If Jerry Seinfeld’s bits seemed familiar to his fans at the Benedum Center last Saturday night, they didn’t appear to notice. Or if they did notice, they didn’t care.
Seinfeld, who has been entertaining audiences with his sharp observational humor for 40 years, revisited several old routines during his second of two sets on May 21, but that didn’t make them any less funny, filling the packed house with robust and continuous laughter for more than an hour.
The 62-year-old comedian, who began his career at the age of 21 doing stand-up and who went on to co-create and star in one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, admitted during a question-and-answer session at the conclusion of the second show that after a nine-year run of “Seinfeld,” he was “in pretty good shape.”
“I could be doing anything,” he acknowledged. “But I decided to go back to stand-up.”
He may be in his 60s, but Seinfeld has not lost his edge. In fact, he told the audience, the ’60s is his favorite decade so far because he doesn’t have to explain himself anymore.
“When someone calls me up to do something, I just say, ‘No,’” he said, adding that he is looking forward to his 70s, when people probably won’t even ask him to do anything.
“I made a bucket list,” he said. “I turned the ‘b’ into an ‘f’ and was done with that.”
That joke was about as blue as Seinfeld gets. Unlike so many other contemporary comics, he relies on intelligent reflections on life’s absurdities, eschewing the obscene.
With a clever nostalgia for decades past, Seinfeld finds a lot of humor in how things used to be and the innovations that may or may not have made life better.
Like Pop-Tarts, for example.
“In the ’60s, we had toast,” he said, along with frozen orange juice “you had to hack with a knife. It was like you were committing murder just to make juice.”
But then the scientists in Battle Creek, Mich. — “the breakfast Silicon Valley” — emerged from their labs like Moses holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments, a box of pop tarts in each hand.
“They can’t go stale because they weren’t ever fresh,” he said.
Seinfeld riffed a lot about food, including doughnut holes (they are not actually holes; they are “plugs”); water (people constantly saying they need to “hydrate”); and five-hour energy drinks (“That’s a weird amount of time. Who’s working 1 to 6?”).
He also took on modern modes of communication, calling us out on our dependence on cellphones: “Now you have two lives to worry about — your life and your phone’s battery life.”
But despite a love for that “little rectangle in your pocket,” no one wants to actually talk on the phone anymore, he observed.
“Talking is over, obsolete, antiquated,” he said. “I feel like a blacksmith up here. If you want, I can text you this whole thing, and we can get the hell out of here.”
Emailing instead of calling someone, he said, is like admitting, “I decided I only wanted to hear my half of the conversation.”
Long identified with his TV persona as a bachelor unable to commit to a serious relationship, Seinfeld has now been married for 16 years and has three children, he told the crowd.
“I was 45 when I got married,” he said. “I had some issues, which I was enjoying quite a bit at the time.”
But being a family man has provided a previously untapped source of material. He said he no longer hangs out with single guys, as he has little in common with them. It’s like his single friends who have girlfriends are playing wiffle ball, when Seinfeld is “in Iraq shooting live rounds.”
Marriage, he said, “is all about listening.”
“Wives complain that their husbands don’t listen,” he said. “I have never heard my wife say this. She may have.”
Following his set, the audience did not have to wait long for an encore. He ducked off stage for a few seconds and quickly returned.
“I was just over there,” he said. “I was literally standing right over there.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.