Notes from ‘Jerry Before Seinfeld’

Jerry Before Seinfeld is a Netflix special created by Jerry Seinfeld. Its focus is Jerry’s decision to start performing as a stand-up comedian in the mid-1970s and what those early years were like.

There were a few takeaways I got from the special:

— He moved to New York City in 1976 to start doing stand-up. He was not planning to go anywhere with it. He just knew that he loved it and wanted to do it. Similar to Dave Chappelle, when Jerry started his comedy career, he thought if he could just earn enough performing to make a living, that would be the greatest life he could have.

— The first comedy club he started performing at was The Comic Strip. The comedians would perform for free. The one bonus they got was free food, so that’s where he ate lunch and dinner every day. The positive at the time was the club was filled with spectators every night because stand-up comedy was the cool new thing to see.

— He had all of the expected setbacks for a new comedian. Hecklers, bombing a set, etc. But none of that bothered him. He was in the comedy business, and that’s all that mattered to him.

— He is like most comedians in that he is far more comfortable speaking to all of a crowd while he performs than he is speaking to any of them individually off-stage.

— Every romantic relationship you’re in during your life will have a certain amount of tension. Accept that.

— It takes young guys a long time to learn the power of flowers in a relationship.

— Rodney Dangerfield’s line to Jerry about great jokes: “The killers…they’re wanted in all 50 states.”

— Jerry wrote all of his jokes on legal pads, and he’s kept every joke he’s written from 1975 until today.

— To feel your sense of humor being validated is the only validation he cared about as a human being. He didn’t care if the crowd liked him personally. He only cared whether they liked the jokes.

— Anything “20 minutes” is a lie. You will never “be there in 20 minutes.” This conversation will never “just take 20 minutes.” Nothing ever takes 20 minutes.

— He recognizes human beings’ weird relationship with time. We stay up way too late binge-watching Netflix and don’t worry about the consequences the next day because that’s Morning Guy’s problem. Night Guy is making the decision right now to watch more Netflix.

— When you’re doing stand-up comedy, you absolutely have to connect to the audience.

— Five years after he started doing stand-up comedy in 1976, he got called to perform on The Tonight Show.