Jerry Before Seinfeld is a new documentary on Netflix by you guessed it, Jerry Seinfeld, chronicling his life in the only way he knows how; through the medium of stand-up. Seinfeld takes the viewer through his growing up on Long Island, writing his first two jokes, and going from his first open mic at The Comic Strip to becoming a successful stand-up comedian. I personally view Seinfeld as one of the great comedians, and his show at the Beacon Theater was one of the funniest I’ve ever seen. Aside from the depth of Seinfeld’s routine and the many layers he is able to peel back in each sentence, there were two big takeaways I had from the special.
A little more than halfway through the documentary, Jerry is sitting in a park and is surrounding by every joke he has written in his career. He is literally (literally) surrounded by every joke. He has kept an exhaustive record of his jokes in large accordion notebooks and now, forty plus years later, he is able to lay them out and fill an area larger than a basketball court. Jerry pulls out a sheet and is able to place himself exactly where he was when he wrote the joke (the year, his emotional state, his career status) and whether or not the joke was a hit or a bomb.
The biggest takeaway from the documentary was how much Jerry loves comedy. All he wanted to do was be a stand-up comedian. He needed to make enough money to buy a loaf of bread each week and live in a 15 square foot apartment. That was it. It wasn’t about getting laughs even, it was just about doing comedy. Nothing else in his life mattered. He was solely focused on writing and developing a routine and performing. He loved every moment of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly; he loved it all.