadcasts when he accidentally fumbled and dropped the microphone. A stunned Seinfeld was befuddled by this error, saying that he hadn't made that mistake in 36 years of performing.
After joking that Zapruder-esque footage of his accident would leak out, he declared that he was abandoning the forecast bit because there was no way it would recover from this unexpected detour. While he recovered quickly, it was very surprising to see such an all-time great so thrown off that he stranded that portion of his material.
After a hilarious stretch in which he broke down the allure of bad food such as cookies, Seinfeld's set moved on to target sports/energy drinks. The audience roared as Seinfeld skewered the existence of 5-hour Energy. Seinfeld questioned how the manufacturer reached that set number of hours and wondered why the product's users had such little natural energy. This riff was tied up nicely when he mocked the product's small bottle size by pretending to be a worn out consumer: "I can't drink anything bigger. I don't have the energy."
The only lull in the show was when Seinfeld bemoaned the popularity of Facebook and Twitter. This was the only time that the 58-year-old (hard to believe, right?) seemed out of touch. Instead of being funny, this portion of the show sounded more like an uncle whining about online forms of interaction.
The momentum of the show was restored when Seinfeld transitioned into material about his family. For his final five minutes of the set, Seinfeld finished with some fantastically well-honed material about public restrooms. Seinfeld was in vintage form as he nailed the universal unpleasantness of these shared spaces. In this "funny because it's true" sequence, the biggest laughs were earned when he compared automatic toilets to automatic sinks and paper towel dispensers. While the former have a hair-trigger reaction to flush, the latter two are not as accurate and require an individual to perform a David Copperfield-esque hand waving routine. After his final joke, Seinfeld left the stage to a huge ovation, with about a third of the Riverside Theater audience standing to give their applause.
As is customary at his stand-up shows, Seinfeld returned to the stage for a brief encore where he took questions from the audience. This return got off on a strange foot when a fan yelled references to the classic "Puffy Shirt" episode of Seinfeld that the comedian didn't pick up on right away. Once he remembered, Seinfeld went a bit on the attack by saying that he wasn't currently in a television episode from 1996.
One of the few legitimate questions Seinfeld received during this Q&A was an inquiry about which episode of the series was his favorite. Jerry explained that he can't remember the show in terms of individual episodes, but that he instead has favorite moments that stick out to him. The three that he listed as his favorites were: George accidentally killing his fiancee, Kramer hitting a golf ball into a whale's blowhole and Jerry stealing a loaf of rye bread from an old lady.
Unfortunately, this did not put a bow on all the Seinfeld talk and instead of receiving actual questions, Seinfeld was bombarded with quotes and references to the series. It was painful to hear so many people think that they were being clever by referencing one of the most popular television series of all time. An exasperated Seinfeld responded to this mess by saying "These are all lines from the show that are not funny to me."
Seinfeld leveled with the audience and explained that in his world, having people quote the show to him is the equivalent of telling a co-worker a joke and then that fellow employee coming in the next day and repeating the joke back to you. Even after this intimate perspective was revealed, some pockets of the audience continued to yell about Newman, Keith Hernandez and other characters or moments from the show.
As mentioned, the Q&A has been a staple of Seinfeld's throughout his career but on Saturday, it seemed like a source of misery for the performer. Even when answering legitimate questions such as "What's your favorite Milwaukee beer?" or "What's you favorite type of car?" Seinfeld sounded annoyed as he gave dispassionate answers (he didn't have a favorite type of Milwaukee beer, for those who are curious).
Throughout the course of his illustrious stand-up career, Seinfeld has retired jokes from his sets, eliminating a crutch and forcing him to come up with new material. Even though he had a great show on Saturday night, maybe the outcome of this finale serves as an indicator that it is time for him to retire his traditional encore format.
For another take on the show, click here.