Judith Lucy: Why Jerry Seinfeld is a master of comedy

Seeing Seinfeld perform is like watching Fred Astaire dance - they both make their art look effortless.

Jerry Seinfeld is not very cool right now. Straight, white guys who tell actual jokes may still dominate stand-up (and, you know, the world) but we're a little tired of them. We want to hear from different voices.

We don't want to hear guys talk about airplane food, or why men and women are different. We want to hear people talk about politics or race. We want personal, compelling stories or we want our comedy to be more theatrical or self-reflexive. I recently heard a young female comedian despair because she felt that her show had "too many jokes". What would Seinfeld make of that? 

I'm a comedian. I've been doing it for nearly 30 years and Jerry and I don't have too much in common. I'm a woman, I swear and I have been known to do corporate gigs with hypnotist Martin St James because I needed the money. But probably the biggest difference between us is my ambivalence towards the medium. I'll be 50 soon and I honestly don't know if I can do it for too much longer. The thought of getting out there in my seventies or eighties makes me want to eat my own prolapse and yet Jerry Seinfeld has no such qualms. This guy loves stand-up comedy. 

If I were worth hundreds of millions of dollars, I would never do stand-up again. And I would no more spend three years getting a joke just right, as Seinfeld has been known to do, than I would have sex with Peter Dutton.  (Actually, after a few wines, that's probably more likely to happen as I have a real thing for men whose heads look like I could crack them open with a teaspoon before dipping some toast into their skull.) So why am I going to see Jerry Seinfeld on August 6?

I first saw some clips of Seinfeld doing stand-up in 1993 and was not that impressed. Then I started watching his television series and became (as did everyone I know) obsessed with it. To this day I will say, "It's like that episode of Seinfeld …" (whether I'm waiting in a Chinese restaurant, lost in a car park or winning a masturbation contest with my friends – quick tip ladies: wait until you're menopausal, you will piss it in).

But Jerry was my least favourite character; he was Bugs Bunny and I was much more enamoured of the Daffy Ducks in the show, especially George, and more than ever I want to murder Julia Louis-Dreyfus – who played Elaine – peel her skin off, turn it into a body suit and be her. 


I became even less of a fan of Jerry's when I started to see so many male comics try and copy his schtick. At best their lame observations made me tired and at worst, when it came to talking about the supposed gulf between men and women, they made me angry. The upshot always seemed to be, "Why are men such excellent dudes with these totally fascinating things called penises while women are stupid, nagging whores?"

But I was enough of a fan of the show that when Jerry Seinfeld first toured Australia, I wanted to see him, although I was a long way from excited. About four minutes in, I turned to my friend and said: "Oh my god, he's amazing. I finally get it."

Jerry Seinfeld is a true master.  When it comes to the arts, comedy will always be at the bottom of the barrel, I suspect. It's popular and anyone can be funny right? You don't need to study it or train or care for your instrument, but to be the sort of comedian that Jerry Seinfeld is takes not only natural talent, but extraordinary skill. Seeing Seinfeld perform is like watching Fred Astaire because like the dancer, he makes it look so effortless and that can only come from a remarkable amount of hard work. 

There is also the precision and truth of his observations; he can describe the banal in such a way that it will make you see something differently or realise that you had always seen it like that but didn't know until he'd told you.

The other aspect that I have to mention about Seinfeld live is that he has "it", whatever that is. That magical property that makes you not want to take your eyes off him. He has it in spades.

I'm very glad that stand-up comedy isn't just about straight, white guys any more – it's about time – but I'll be going to see Jerry Seinfeld because he's just really great at what he does and I happen to think that is pretty cool.

Judith Lucy has been making Australia laugh since the early '90s. Her live show Disappointments with Denise Scott has just finished a sold-out national tour.