Review – Jerry Before Seinfeld

Jerry Before Seinfeld [rating=3]

Back in January this year when Netflix announced their two-part deal with Jerry Seinfeld that would see Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee episodes come to the service as well as all new episodes, I got pretty excited. Even more exciting to me was the stand-up/documentary special included in the deal that would see Jerry return to The Comic Strip, the club that helped launch his career in the early eighties, for a one-night intimate set as well as giving us a look into his past leading up to his big break on the comedy scene.

For the most part Jerry Before Seinfeld gives it’s runtime to the stand-up performance at The Comic Strip, featuring mainly classic Seinfeld and stand-up jokes with a few cutaways every so often to archived footage from the comedian’s past. The footage shown mainly focuses on Jerry’s life as a kid and how captivated he was by stand up comedy growing up, something he kept quiet from his parents until a later age when he invited them to come see one of his performances at the club. Jerry Before Seinfeld sheds light on the comedians initial embarrassment towards performing in front of his family even though doing it in front of strangers didn’t phase him, and how he would perform stand-up only to be paid for hamburgers at first, something that didn’t at all phase him. He was loving every moment. Sure he was poor at the time, hungry and living in a tiny apartment – but he was doing what he loved and people loved his comedy. He was happy just to be able to afford a loaf of bread as long as he could keep doing what he loved.

Jerry Before Seinfeld was a hugely entertaining hour of TV, the stand up in particular never failing to raise a smile. Despite this I couldn’t help feeling a touch short changed by the production as a whole, and came away from it wondering what might have been. The documentary features, while enlightening and entertaining(particularly the scene where Jerry has all his notes since starting as a comedian laid out on the street) couldn’t have made up more than ten minutes of the hour, and the stand up was nearly exclusively material I had heard before. Either one of those issues on their own would have been ok, but taken together, it feels like a big missed opportunity. Seinfeld fans will surely enjoy the special, and it’s a great introduction to Jerry’s stand up for newer fans, but ultimately if you come into it (like myself) expecting significant insight into Jerry, before Seinfeld, you will likely come away disappointed.

Comedy, Documentary | USA, 2017 | 12 | 19th September 2017 (UK) | Netflix | Dir.Michael Bonfiglio