Lessons in Comedy from Jerry Seinfeld

Hi Film Folk!

We here at Film Doctor don’t want to feel we under-serve the comedy community, so we’ve decided to do a breakdown of a recent Reddit AMA by comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld, Bee Movie) to offer up some comedy working wisdom from one of the best!

Take a look at Jerry’s thoughts on work, subjectivity and writer’s block!

Film Doctor - Jerry Seinfeld.

Here are some of Jerry’s thoughts:

On Comedy vs. Seriousness

I would say that I am 90% serious in my day. Comedy is no joke.


On Why Seinfeld Worked/Group Dynamics

The key to the entire show, was that we really felt like together we were funny, and then the audience felt it, and that’s how you can somehow catch lightning in a bottle.

On Quitting When You Get Bored

You may have noticed that I tend to quit things soon after doing them, like TV series, animated movies, book writing, broadway plays. I do feel very strongly in stopping the second I feel like I’m not excited anymore, whatever I’m doing.


On Why He Chose Comedy

I chose comedy because I thought it seemed much easier than work. And more fun than work. It turned out to be much harder than work, and not easy at all. But you still don’t have to ever really grow up. And that’s the best thing of all.


 On Seinfeld Being a ‘Show About Nothing’

The pitch for the show, the real pitch, when Larry and I went to NBC in 1988, was we want to show how a comedian gets his material. The show about nothing was just a joke in an episode many years later, and Larry and I to this day are surprised that it caught on as a way that people describe the show, because to us it’s the opposite of that.


On Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a phony, made up, BS excuse for not doing your work.




 On Improvisation

We improvised virtually nothing, as a matter of fact. That’s how good the actors were, that it sometimes seems like they are improvising. But we also knew each other so well that we knew exactly what sentences to put in their mouths that would seem natural. We just knew how they talked as people and as the characters, and that’s what’s really fun about the TV series is that you become an ecosystem where people feed on each other. The actors would inspire the writers and the writers would inspire the actors and it becomes a tropical depression.


On His Own Work

Nothing less funny to a comedian than his own material.

On His ‘Productivity Secret’  (taken from a Guardian Interview)

Seinfeld forced himself to work by marking a cross on a calendar for every day he wrote material; soon enough, he had a long chain of crosses, and kept going partly because he didn’t want to break the chain.

Since he revealed this trick to a would-be comedian years ago, “Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret”has achieved cult status online: there are at least three apps and one website dedicated to helping people emulate it. This amuses its inventor no end. “It’s so dumb it doesn’t even seem to be worth talking about,” he says. “If you’re a runner and you want to be a better runner, you say, well, I’ll run every day and mark an X on the calendar every day I run. I can’t believe this was useful information to anybody!” He spreads his palms, a gesture conveying the sheer obviousness of the insight. “Really? There are people who think, ‘I’ll just sit around and do absolutely nothing, and somehow the work will get done’?”


On Seinfeld Being ‘The Best Sitcom’

I think the fans of every show love that show as much as anybody loves any show, that’s why they make lots of shows because there are lots of people and everybody has their own opinions. I don’t think there’s anything like a “best show” I kind of hate that concept. I think awards are kind of stupid, there is no best movie or best actor, what you like is best for you. If everybody liked the same thing there would be just one dish. That’s why they have a menu because everybody likes something different.


Wise, wise, WISE words, Jerry! We hope you enjoyed our breakdown and good luck with your writing/producing/directing/acting exploits this week – comedy or otherwise.

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