[Following is my entry in the Blogging for Books contest #6 over at The Zero Boss. The challenge: describe in 2,000 words or less why your life would make a perfect sitcom.]
Jerry Seinfeld began his career as a stand-up comic, but his lasting and eternal claim to fame is his television series Seinfeld, purportedly “a show about nothing.” The show revolved around Jerry and three of his friends, following them as they lived their day-to-day lives, celebrating the ridiculousness of the ordinary. It was the show everyone talked about the next day, dropping catchphrases into the American lexicon like...like things that get dropped into other things. “Can you spare a square?” “Master of his domain.” “Shrinkage.” “These pretzels are making me thirsty.”
The show succeeded precisely because it captured that notion of “funny crap happens to everybody” that we all seem to share. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the main characters were memorable, each in his or her own way: cynical Jerry, neurotic and obsessive George, desperate Elaine, and deranged Kramer. Each character was rooted in real life, but given a semi-surreal twist by the actors and the writers. The situations they found themselves in did not drive the comedy - the characters, and their responses to those situations, did.
I can relate to Seinfeld, possibly because I can relate to Seinfeld. Jerry and I share a common ethnicity and geography. We both grew up in Massapequa, on the south shore of Long Island, albeit in opposite ends of town. While we went to different high schools, we attended the same synagogue and celebrated our B’nei Mitzvah under the tutelage of the same rabbi, one year apart. Jerry’s dad was a well-known personage in town, owing to his sign-painting business (“Kal Signfeld Signs”) and constant presence as one of the movers and shakers in our congregation.
The difference is, Jerry made a career out of being funny. I, on the other hand, made a career out of performing Niggling Bullshit for an Extremely Large Corporate Employer.
But when it comes to a “show about nothing,” Jerry Seinfeld has nothing on me.
I have the characters, all appropriately quirky. She Who Must Be Obeyed, who looketh with a jaundiced eye upon all my foolishness, and pronounceth upon it, viz: “You really are a girl.” (So what if I thought the football-shaped hibachi at Omaha Steaks looked like a brown egg?) Elder Daughter, working in a coffee and sandwich emporium (always a potent source of comedy possibilities) and dealing with her Iranian musician-grad student boyfriend (cultural conflict, another rich laff-mine). The Mistress of Sarcasm, an art-school student (more comic possibilities!) with an acid tongued sense of humor.
And then there’s me. Elisson, semi-befuddled dad, funnyman wannabe, professional procrastinator, viewpoint character of Elisson’s World. Wearer of the White Fedora.
Other, more minor, players float in and out. There’s Dora, obsessive neatnik and Shopasaurus Rex, always concerned about the size of her ass despite her Size Zero physique. From her kitchen flows an endless stream of cookies and pies, none of which she ever eats. There’s Rob, dour and phlegmatic newspaper editor, who is reduced to helpless laughter by the sound of fake Swedish. There’s Harry, Talmudic scholar and ex-cop, with a gravelly voice and personality to match, and Herman, who laughs at Elisson’s stupid jokes. And for gravitas, Rabbi Solomon Loomis, a fiery pulpit orator, professional schmoozer, and master of the horrible pun.
Seinfeld had Monk’s Restaurant; Elisson’s World has The Local Bagel Emporium, where the morning breakfasts (reminiscent of the Carnegie Deli scenes in Broadway Danny Rose) are bon mot-fests worthy of the Algonquin Round Table.
Storylines? Hell, just browse the Archives here at Blog D’Elisson and storylines just leap out at you. The enema bag left hanging in a public restroom. Elisson wandering into the wrong restroom at the airport and barely escaping with his life. Trivial conversation over the proper way to consume a pie.
I’m telling ya, this sumbitch could practically write itself.
And let’s not forget catchy phrases, the bits and pieces that are absorbed into the General Pop Culture over the water cooler:
“You feckin’ eejit.”
“Son of a bitch!”
“Christ on a crutch!”
“I can’t do my work!”
Only question is, is this show suitable for prime time? Given the propensity of Yours Truly to cause most conversations, at some point, to devolve to the topic of feces, perhaps HBO or Showtime would be a better venue. The broadcast networks are understandably squeamish about shows whose storylines feature commentary about turds.
But these are trivial concerns. Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up!