2017’s “Jerry Before Seinfeld” was a one-hour Netflix special that served as part stand-up/part documentary. The streaming giant is assuring viewers that Seinfeld’s new special “23 Hours to Kill” is his first one with all-new, original material since 1998’s “I’m Telling You for the Last Time”.
Following an open featuring (who we believe to be) Seinfeld jumping out of a helicopter into the Hudson River, the comedy mogul enters NYC’s Beacon Theatre and goes into a 10-minute bit on people getting out of the house and coming together at “time-filler” occasions such as comedy shows.
Your mind has to quickly adjust to the fact that this was recorded before COVID-19 took over our lives. Observational humor about people at shows, living in overcrowded New York City and going to the hospital and maybe not coming out alive… will never be brought-up the same way again.
When you get down to it, the 65-year-old Seinfeld is still entertaining and, in a lot of cases, spot-on. But his stage presence may have a bit more of a bravado then in the TV show days. His net worth is an estimated $950 million. As Seinfeld mentions early on, he and pretty much everyone knows that he didn’t really need to do another stand-up special. He could’ve just stayed at home (in the house he admits he bought with his hefty earnings) with his wife and three kids. Which he’s probably doing now.
Seinfeld devotes the first half of “23 Hours to Kill” to topics such as Pop Tarts and buffets (which are also becoming things of the past) before heading-into married life territory with opinions on cell phones, taking pictures and how to win arguments. Much of it is funny, but familiar. Seinfeld isn’t copying anyone else’s material, but (contrary to what’s being advertised) he’s not really bringing anything new to the table.
You also have to wonder if Seinfeld is stuck in (or would rather be in) 1998. His perspective is that of a heterosexual white male, and his jokes are entirely aimed at heterosexual white couples. A “Gay French King” is one of his punchlines. He compares sending his first-born off to college to raising and then finally letting an alligator leave the house. And a brief rant about definitively choosing not to pick-up trash at the movie theater because it’s better for the ushers to do so left me with a taste of stale popcorn.
There’s no denying the fact that Seinfeld is still talented and one of the biggest comedy successes of all-time. His “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” has been a gold mine for Netflix over the past decade. I’m just not sure how much he’s got left in the tank when it comes to how it all began for him.