Jerry Seinfeld’s Web series, “ Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” consists of little more than Seinfeld driving around and chatting about work and life with other comedians in 10- to 20-minute episodes shot in and around New York or Los Angeles.
Among its most frequent topics are his wealth and free time – “Coffee, liquor, money, is that your life now?” his “Seinfeld” cast mate Michael Richards asks. These seem to be reflected in the show’s indolent, contented rhythms and (for short-format online video) high production values.
During the sequences set in coffee shops, where Seinfeld and his friends discuss their craft and tell long, loud stories that might eventually be worked into routines, you’re glad you weren’t sitting at the next table. The force of Seinfeld’s personality – his overpowering, slightly frightening amiability – is strong, and it’s easy to get sucked in. If you click on one of the episodes at Crackle.com, you’ll have sat through four or five before you know it.
The key to each episode’s success is the guest’s rapport with Seinfeld and the degree to which he realizes that it’s not enough to just riff and giggle – that even online chitchat takes work. In the show’s first season, Bob Einstein and Alec Baldwin got it: The episode featuring Baldwin, the only noncomedian among the guests, was easily the best. Season 2 gets off to a good start with Sarah Silverman and, scheduled for Thursday, David Letterman.
(Silverman is the first woman to be featured; among the first season’s 12 guests, 11 were white men. The only nonwhite guest, Mario Joyner, had to share an episode with Colin Quinn.)
Of note is the appearance of Letterman, who rarely performs outside his own talk show. For Seinfeld it’s a double get: He persuades Letterman to take a ride to the Green Granary cafe in New Milford, Conn., and he is allowed to drive the car that Paul Newman built for Letterman. The ultimate suburban Connecticut driving machine, it’s a custom Volvo station wagon with a turbocharged V-8 engine.
As with most episodes, nothing of great substance or hilarity is said; satisfaction comes from being in the company of two titans of comedy while they reminisce about Johnny Carson and compare notes on walking their dogs. You get to see Letterman’s morning look – T-shirt and white stubble – and watch Seinfeld drive with no hands on the wheel, cut in front of cars and pass on the right.
The episode stands out as a meeting of equals, a situation Letterman slyly alludes to. “Can we just ask these people to leave?” he says, looking around the crowded restaurant.
“We don’t own this place,” Seinfeld says.
To which Letterman replies, “We can change that, can’t we?”
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