Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is more than just a couple of comics getting in a car, and then driving somewhere to get coffee. It’s definitely that, but don’t think that this show is that uninteresting.
Each episode of this twelve-part new season is structurally the same, as it has been since the series premiere in 2012. Jerry Seinfeld, the host of this unique talk show, begins by detailing the car featured in the episode, which takes less than two minutes, then he picks up his guest and the conversing begins. The car always means something to the guest whether it’s the car they admire, a car that somewhat symbolizes their personality, or their own car.
This show is expectantly full of jokes. It’s two funny people riffing off each other in a fluid, improvisational way. There’s plenty of laughs. It’s refreshing to see a couple of people have an enjoyable conversation, but also dip their toes into a discussion of the human condition.
The conversations in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee occasionally move in deeply personal directions. Jerry’s dialogues with his guests are so malleable and carefree that they naturally begin to talk about their vulnerabilities, explain their insecurities, what makes them self-conscious, what makes them feel empathetic. They expose their inner selves, which differs from their stage personas.
“I still don’t get my appeal,” Ellen Degeneres admits over breakfast. “I just go along with it.” She goes on to talk about the pain that she went through in her life and how it informed her comedy. Zach Galafiniakis questions his self-consciousness, as he seems prone to do: “Do you have confidence? I’ve never had that.”
Hunched over a table across from Seinfeld in a coffee shop, Dave Chappelle’s face hovers over his cup when he speaks. “I’m a really socially awkward guy,” he says. “Everyone thinks the guy on stage is the fake, but really it’s the guy off the stage that’s fake. The guy on stage, that’s the real guy. The guy off stage, he’s the one that lies to people, doesn’t say what he actually thinks… just so [the guy on stage] can exist uninterrupted.” You can tell that Chappelle has spent a lot of time examining his own multifaceted personality. It’s endearing to hear celebrities open themselves up with such transparency.
Jerry Seinfeld has a knack for adapting to and engaging with different personalities and making them comfortable. If his guest is mean and makes fun of him, he rolls with it. Actually, he seems to like that a lot. If his guest has a nicer disposition, he matches their kindness as best as he can, although he still kind of sounds like a jerk.
Seinfeld is admittedly impartial to the sensitivities of our current social climate. His sense of humor isn’t appalling, but it does not comply with political correctness. It doesn’t fit well into the times. There are moments when Jerry’s insensitivity reveals itself and it’s a bit off-putting, but to him, nothing is off limits to be made into the butt of a joke. He places himself beyond the scrutiny of other people, which is not an easy thing to do today. He doesn’t care about what anyone thinks because it would get in the way of him even potentially saying something funny. That’s what he cares about most. Being funny.
Seinfeld’s passion and charisma flair up when discussing the structure and philosophy of comedy. So, he and his guests often discuss the art of comedy, what they value as comedians, what works, what doesn’t, and why. Hasan Minhaj and Neal Brennan both emphasize that ideas are most important to them in comedy, meaning absolutely everything should be up for discussion.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is often Jerry and his guest sitting in a diner booth working out what’s funny about a topic, which is what he did in his 90’s sitcom, but this conversation is unscripted. The show is full of Seinfeld’s signature observational humor. For instance, he and Kate McKinnon get a few laughs out of a brief discussion on the nuances of the word “chill.” Jerry and his guests stumble over ideas and observations and sometimes the idea in question isn’t funny, but they need to roll it around in their heads before they can come to that conclusion. So, watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is watching comedians do the same mental work that has led them to create the hilarious bits from their successful stand-up and sketch performances.
The tenth season of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee premiered on Netflix, the first season of the show to do so. Previous seasons were released on Crackle, a streaming digital network. Each episode is roughly fifteen to twenty minutes, just enough time to enjoy a cup of coffee.
Andrew Spiess's work has appeared in Lingerpost, Permafrost, Prairie Margins, The Miscreant, Gravel, The Hamilton Stone Review, Punch Drunk Press, and Birds Piled Loosely. He received a Louise C. Cooper Book Award from Bowling Green State University, where he studied, and a poem of his has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He works and lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Follow him on Twitter: @andrewspiesss.