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Monday, Nov. 9, 2009

Jerry Seinfeld @ The Riverside Theater

Nov. 6, 2009

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While today’s comedians pass themselves off as the average, blue-collar Joes next door—sometimes about as convincingly as a presidential candidate on the campaign trail—Jerry Seinfeld never feigns populism. He enjoys playing the superstar that he is, and he addresses his crowds with an earned arrogance. Friday’s performance at the Riverside Theater began with a routine that mockingly congratulated the crowd for making it out, with Seinfeld stressing what a big deal his show must be for them: an evening out at the Riverside Theater (“the theater near the river!”), a respite from the crappiness of their daily lives. In his vision of Milwaukee, infrequent appearances from Jerry Seinfeld are pretty much all the city has to live for.

It’s nothing personal—Seinfeld doesn’t think much of people in general. There’s a distinct, misanthropic bite to his routines, though it’s often disguised by his disarming grin. Seinfeld’s America is populated by lazy, overweight schmucks, slaves to the cookies in their cabinets and conned into buying an unending succession of worthless junk.“I’m not the guy you remember,” Seinfeld told the crowd, explaining that after his sitcom ended he traded in bachelorhood for marriage and three kids. But aside from a few new Ray Romano-ish bits about marital etiquette, he was the guy we remembered, the funny comedian with the excitable voice, spinning snarky, almost always hilarious “tsk-tsk” rants about the most tread-worn topics, like cell phones, elderly drivers and cereal. “Life cereal,” he said in one bit, marveling at the self-important brand name. “A touch grandiose, isn't it? Why don’t they just call it ‘Almighty God?’ Or ‘New Almighty God with Raisins?’”

The night’s most scathing quip was directed at an earnest fan who, apparently enjoying the comedian’s routine on cluttered garages, yelled out a related, suggested topic: “Attics!” “Attics,” Seinfeld repeated with bemusement. He apologized for not knowing any attic-related comedy, then went for the kill, cutting down the fan for interrupting his bit: “Unfortunately for the rest of the audience, I wrote my routine not knowing you’d be here tonight.” The crowd roared with approval. It was a remarkable scene: Seinfeld had completely eviscerated a well-meaning fan, but he in doing so with a smile, kept the audience in his favor. That’s Seinfeld’s balance: For a guy so patronizing, he sure is likable.

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