Jerry Seinfeld on His Surprise Emmy Nomination for ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’

Jerry Seinfeld Emmy Nomination
DAMON WINTER/The New York Times/Redux

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” is perhaps an overlong title for a series, but it’s an accurate reflection of just what happens in Jerry Seinfeld’s talk show. And now after eight seasons on Crackle over the last four years, it has broken through to the Emmy Big Leagues with a nomination for outstanding variety talk series, joining mainstream shows like “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.”

Much of the talk around the show tends to focus on the comedians — or, in the case of President Obama, public figures — who join Seinfeld in each episode. Seinfeld chums Larry David and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Don Rickles and Tina Fey, have all gone on a coffee run with the host, who describes himself as “a one-man car culture,” the owner of a veritable fleet of rare vehicles classic and contemporary.

But don’t skip out on the “coffee” part. “I definitely want to get a good cup of coffee when I go out, so that’s a very big part of the show for me,” Seinfeld says.

So who makes the best cup? “Oh, my wife, absolutely,” Seinfeld says, laughing, after his wife, Jessica, hands him a cup, his first of the day, even though it’s approaching 2:30 in the afternoon.

This was a surprise nomination and the first in a major category for Crackle. Crackle GM Eric Berger said they felt it was time to submit you in the variety talk series category instead of short-form. Were you part of that decision?

I think there was a conversation about it, but I’m a little vague. But you know, this has been such an exciting Lewis-and-Clark, “paddle down the river and see what’s down there” adventure, there was no expectation of anything. I’m flattered and humbled our little show has gotten this far. We didn’t even know if audiences would watch a TV show on the internet every week. Nobody knew if it would work — most people told me it wouldn’t. I knew right away that the internet is just another network. The idea of only a few people being in charge of cameras and transmission — I think we all knew that was over. It’s up to the artist to figure out what to make and how to put it out there, and audiences have to figure out how to find it. At the same time, we’re in 1951, when television was just beginning.

“To be in the White House without any kind of script … was intimidating.”
Jerry Seinfeld

It’s fascinating to see all the ways people are trying to figure out how to make money in this way, too.

Oh, that’s been the challenge. We were very fortunate to have Acura see the potential in the show, and I don’t think they ever thought we would be doing a show with the president at the White House, and getting Emmy nominations, so we’re very happy about it.

Do you ever get intimidated by your guests? I imagine President Obama might have been a little intimidating.

Well, to do a comedy bit in the Oval Office of the White House, and for them to say, “We trust you to do that — whatever you want to do is OK,” that was a bit of an overwhelming opportunity, I have to say. I did feel intimidated to pull that off. I think we had about an hour with the president altogether to make the show, which isn’t very long. I think that was one of the most difficult things I’ve done. I’ve done difficult things before, but usually you have a map, you have a script, you have something. So to be in the White House without any kind of script or plan of what you’re going to do was intimidating.

Are any of your guests ever intimidated by you?

I hope so. They should be. I think sometimes people wonder — because when you watch the show, you’re watching this condensed, refined version — and people sometimes think, “Gee, I dunno how I’m going to be that funny.” Nobody is that funny — it’s a creation that we make based on three hours or so of footage.

How hands-on are you in the editing suite?

I don’t think it’s possible to be more hands-on. I do every cut, I watch every minute of what we shoot, and I have wonderful editors, who are brilliant at putting things together, but I do everything with them. I sit right next to them.

How long does it take to put an episode together?

These take a couple weeks. I make them all at the same time, so I go from one to the other; I go from room to room. It takes a couple of months to make them all, for each season.

Who’ve you not gotten yet, but really want?

Zach Galafianakis and I are talking and trying to figure it out. And I had an idea to do an appreciation episode of a comedian who passed away, someone I didn’t know but I’ve become a fan of recently. I was thinking of doing an episode on an Italian scooter. I have an old Lambretta, and I thought that would be fun for an episode. I have to get the right comedian — they’d be sitting behind me and we would just talk like some breath-mint commercial.

What’s your pop-culture diet?

I watch a lot of comedians on YouTube for entertainment. I like the portion sizes. I don’t really want to watch a whole show most of the time; I want to watch a segment. And I go to a lot of movies. I don’t read a lot of books because I spend so much of my time writing, I’m generally tired by the time I’m done writing for my stand-up stuff. And
I like to get outside.