Review: Is This Anything by Jerry Seinfeld

Is This Anything?In his introduction to Is This Anything?, Jerry Seinfeld tells us that question is what comedians ask each other when trying out new material.

Given that this is a collection of five decades of Seinfeld’s material, it’s safe to assume that this book is something.

As a fan of Seinfeld, largely thanks to his classic sit-com, there are large chunks of the material included in the sections for the ’70s through the ’90’s that I could recite from my multiple viewings of Seinfeld. These portions of the book are like a warm security blanket and I may have smiled a bit more, simply hearing Seinfeld do these bits in my head.

Since he retired all of his routines after Seinfeld came to a close (I imagine it would be easy for him to sell out arenas just to hear him do the familiar bits in person), Seinfeld has been building up his act again with new material. That makes up the final third of this book and it was what caught my interest the most this time around. Seinfeld’s observational humor is still fully intact, but seeing him observe on marriage, kids, and growing up was a lot of fun. It also made me wish that I could see Seinfeld up on stage doing these bits, instead of just reading them on the printed page. (I did dabble with the audiobook but it felt a bit off for him to do his routine without an audience laughing. I don’t necessarily think a laugh track is essential, but hearing the swells of laughter in the crowd is something I missed).

In short, if you’re a fan of Jerry Seinfeld, this one is a no-brainer. Pick it up, read it, enjoy it and then dust off your Seinfeld DVDs for one more journey through the classic sitcom. If you’re not a fan, I’m not sure there’s as much for you here — unless you want to watch Seinfeld “evolve” over the decades in the types of bits he does (I did notice a lot of his bits now are longer than they were when he started out). There are a few introductions in which Seinfeld talks about humor, comedy, and his relationship with it. I did find myself wishing we’d got a bit more of his self-reflection in the book.

And if you want to know if he’s included your favorite bit, there’s a handy index in the back. All-in-all, not a bad thing.

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