Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld
Do you like Jerry Seinfeld’s jokes? for a linear timeline of his jokes through decades, sourced from routines, tv shows, and never-performed material, for jokes that read almost like a story with a very natural flow and connections between them
Since his first performance at the legendary New York nightclub “Catch a Rising Star” as a twenty-one-year-old college student in fall of 1975, Jerry Seinfeld has written his own material and saved everything. “Whenever I came up with a funny bit, whether it happened on a stage, in a conversation, or working it out on my preferred canvas, the big yellow legal pad, I kept it in one of those old school accordion folders,” Seinfeld writes. “So I have everything I thought was worth saving from forty-five years of hacking away at this for all I was worth.”
For this book, Jerry Seinfeld has selected his favorite material, organized decade by decade. In page after hilarious page, one brilliantly crafted observation after another, readers will witness the evolution of one of the great comedians of our time and gain new insights into the thrilling but unforgiving art of writing stand-up comedy.
I went through a phase in The Covid Times of watching Seinfeld for what was my first time, barring miscellaneous episodes I saw pieces of over the years at a hotel or flipping through channels. There’s a segment in each show with a bit of Jerry doing a standup routine on a topic that usually relates in some way to the plot of that episode. In this book, I recognized some of those little segments that I had heard in the show. There is definitely material that you may have heard or read elsewhere included in this, because it’s a pretty comprehensive collection of it all. If you’re an avid Jerry Seinfeld person, this book will have some new stuff, and a lot of familiar stuff.
The organization of this made it a lot easier to read it straight through. It’s set up with jokes from each decade of his career, and this contextualizes a lot of it in ways that makes it helpful to remember. Some thoughts I had while reading this:
“Oh, this was before the internet.”
“Oh right, misogyny wasn’t seen as so socially problematic.”
“Oh, yup, 9/11 definitely changed some things.”