Here are some of the things that happened when Jerry Seinfeld had his last original stand-up special: “Seinfeld” had just ended, the failure of a remake of “Godzilla” was released and Bill Clinton was still president.
Since then, much has changed in the medium of stand-up comedy, with Seinfeld’s contemporaries like Adam Sandler and Chris Rock releasing innovative, revealing sets centered on both vulnerability with clever editing and flashy production.
Besides a splashy intro where Seinfeld jumps out of a helicopter into the water to a brassy score, not a whole lot has changed with Seinfeld’s set since 1998. He’s still baffled by the way the world works, cynical about other people and angered by all the little things in life, like being asked to clean up after watching a movie in a theater.
During the past decade, HBO has made a name for itself by airing groundbreaking comedy specials from newer, hotter comedians and Netflix has allowed for seasoned vets to reinvent or, at the very least, reintroduce themselves to new audiences.
At the age of 65, Seinfeld admits in “23 Hours to Kill” that he has no time for that, pleasing people in general or even going to out to eat (there are rants on buffets, dressing drizzling, acclaimed restaurants and the thin difference between “Sucks” and “Great”). He is who he has been for the past 40 years onstage and he’s not here to make new fans.
With that said, there’s both a dated and timeless quality to “23 Hours to Kill.” Seinfeld approaches the set like a surface-level look into his life as a husband and father of three kids. There are no current pop-culture references or political takes. The closest he comes to topical material is an extended bit on how everyone is controlled by their phone, where he speaks some funny truths about the anxiety we have when we’re away from our devices, even if it’s just for a minute when we hand it to a friend.
Otherwise, it’s classic, unchallenging Seinfeld material, as he dusts off jokes about how marriage is like playing a game show, how men’s fashion stops at a person’s last great year and why vacations aren’t fun.
Shot in a standard, multi-camera setup, with Seinfeld adding more physical comedy to his routines, it’s about as classic and clean of a comedy set that you’ll find from a major comedian this year.
During a time of grim news and economic uncertainty, that balm for long-time fans of Seinfeld is likely what they need for some light chuckles. For those who were never into his comedy, this won’t convert them. Hearing a multi-millionaire rant about movie theater prices and not cleaning up after himself might even make them like him less.
This is Seinfeld living out the mantra of the famous mantra of his eponymous show onstage — no hugging and no learning. It’s just a bunch of well-worn jokes.