Lessons I learned from watching "Seinfeld"
Sitcoms in the ’90s generally all followed the same type of formula: either a comedy about a wacky family or a group of teenage friends learning lessons during their school years. But not Seinfeld. Seinfeld, that brilliant man, decided it would be a good idea to write a show about nothing, and that he did. Having watched all of the show in a far-too-short period of time, I quickly realized that the show was actually about anything and everything. Jerry Seinfeld’s comedic observational skills are threaded throughout the show, sending some important messages about how one’s daily life, mundane though it can be, can lead to many important lessons. Here’s what I learned from watching Seinfeld.
Fake it until you make it
There is a theme in George Costanza’s employment history, and its morality is questionable. George loves to, um, exaggerate his experience. When left unsure of his employment status at the end of a job interview, he decides there’s no harm in pretending he got the job and going to work. Upon arriving, he realizes no one questions his legitimacy and soon fools his co-workers into providing him with an office and the infamous Penske file to work on. Despite the fact that he had no idea what he was doing, he maintained that job until finding out the company was actually prohibited from doing business. When Elaine helps him get a job at Pendant Publishing, he demonstrates a total lack of readership during his interview and makes up his favorite author, Art Vandelay. Despite this, he once again gets the job.
While George’s actions are not, er, the best example to follow, they bring to our attention an important lesson about the nature of confidence. If you act like you know what you’re doing, others will rarely question you. Just fake it until they believe you, until you’ve made it. We can talk about the moral implications later.
Learn by doing
When Elaine is thrown into an executive position at the J. Peterman catalog company because J. Peterman decided he had had enough of it, she, in all honesty, was not qualified. However, the keen viewer (will notice that she improved over a series of episodes. How? Why, by doing it, of course! Elaine readily took up her new authority after some motivation from Kramer (which we’d all love to have in our lives, I’m sure) and she does a fabulous job promoting the urban sombrero, as … unique an idea as it is. Even though that idea backfires, she learns through trial and error how to be a successful boss for the company. The next time you want to take on a task that you haven’t really had experience with, don’t sweat it. Learn by doing.
Don’t be self-conscious
Let’s talk about how not self-conscious the characters on this show were. Costanza aside, the remaining three of the gang were incredibly open about who they were. Jerry was so neurotic that the only thing he had to say about Kramer’s crazy evening in his apartment (in “The Bookstore”) was that Kramer didn’t use a coaster for his drink, oblivious to all the actual damage Kramer had done that evening. Jerry was always proud of his germaphobic habits, refusing to change them despite the many jokes his friends made.
And what about Kramer? Kramer was comfortable doing his own thing– whether that consisted of helping George’s father into a bra, competing with 16 year olds for the tennis boy job, or setting up the entire Merv Griffin show in his apartment– and that was, honestly, inspiring. Finally, let’s never forget the gem that not being self-conscious brought us: the Elaine dance. Let’s acknowledge a few things about this dance. Firstly, Elaine didn’t even think much of it until it was brought to her attention by her employees. Secondly, even after she was told it was strange (which isn’t true, like really? It’s adorable), she continued to do it– at least in private. It was embarrassing, and it didn’t help her employees respect her more, but it was part of her personality and she let it run free. Much to the joy of us viewers.
You define what’s “normal”
Let’s be honest– how many of us are still so close with our exes that we can talk about each other’s love lives or discuss intimate details without feeling terribly awkward? Probably very few. Jerry and Elaine maintained an… unconventional relationship, to say the least, throughout the series, and that was totally fine. After getting past the first bit of “Oh, they used to be together but now they aren’t, and they still hang out all the time? That’s kind of weird,” audiences became acclimated to that premise and accepted that fact as a norm. Oftentimes in relationships, we strive to do what is “traditional” and “socially acceptable” and “normal.” We wait to text the other person back after a designated amount of time and we strive to appear as cool and unaffected as we can after breakups. Jerry and Elaine’s friendship shows that you should do what feels comfortable and what feels right, regardless of whether or not it fits the definition of “normal.” You define what’s normal.
You can’t underestimate finding joy in the little things
At the root of this show is Seinfeld’s stand-up, as it provides the cold open for almost all of the 180 episodes, and it’s time we examined that. Seinfeld is known for his “did you ever notice how…” tone and observational humor based around everyday life and its quirks. While his comedy is laugh-out-loud hilarious and has garnered great reviews over the years, it also makes an important point: you should never underestimate finding joy in the little things. The topics of his routines were almost mundane aspects of quotidian life, including the drag of waiting in line for dinner and how wimpy the peanuts provided on planes are. All of us can relate, because they are the little things that make up one’s life. Being able to find the humor in these places is a powerful way to enjoy life and simply be happy. Thanks, Seinfeld, for giving us nine seasons of laughing about the little things, as well as all of these valuable lessons.
[Image courtesy NBC]