Comedian's rather hairy support act

An Evening with Jason Alexander and his Hair will see the entertainer perform a one-man show here for the first time, Ron Cerabona writes.

Jason Alexander (with hair) for his stage production <i>Jason Alexander and his Hair</i>.
Jason Alexander (with hair) for his stage production Jason Alexander and his Hair

Yes, you read that correctly. The actor who played the neurotic, selfish George on Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, has given co-star billing to his hair - or, more accurately, his hairpiece.

He says, ''There was a period about two years ago where there were a couple of roles I really wanted to be considered for and I was not considered. Producers who'd never met me assumed I was too much like George to be considered for roles, so I never got the chance to meet them and make a different impression.''

One of the problems, he felt, was that he looked too much like the character he had played for years. So he decided to change his look. He didn't want to get hair implants, as he still wanted to be able to play parts where baldness was called for, so he found a hairpiece he liked and began wearing it socially and places he might be photographed.

He made no bones about the fact it was a toupee and was aware it might be viewed as a little eccentric. But, unlike George, he seems happy with himself and his choices and is a lot more laid-back and thoughtfully spoken.

While he's best known for Seinfeld, his career has spanned more than three decades and included Broadway musicals, movies and, more recently, stand-up comedy.

We'll be seeing his stand-up in full bloom for the first time on this tour, along with music, audience participation and a Seinfeld quiz.

''I will be singing,'' he says, but hastens to add he did not write the advertising description of his voice as ''amazing'' and that all the songs will have an eye to comedy.

''There's a gigantic medley of roles it is absolutely inappropriate for me to be singing,'' he says. ''Things like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, the Phantom of the Opera, Jean Valjean.''

And speaking of comedy, ''80 per cent of the show is stand-up comedy,'' he says.

But it took him a while to build up the courage to do a full comedy set on his own. On previous tours he's acted as host for a bunch of Australian comedians - one act, the Umbilical Brothers, will support him this time - but gradually built the confidence to move from short bits to a full show.

''I never had the courage, or maybe it is sheer stupidity, to go on stage as myself and perform work of my own creation,'' he says.

But the years of working with Jerry Seinfeld and spending time with him and his stand-up comedian friends gave him some insights into the process of creating and performing comedy routines. But he takes his own approach.

''Real comedians go into tiny clubs and try out 10-minutes' worth and refine it and work and work it,'' he says. ''That's way too scary for me. I could no more do that than fly to the moon.''

And he says he still doesn't think of himself as a stand-up comedian. Instead, he writes big chunks of material, does a corporate show - ''They can't fire me'' - and makes a recording of the set and refines the routine according to the response.

And while he says, ''There's not a comedy guru I go to'' there are comedians he knows who have attended his gigs and made helpful suggestions.

As for George Costanza and his legacy, Alexander says, ''There are two parts of my brain. One part goes, 'He's just a character I've played, one of many.' The other part goes, 'On the day of my death [when it is reported] the first line will read: George Costanza died today.'''

But he's made his peace with that and come to be proud of the fact that something he has done has brought so many people happiness.

''You can't help but be grateful for that,'' he says.

He's learnt to accept that people will ask him questions about Seinfeld minutiae - having watched the episodes multiple times - even though ''we only watched each episode once''.

But he says that when people tell him they identify with George, or that their friends say they are like him, ''It's not a compliment. You either need therapy or new friends. George is many things but a role model is not one of them.''

An Evening with Jason Alexander and His Hair. July 23, 8pm. Canberra Theatre Centre. Tickets $89. Bookings, canberratheatrecentre.com.au or phone: 6275 2700.