From restaurants and email, to marriage and children, Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy special tackles the little experiences and the big moments — and what he finds annoying about it all.
Released May 5, Netflix’s newest stand-up comedy special presents the latter of a two-part series featuring the beloved ’90s sitcom star and comedian. The series acts as a preamble to the arrival of the widely treasured show, “Seinfeld,” to Netflix in 2021. While Seinfeld’s signature humor remains upbeat and lighthearted, “23 Hours to Kill” is disappointing compared to the first part of the series, “Jerry Before Seinfeld.”
For starters, the second installment takes place at the Beacon Theater in New York with a large audience and blinding lights. It feels less personal than its predecessor, which was taped at The Comic Strip, a smaller, more intimate club where Seinfeld’s career took off. Similarly, the comedian’s material comes across as irreverent and irritated rather than lovably individual, like his classically Seinfeldian performance at The Comic Strip.
The comedy pays no tribute to its trailer, so much so that it seems to be a completely separate show. One trailer for “23 Hours to Kill” presents the question of what a stand-up comedian does for the 23 he’s not on stage. The Netflix special pays no mention to the trailer and instead seems to be a regular comedy show with no specific purpose.
The stand-up begins discussing the fine line between a great life and, as Seinfeld puts it, “a life that sucks.” This becomes a major theme throughout the performance as Seinfeld continues his display of how fickle human nature can be.
“The greatest lesson you can learn in life: ‘sucks’ and ‘great’ are pretty close,” Seinfeld said in his new special.
Seinfeld’s material stretches from one end of the spectrum to the other. After the opener, he moves on to ridicule restaurants and food. “‘You want to hear the specials?’” he said. “No. If they’re so special, put ’em on the menu. I’m not interested in food that’s auditioning to get on the team.”
Another high point of the performance is a bit about technology and how it’s come to control many people’s lives, to the point that they feel uncomfortable away from their phones.
“That’s why it’s called an iPhone,” Seinfeld said. “It’s half myself, half phone. That’s a complete individual. I don’t even know what the purpose of people is anymore. I think the only reason people still exist is phones need pockets to ride around in.”
From here on out, the material quickly goes downhill as he complains about family life. The comedy veteran’s tone is one of cynical annoyance throughout the show, and it often comes across as whiny.
As Kathryn VanArendonk writes in her review of the comedy special, Seinfeld’s performance is “full of rhetorical questions and pulled faces and bone-dryness alternating with stratospherically silly falsettos. It is [a] Seinfeld Classic.”
VanArendonk is correct — the first half of the show is filled with trademark Seinfeld humor that audiences have adored for many years. However, the second half is a weak attempt to poke fun at life with marriage and children.
As he discusses the ups and downs of marriage, Seinfeld’s material comes across as negative and misanthropic. He has nothing positive to say about the subject and instead portrays women as irrational and high-maintenance.
For long-time fans and veteran stand-up comedy lovers, this new special may be a lighthearted reminder of the golden days of Seinfeld’s career. While it’s certainly scattered with lovable Seinfeld moments, the performance may be a disappointment to those who didn’t enjoy the ’90s TV show. When it comes to fresh entertainment and originality, especially in the second half, “23 Hours to Kill” fails to deliver.
Contact Charlotte Matherly at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.