A legendary letter carrier may have stolen the moment during the brief “Seinfeld” show reunion aired at halftime of the Super Bowl a few weeks ago (grit your teeth and say “Newman”). But Jerry Seinfeld still has what it takes to deliver a strong set of stand-up comedy.
The veteran comedian took the stage at Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Saturday night to again share his alternately bemused and exasperated view of a world we all thought was normal, until he came along.
Like watching episodes of his sitcom for the umpteenth time, some of his riffs were pleasantly familiar to those who have attended the comic’s past visits to Portland. Other people’s kids, for example, still “don’t look right” and public restrooms still provide unwelcome sights and sounds in the Seinfeld-ian universe.
The fit-looking 59-year-old talked about his 14-year marriage and three young children. He likened marriage, for men, to driving a truck of nitro or participating in a game show you cannot possibly win. He noted how even the simple question “Ready?” can create unimaginable complications when a couple prepares to go out and how kids sometimes treat dads like strange visitors.
A fairly long bit about the ranking of “garbage” hit home with the enthusiastic crowd, who obviously understood how our purchases can lose value as they move from cupboard to garage to the “prison” of self-storage units.
Furniture also got attention as he noted how we move through our lives by changing where we sit. Eventually, though, he hopes to find a coffee shop that will discourage the practice and just tell folks to get their coffee and “beat it.”
The only reference to his classic sitcom during his 70-minute set came when some fellow down front held up a Pez dispenser – an item that figured in one episode. During the brief question-and-answer period, though, Seinfeld was asked for his favorite episodes from the long-running show. He offered a few, such as when Kramer hit a golf ball into the blowhole of a whale.
The comic seemed to genuinely be enjoying himself and stayed a little longer than usual to honor a request for an old riff about cotton balls. He left noting that the evening had been a “non-digital” pleasure.
Mark Schiff opened the evening with a short set that included a very funny bit about waiting in doctors’ examining rooms. Like Seinfeld, he also struggles with the complexities of marriage, finally arriving at the conclusion that it is best for a husband to just “shut up.”
The crowd was glad, however, for all the funny talk on Saturday night at Merrill.
Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.