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  • -My first guest is one of my all-time favorite comedians.

  • He has a new book out called "Is This Anything?"

  • which is filled with 45 years worth of his stand-up material,

  • and it is so good, I mean, like, the best stand-up material.

  • You can just read this, and even if even if you're not funny,

  • you sound funny. That's how good it is.

  • Before we say hello to Jerry,

  • please take a look at this iconic moment from his career.

  • Here he is throwing out the first pitch

  • at Citi Field last year.

  • -He does the Turk Wendell move,

  • slamming the jacket down.

  • Then with the exaggerated wind-up

  • comes sidearm like Terry Leach

  • and throws a perfect strike. -Very nice.

  • -Here he is, Jerry Seinfeld, everybody!

  • -Jimmy, I can't believe you showed that.

  • That's my favorite thing!

  • -That's the thing. I always mess up your intro.

  • I figured I'd give you, for Thanksgiving this year --

  • You're always on tradition, but it's fun.

  • You're always here on Thanksgiving.

  • -Yes. I love always being with you on Thanksgiving, on TV.

  • 'Cause we don't want real Thanksgiving.

  • We want TV Thanksgiving.

  • -Yeah. -Right? That's what we like.

  • -Yeah. We don't do the -- No.

  • What would we do at a real Thanksgiving? No.

  • -No. You got to laugh at real Thanksgiving.

  • What the hell good is it?

  • -No, this is exactly -- -You want to get a laugh,

  • that means money in the bank. -Thank you.

  • You know me so well. [ Both laugh ]

  • I want to talk about the book.

  • But first, how is the family? How's Jessica? How's Sascha?

  • -Everyone -- -They're all good?

  • -All good. Thank you for asking. How about yours?

  • -They're great. They're cute. It's awesome.

  • But, I mean, my kids are -- They're little.

  • I mean, your kids are --

  • -They're still your kids Don't diminish them

  • because they're young.

  • -I know, but they won't see this. I mean,

  • I'll show this to them when they're older, you know?

  • They're 5 and 7 right now, so --

  • -Oh, that's nice.

  • -But your kids are 17. They're teenagers. 20.

  • -17, 15, and 20, yeah.

  • -Wow. 20 years old.

  • How is it? How is it with teenagers and older kids?

  • -The greatest.

  • It only gets better. Everything gets better.

  • And I like teenagers a lot because of the hostility, the --

  • They're great debaters. They will fight you.

  • They will break down your flaws in your logic.

  • -Yeah. -So it really

  • works better for me.

  • Jessica was a great mom,

  • but I really want to engage more syntactically.

  • -Yeah. Oh, and do you debate?

  • You get in good debates with the kids?

  • -Sure, all the time. It's constant.

  • Well, I -- The problem with married life

  • I think for a man, for a husband, is the amount of room

  • for you to complain just gets smaller

  • because it gets taken up by the other people.

  • -Complaining, yeah.

  • There's only so much complaining that can happen.

  • -Yeah. You go, "Well --" You know,

  • I'm lucky to get in a, "Where's the remote?"

  • That's as much as I can complain.

  • -Yeah, because you've made these humans and --

  • -Yeah. "Maybe you could put it back in the charger

  • when you're done with it."

  • -You think? -Yeah.

  • -Jessica sent out a very funny post during quarantine.

  • It said that because you have nowhere to perform,

  • right now, you walk around all day yelling.

  • [ Both laugh ]

  • I think that that's accurate.

  • -Do you yell when you talk in the house?

  • 'Course you do. -Yeah, you have to.

  • There's no one else. -Yeah, you want to use

  • your stage voice, 'cause I'm not using it.

  • I'm using it right now. -Yep.

  • -But nobody wants to hear this volume

  • for -- -For all day long.

  • -Are you done with the maple syrup?

  • Then put it back in the middle of the table so I can reach it.

  • -[ Laughs ]

  • -I just said that the other day,

  • 'cause I do it -- I do it all the time.

  • I want to talk about the new book, "Is This Anything?"

  • "Is This Anything?"

  • -Yeah, I love the way you said it,

  • 'cause that is how we say it. -Right?

  • That's the title. -It's something you say. Yeah.

  • -You have an idea for a bit, and you go,

  • "Hey, is this anything?"

  • [ Both laugh ] -Yeah.

  • -And what do we hope that people say?

  • -You hope they laugh, but you have to say something.

  • This says, "Here -- Bit coming. Here comes a bit."

  • -Yes, that's true.

  • -'Cause you can't just go into it.

  • Well, sometimes you can, but --

  • -Yeah, that's what I've been trying to do with Nancy.

  • I can't -- I have to say, "I have an idea for a bit,"

  • and then I do it, because -- -Right.

  • -Yeah, because if I just try to get into it,

  • it's too weird, and it's like, "Wait,

  • why are you talking about, you know, golf or something?"

  • I don't know what I was trying --

  • -Right, to Nancy, you would say, "I have an idea for a bit."

  • To me, you would say, "Is this anything?"

  • 'cause I know all we're interested in is bits anyway.

  • -Yeah, exactly right. Yeah.

  • -I wouldn't wonder what "this" is.

  • -Yeah. "Is this anything?" means, yeah, is this a joke

  • or is this somewhere where I can try something?

  • -Yeah, can I get a laugh with this somehow?

  • -Uh, you know, I wanted to ask when I'm looking at all these,

  • 'cause, gosh, you go through all the decades.

  • It's awesome. -Yeah, decade by decade.

  • Well, I turned 65, and I thought,

  • "Well, that's the end of regulation."

  • I reached the end of regulation,

  • and I should turn something in.

  • You know, who knows?

  • -Who knows? -Let's have it out there.

  • Okay, this is what I did.

  • Just wanted to make something that I could leave and go,

  • "This is what I spent my life doing, if you're interested."

  • -Yeah. Is this for comedians?

  • Is it just for fans of comedy?

  • -Oh, anybody that likes comedy I think would like it,

  • but I thought a lot about comedians

  • being able to look at it and kind of figure out,

  • "Oh, that's how he set that joke up. I can --"

  • So I did it in double space

  • so you can kind of analyze it if you want.

  • "Well, how does he get from that line to that line?"

  • -That's -- I was going to talk about this, I swear!

  • -Really? -I love that you did this.

  • I've never seen it done before.

  • Even in the first chapter,

  • is you talking about the book.

  • and you -- I've never seen --

  • Look at the spacing on this. -Yeah, I double-spaced it.

  • -And I loved this 'cause I could do my own timing

  • of reading this, every single line.

  • I've never seen it like that, and it's set up, the whole book.

  • It was brilliant.

  • -Oh, I'm glad you liked it. -I swear -- I wish I said it

  • before you said it, because I really -- I loved it.

  • I go, "Oh, my gosh." And I thought, blah, blah, blah.

  • And I'm reading it in the rhythm.

  • And I go, "This is so easy and fun to read,"

  • before you get into the material.

  • -Yeah. -And then I go, "Oh."

  • -Well, good stand-up is really like song lyrics or poetry.

  • It's very kind of organized.

  • It's a very organized progression...

  • -Yeah. Here's the bridge. -...like good music is.

  • -Yeah. Here's the chorus. Here's the bridge.

  • -Yes. -Here's the -- Yeah.

  • Do you look at any of these bits

  • and go like, "I could make that better right now.

  • I could punch that a little"? -Yes. Yes, I do.

  • But I --

  • You know, anybody could look at their early work and go,

  • "Oh, my gosh. This is not as good as I got later on."

  • And I started doing that

  • when I was looking at the earliest stuff.

  • And then I thought, "That's not really fair to your young self

  • who was --" 'Cause that stuff,

  • whatever it is, it got you to the next step,

  • which got to the next step and the next step.

  • So I thought, I'm going to be nicer to this early stuff

  • instead of going, "Oh, my gosh. This is so infantile.

  • This is so basic. This is so hacky," whatever it is.

  • But it got you there. It got you from being just --

  • I was just a kid in my room

  • to onstage at Catch a Rising Star

  • on First Avenue and 78th Street.

  • -Yeah. I love that. You set the stage so well,

  • like, sitting as a kid watching the TV,

  • eating cereal in a horizontally striped shirt,

  • I think I want to say. And you're watching,

  • you're going, "How can these people talk like this?"

  • You're watching "Ed Sullivan Show."

  • And you go, "I'm going to see if I can do that."

  • And you were eating a -- No, you're eating cereal.

  • But then you said later in that thing, you go,

  • "I just want to do it for laughs.

  • That's really what I want to do this for, but also,

  • if I just have -- If I can make enough money

  • to buy Wonder Bread and Skippy peanut butter, I'm set."

  • -Yeah. -Yeah.

  • -I thought, how funny do you have to be to make enough

  • to just get a loaf of Wonder Bread

  • and a jar of Skippy a week?"

  • 'cause I could survive on that.

  • -When -- When was the last time you had peanut butter on bread?

  • -Today.

  • [ Both laugh ]

  • -Was it good?

  • -Yeah, it's good. -Yeah, it's the best.

  • I don't know what they make Wonder Bread out of,

  • but wow. It is fantastic. That's what makes it a wonder.

  • -It's not bread. It's better than bread.

  • -It's more wonder. It's more wonder than bread.

  • -Yeah. You wonder.

  • -You wonder, "What the heck am I eating?"

  • -You wonder, "What is this?" [ Both laugh ]

  • There you go. That's something.

  • -That's something. I'm telling you.

  • Here's you in the Comic Strip, which I loved.

  • -Yeah.

  • -Do you remember your first night, and were you nervous?

  • Were you -- Is it that butterflies?

  • Were you cocky? What was it like the first --

  • -I was catatonically nervous.

  • I didn't -- I didn't think I was funny.

  • I didn't think -- I didn't know if I was funny.

  • My friends thought I was funny, but I was not convinced of it.

  • -Yeah.

  • -And so my friend told me

  • that Humphrey Bogart would always have a shot of Scotch

  • before he would do something difficult.

  • So we went to the bar next door to Catch a Rising Star,

  • and we threw down a shot of Scotch.

  • -Did that help? -No.

  • -No. [ Both laugh ]

  • No, of course not. It did nothing.

  • You're just starting out.

  • I think that's a thing about stand-up, too.

  • It's like, even -- even now when you do a joke,

  • I don't know if I'm funny.

  • -You don't know. You're not.

  • If the joke's not funny, you're not in that moment.

  • -Yeah. -In that moment

  • you're -- you're absolutely nothing

  • of what you want to be.

  • -If you get a laugh, you're everything that you want to be.

  • -It's the best feeling in the world.

  • -Yeah. And the worst.

  • -And the worst if you don't, -If you don't.

  • -Yeah, that's -- -And that's what people

  • I think are attracted to it for.

  • They want to see a person -- That's why I watch baseball.