More than 15 years later, people are still marveling at the magic of muffin tops, uttering “no soup for you” to dinner guests and giggling maniacally anytime the word “shrinkage” is used.
Yes, there are many among us who basically live life according to “Seinfeld.”
To do so is to reject what critics said about the show – that it was about nothing – and instead embrace the fact that it was about everything.
“They would find all these situations that really occur in everyday life, and just take them up a few notches until they became totally ridiculous but awesome,” said Camille Smalley, 27, of Saco, collections and research manager at the Saco Museum. “My family and I still quote things from the show all the time.”
Jerry Seinfeld is mostly a stand-up comic these days, and he’ll bring his act to Portland’s Merrill Auditorium for a sold-out show Saturday.
He’s a busy stand-up too, as this is the sixth time he’s played Portland in the past 10 years or so. His coming to town is a reminder of what a powerful pop culture force his sitcom was, and is.
“Seinfeld” ran from 1989 to 1998 on NBC, before online video streaming and other technologies started to whittle down the reach of network shows. Consider that more than 76 million people watched the “Seinfeld” finale in 1998, while only 10.3 million saw the recent finale of one of today’s hottest shows, “Breaking Bad.”
Never before or since has a sitcom been so focused on life’s minutiae and mundane moments, and therefore so easy for millions to relate to. “The Cosby Show” was funny, but how many of us have a doctor father and lawyer mother? “M*A*S*H” was funny and poignant, but few of us experienced anything like being in a war in Korea.
“I think my favorite episode was when they all get lost in the parking garage and they couldn’t find their car,” said Dixie Townsend, 51, an accountant from Scarborough. “We’ve all probably had moments like that, but they get into more trouble than we do.”
“Seinfeld” was truly an ensemble comedy and not just a vehicle for Seinfeld. The characters of Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), George (Jason Alexander) and Kramer (Michael Richards) were all as important as Jerry.
Still, in Seinfeld’s career after the show he is still synonymous with the term “observational humor.” As a stand-up, he continues to take little details of life overlooked by most media, and find the ridiculousness in them.
He currently produces and stars in a Web series called “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” On one episode, Seinfeld is driving through Manhattan with Tina Fey when he spots an older woman with “the greatest hair an old woman has ever had.” This observation leads to a discussion of wigs.
“I don’t mind a wig,” said Seinfeld. “I like healthy hair. I don’t care where it’s from or whose it was originally.”
When “Seinfeld” ended, Seinfeld made an effort to go back into stand-up comedy. His efforts to get back into stand-up shape, by doing nightclub gigs constantly, was documented in the 2002 film “Comedian.”
Seinfeld grew up on Long Island, N.Y., and began honing his comedy at comedy clubs in New York City in the 1970s. By the early 1980s he had appeared on “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” and went on to become a staple of other late-night shows.
In 1988 he and Larry David created “The Seinfeld Chronicles” for NBC, which later had its name shortened to “Seinfeld.” The series pilot debuted in the summer of 1989, but because of poor ratings NBC decided not to air additional episodes that had already been filmed.
But the next year, an NBC executive who believed in the show fought to have the other episodes aired, and its popularity began to grow.
And with re-runs, DVDs and online streaming, the wisdom of “Seinfeld” continues to grow.
Little by little.
“I have all the seasons on DVD, and every single day I probably quote something from ‘Seinfeld,’ ” said Dana Moos, 48, a real estate broker from Southwest Harbor. “Every episode relates to daily life. It’s brilliant.”
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: