Jerry Seinfeld debuts new standup comedy routine in Netflix special ’23 Hours to Kill’

Jerry Seinfeld appears in the new Netflix standup comedy special “Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours To Kill.” (Netflix)
WTOP's Jason Fraley reviews Jerry Seinfeld's new Netflix special

Before we entered the “bizarro” world of coronavirus, Jerry Seinfeld was scheduled to perform at The Hall @ Live! Casino & Hotel in Arundel Mills, Maryland, on July 10.

It’s since been postponed to a date yet to be determined, but you can still check out his hourlong standup special “Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill,” which hit Netflix on Tuesday.

Filmed at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, it’s billed as his first original stand-up special in 22 years. However, Netflix did release “Jerry Before Seinfeld” (2017), intercutting old footage with his recent return to the Comic Strip Live club to perform his greatest hits.

While the last special explored his roots, “23 Hours to Kill” is a Bond-inspired title, opening by circling the Statue of Liberty in a helicopter and “dropping” into New York Harbor.

Underneath his wetsuit is a suit and tie, emerging through the Broadway curtain in a clever bit of editing. Fittingly, he later leaves the stage to Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man.”

While the spy theme provides the bookends, the title “23 Hours to Kill” doubles as an overarching thesis: that humans are just killing time between other events in a mostly futile attempt to feel important, routinely eager to go out, then immediately ready to get home.

The first half of the routine includes universal musings on everyday life, including portion control on buffets, the nature of friend groups and the difference between talking vs. texting. He argues that talking went out the window the second texting was invented and raises a great point: Why do we still call it a phone when we rarely use it as a phone?

This leads to his funniest bit about how our smart phones actually run the show and we humans merely exist to provide the pockets to carry them around. When we use the Uber app, the car really comes to pick up the phone (the pimp), not the person (the prostitute).

For Jerry, it’s just the latest in technological evolution since the caveman days when humans first invented the Pop-Tart. Since then, a secret society based out of Battle Creek, Michigan, has become the Silicon Valley of cereal makers, nutrition facts be damned.

Occasionally, you might hear a joke that sounds familiar because you’ve already heard Jerry test out the material on late-night TV talk shows. Case in point: the fine line between “sucks” and “great” is admittedly a retread, but it’s an instant classic that bears repeating.

“You go to a baseball game and have a hot dog. … Does it suck? Yes. Is it great? Yes. That’s how close they are,” Seinfeld jokes. “I say to you that ‘sucks’ and ‘great’ are the exact same thing. You have an ice cream cone, walking down the street, the ice cream falls off the top of the cone and hits the pavement. Sucks! What do you say, ‘Great!'”

The second half of the routine shifts to musings on his personal life, including getting married later in life, the conflict of being single vs. married, the infinite power of the female brain, preparation for hypothetical husband quizzes, the importance of tone of voice, fighting on family vacation, men’s fashion freezing at a certain age, and becoming a father.

“Any time two people walk into a room and three come out, a major event took place in that room,” Seinfeld jokes. “At the end of life, we go back into the same room, [once] again with a different number of people coming out than went in. That is the human being business. We gotta turn inventory. Get ’em in and get ’em out. That’s the hospital’s job.”

Such jokes sadly have a new context under quarantine, which he couldn’t have known upon filming last October. It’s odd to hear puns about our old “normal” world. Buffets? Movie theaters? What are those? Surely, Jerry is cooking up new jokes as we speak.

Either way, his wit is on full display reacting in real time to a delayed laugh in the audience.

“Try to keep up with the pack,” Seinfeld quips.

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