The coronavirus pandemic has hit stand-up comedy as hard as any other live event, and at this stage no one, including one of the most iconic American comics, Jerry Seinfeld, knows when live gigs will start up again.
During a press conference to discuss his new Netflix special, “Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill,” the revered comedian was cautious about putting a date on when stand-up comedians will get back on stage again, saying that he isn’t likely to perform if the theater is “only one quarter full.”
“We really have to take our cue from the audience and what they feel comfortable with,” Seinfeld said. “I don’t think if you’re going into a theater and it’s only one quarter full and everybody’s got 10 feet, between them, I don’t know if that’s worth doing. For me, I’m gonna wait till everyone does feel comfortable gathering. … I’m happy to wait, I don’t want to compromise the experience; I want it to be that great relief. You know, when you go out to see a comedian that you love and you laugh, it’s a great relief, and I think people are going to want it and need it very much when the time comes.”
This new stand-up special is Seinfeld’s second under his deal with Netflix, following 2017’s “Jerry Before Seinfeld.” In the special, Seinfeld says that his 60s has been the decade of his life in which he has felt “the least anxiety,” which explains a little as to why he decided to premiere the special now.
“I kind of feel like I was at a place in my life and in my work where I wanted to put this down, because when you’re in your mid-60s, that seems like the best time, if you’re still performing well and everything is still going really well. I thought I should really put this down somewhere, so that it exists for other people that are interested in this very unusual profession,” Seinfeld said.
Addressing the future of his other Netflix venture, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” Seinfeld said that the series is unlikely to return, adding that he feels like he may have exhausted the format after more than 80 episodes.
“We haven’t planned anything with that show. I kind of feel like I did that tour,” Seinfeld said. “I know they look very casual and easy, but they’re actually kind of a lot of work: The editing is very intense. And I feel like I may have done that exploration, at this point.”
As for how he is coping with self-isolation, Seinfeld said that he is enjoying seeing more of his teenage children eating. But he also addressed the potential healing power that comedy has during the worldwide pandemic.
“I don’t know how people get through a day without comedy,” Seinfeld said. “All day long, all I try and do is make the people around me laugh and surround myself with people that try to make me laugh. I think that what makes us so unique as humans is that we laugh when we really shouldn’t. You should always be up and down the keyboard of emotions all the time. You should feel the pain, feel the joy of life, and take it all in. So, I don’t ever think comedy is inappropriate.”
“Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill” streams May 5 on Netflix.