Review: ‘Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee’

The title of Jerry Seinfeld’s new Web show, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee (CICGC), first struck me as suggestive of a premise so mundane, so casual, that the content of the show itself must be riveting, that the set-up must be the perfect enabler for what Jerry Seinfeld does best: tell jokes. Unfortunately, CICGC turns out to be the first show — that isn’t Seinfeld — to truly be about nothing, as Larry David, the guest of the first episode, notes near the episode’s close.

The show begins with Seinfeld picking up David, his longtime friend and Seinfeld co-creator, in a 1952 Volkswagen Beetle that doesn’t seem to serve any particular purpose besides exploiting its own quaintness. Nonetheless, it certainly is funny to see two comedic legends driving around in what Seinfeld considers a toy. On their way to the coffee shop, the two converse about the car, Larry’s no-coffee diet as an impediment to his former marriage, their eating habits, and whatever else occurs to them. No topic is off limits. The show is all talk and the conversation continues until the credits roll.

It seems, that through CICGC, Seinfeld would like to create the illusion of an impromptu meeting with his closest comedian friends, but, like the worst of reality shows, the staging, the planning, is obnoxiously evident. You would think that some semblance of spontaneity would kick in during the coffee shop conversation, but Seinfeld has never been much of an improviser. His conversational provocations, his already obvious observations about the minutia of social conventions and dietary habits are so forced that they almost sound scripted. Seinfeld’s goal seems merely to elicit humorous responses from his interlocutor. And, thanks to Larry David, he does succeed on some level. If you’ve ever seen David’s hilarious Curb Your Enthusiasm, you know he is a master improviser. Curb exploits social conventions and expectations and deconstructs them to their absurd foundations. With the first episode of CICGC, Seinfeld attempts to tap into the success of Curb by relying on its leading man. But, Seinfeld’s clearly planned topics of conversation undermine the spontaneity and randomness that the premise and the title suggest. Perhaps the show could benefit from either more script or less because its goal, its comedic purpose, never seems clear, probably because it doesn’t have one.

Despite these flaws, CICGC is still mildly amusing, and if you’re a fan of Jerry Seinfeld or Larry David and have fifteen minutes to spare, give the show a chance.

The most notable humor of the first episode comes from the way Seinfeld and David treat their observations — about social mores and the finer trivialities of life — as profound revelations. In a conversation about the difference between cigarettes and cigars, the two conclude that “a cigarette isn’t contemplative . . . a cigar takes time” — deep philosophical musings from, using Seinfeld’s words, “two idiots.”

It’ll be interesting to see how CICGC progresses. Perhaps later guests will reveal the show’s true intentions, that is, whether or not it aims to maintain some sort of thematic continuity apart from its premise. Or maybe, Seinfeld, by provoking the specific talents of his guests, wants each entry to have its own identity on a comedic level. The guest lineup for future episodes certainly is promising. We’ll see how the show fares with guests such as Ricky Gervais, Alec Baldwin, and Michael Richards.

Until then, watch the first episode in full below:

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