There may have never been a more self-explanatory title for a web series than Jerry Seinfeld‘s latest project, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” The format is simplicity itself: for each episode, Seinfeld picks a different car, picks up a different comedian friend, and they go and get coffee and, often, a meal. Throughout the drive and the meal, they talk about various things, all improvised and frequently very funny. The main charm of the series, though, is watching the comedians make each other laugh. At best, it is almost like actually hanging out with a couple of very talented people for a little while. At worst, it is rather lazy and inconsequential, and Seinfeld sometimes seems to be exaggerating his reactions to the jokes told by his guests.
The series begins with Seinfeld’s most obvious guest, Larry David, with whom he co-created one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, “Seinfeld.” There seems to be some effort on Seinfeld’s part to pick a car that reflects his guest’s personality, as in this first episode, in which he chooses a 1952 VW bug as a symbol of David’s humble, unassuming nature. David, along with his other dietary idiosyncrasies, slightly messes up the premise right off the bat by ordering tea, but he offers one of the series more interesting insights. Discussing the difference between cigars and cigarettes, he suggests that a cigar imbues the smoker with an air of wisdom because of the time it takes to smoke, which lends itself to a “contemplative” posture.
Another very intelligent guest is “Mystery Science Theater 3000” creator Joel Hodgson in episode 5, who offers some interesting insights about nostalgia and economics. On the former, he says that the reason people love to look back at the past is that “You know what you’re going to say … you know what to say about the past, and you don’t know what to say about the future.” When Seinfeld brings up the mysterious economics of a restaurant, Hodgson offers a musical analogy: “The guy who sells the guitars makes the money, and not the guy in the band … How many guitars have you bought over the years … I’ve bought … six, and I don’t play the guitar.”
One of the series’ most enjoyable episodes is the third, in which Seinfeld’s guest is the great stand-up comic Brian Regan. The reason it works so well is that their conversation throughout feels like a joke-writing session, as if the two comedians are co-writing a sitcom or a stand-up set, often finishing each other’s sentences and collectively brainstorming jokes on each topic that comes up. Another especially good one features Alec Baldwin, whose overall attitude toward Seinfeld is playfully hostile, though he shows great humility when he credits the cast and writers of “30 Rock” for teaching him how to be funny. His story of a Rip Torn bar fight is not be missed, and this is where “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” excels: it presents very funny, interesting people just being naturally funny and interesting.
It started, as these things invariably do, with an email from a publicist.
The situation was thus: the fine folks from Harley-Davidson were looking to shine the light on the ’72 Harley, the latest and greatest model from their Dark Custom Line, with an all-expenses-paid trip to Chicago’s Wild Fire Harley-Davidson. Fair enough…except for the fact that I don’t own a motorcycle, it’s been more than ten years since I’ve ridden on a motorcycle, and, given that the ride in question – on the back of my brother-in-law’s bike – was so goddamned terrifying (he turned a corner, my feet dragged on the ground, and I was convinced that both our asses were about to hit the fucking pavement) that I’ve never thought for even so much as a moment about buying a motorcycle.
Ah, but the pitch wasn’t just about motorcycles. Indeed, the phrase used to describe the expedition was “a jam-packed day of ass-kicking and whiskey drinking.” Now, not being much of a scrapper, I can take or leave the former, but when you bring up the latter…? Sir, you have my undivided attention.
And that, my friends, is how I came to get…
Because of the designated start time on Saturday and the terribly unhelpful flight times from my home base from Norfolk (ORF) to Chicago, it was agreed that the most convenient time for me to arrive into O’Hare would actually be on Friday…and after this was agreed upon, I then begged, pleaded, and ultimately annoyed my hosts into getting me on the earliest possible flight, so as to be in Chicago for as long as possible.
Coming down the escalator, I was met by a driver holding up a card with my name on it, which is an experience that every flier should have at least once in their life. In short order, I had been deposited at the front door of The Drake Hotel, a gorgeous establishment right in the heart of the city, and – to my utter amazement – I was able to check in immediately, go right up to my room, drop off my bags, and hit the streets of Chicago.
As part of our cigar review for this week’s Happy Hour posts, we’re going to highlight some friendly advice from our cigar reviewer Bob Hritsko. He and his friends had an interesting experience recently when partying down in Miami, and the story is worth sharing again.
Like every spring for the last seven years, I make a pilgrimage to South Florida to visit my brother for a long weekend. We hit the beach, smoke too many cigars, drink way too many beers (vodkas, rums, etc.), but it serves to decompress me and rejuvenate the soul. Well, this year, I decided to invite some old friends, some that I grew up with and others who I have become good friends with in my adult years. The prep and logistics for pulling this off proved to be a little work, but it was something I truly enjoyed planning and — in the end — pulling off! There were eight of us who traveled to the Miami area, and we had a number of folks, who were already in the area, join us. Needless to say, we all reverted back to our college days and the attitude of those days, and just had a blast! As I have said before in this column, Miami is certainly a venue fitting for this type of event and it is my favorite “party” city, partially due to its relative cigar-friendly nature.
However, I must warn those of you who might consider doing this sort of thing next year, especially if you who don’t get around that much. In Miami, everything is not what it appears; I hope this is not a shocking revelation to most of you. If it is, you may want to take a spring break elsewhere. A phenomenon occurred this year that was new to me. One night, the whole group of us went out to one of the swankier bars in South Beach, a long-time favorite of mine. Not long after getting settled in, I sensed something a little unusual. A young, attractive 20-something woman smiled at me and would occasionally flash a glance my way, showing some clear interest. Twenty minutes later, the same thing happened – but a completely different girl this time. I had a few drinks in me already, (well, more than a few), but I knew that I wasn’t hallucinating. Now don’t get the wrong idea, for a 40-something guy I am no ogre (in my biased opinion). Back in the day, women who were in the same league as these two were fair game (naturally, before I got married), but all the booze in Miami was not going to get me to believe that these young ladies found my more “mature” looks that intriguing, especially with some of the younger gentlemen running around, who looked like they did nothing but hit the gym and tan on the beach all day.
Naturally, I had to share these events with the group. To my surprise, this same phenomenon was being experienced by a number of others in the group. My brother, a long-time resident of South Florida, shared his Miami wisdom: these “ladies” were likely Russian hookers looking for some “fat cats” with fat wallets to help drive some income for themselves in these tough economic times. It was now oh so clear to us, mostly guys with simple Midwestern roots. It was also a little humbling to learn the truth. But on the other hand it was also quite funny that we could be mistaken for “fat cats” loaded with money. In hindsight, there we were, in our new Tommy Bahama knock-off silk shirts, mine with a couple of seemingly expensive cigars tucked in the breast pocket, getting the VIP treatment due to the bottle service we opted for, because buying by the drink was determined to be more expensive. We did look and act like “fat cats” for one night, and we had some fun doing so.
With the vast majority us being classic family men, we would never consider buying what these girls were selling. In the end, the foolers were the ones who were fooled, although by accident. On the other hand, it made for some good conversation and laughs among the boys (which is all the fun we intended to buy on this trip anyway). So, enjoy an old-fashioned, college-like spring break next year. Dress the part, load your silk shirts with cigars, but be careful – don’t allow yourself to get fooled.
The advice is simple – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Also, you can always manipulate a situation in your favor, though it’s a little harder to pull off when you’re loaded on beer and vodka.