Quotable QuotesI have two sons and a daughter and if I could pass along, the two things I would want to pass along would be ethics and boldness in life. Click To Tweet I still have a writing session every day. It's another thing that organizes your mind. The coffee goes here. The pad goes here, the notes go here. My writing technique is just. You can't do anything else you don't have to write. But you… Click To Tweet The profession of writing. That's what stand up comedy is. However you do it. Anybody, you can do it any way you want, but if you don't learn to do it, In some form you will not survive. Click To Tweet I liked the way athletes talk about, I got to get my work in that you get your work in. I like that phrase. Click To Tweet I don't like discord and I don't like it and I am fearless in rooting it out and solving it. And if anyone's having a problem, I'm going to walk right up to them and go. Is there a problem? Let's talk about this because I cannot stand the… Click To Tweet If you break the human struggle down to one word, it's confront. Click To Tweet My guiding rule is systemized. What's the problem. Click To Tweet When you have a creative gift, it's like someone just gave you a horse. Now you, you have to learn how to ride it. If you were given a black stallion, you either learn to ride this thing, or it's going to kill you. Click To Tweet If you're going to sit down at a desk with a problem. And do nothing else. You got to get a reward for that. And the reward is the alarm goes off and you're done. You get up and walk away and go have some cookies and milk you're done. If… Click To Tweet Writing is a game of tonnage. How many hours are you going to work per week, per month, per year? Click To Tweet You gotta treat your brain like a dog. The brain, the mind is infinite in wisdom. The brain is a stupid little dog that is easily trained. The brain is so easy to master. You just have to confine it. You confine it. Yeah, and it's done… Click To Tweet Writing is the most difficult thing in the world. Learn how to encourage yourself. Be proud of yourself. Treat yourself well for having done that horrible impossible thing. Click To Tweet A part of a kit that comes with a creative aspect to the brain that a tendency to depression seems to always accompany that. Click To Tweet If you look at the people who have really performed at a high level for decades, Weight training seems to be one of the constants or one of the near constants. Click To Tweet
Tim Ferriss: [00:00:00] and my guest. For this episode is none other than the icon, Jerry Seinfeld. So who is Jerry Seinfeld entertainment icon? Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy career took off after his first appearance on the tonight show with Johnny Carson in 1981, eight years later, he teamed up with fellow comedian, Larry David to create what was to become the most successful comedy series in the history of television.
[00:00:23] Seinfeld. Lot of you have heard of it. The show ran on NBC for nine seasons, winning numerous Emmy golden globe and people’s choice awards and was named the greatest television show of all time in 2009 by TV guide. And in 2012 was identified as the best sitcom ever in a 60 minutes. Vanity fair. Paul Seinfeld made his Netflix debut with the original standup special.
[00:00:43] Jerry before Seinfeld, along with this Emmy nominated and critically claimed web series comedians in cars, getting coffee, which has garnered more than 100 million views in which the New York times describes as impressively complex and artful and variety calls a game changer. His latest standup special 23 hours to kill was released by Netflix earlier this year.
[00:01:04] He’s also the author of, is this anything. Or is this anything? It’s a question with a question Mark at the end, which is a brand new book and features his best work across five decades in comedy. It is a collection of his notes, his journaling, and certainly his process. You can find them on Twitter at Jerry Seinfeld, Instagram at Jerry Seinfeld, Facebook at Jerry Seinfeld.
[00:01:28] And if you have interest in creative process, gamifying life mastering the mind comedy. Habits and systems of someone who can operate at the top of their field for decades. This conversation touches all of those things. Please enjoy a wide ranging conversation with none other than Jerry Seinfeld.
[00:01:54]Jerry. Welcome to the show.
[00:01:56] Thanks Tim. Great to be here.
[00:01:57] I really appreciate you making the time. And I thought we would start with the beginning of, is this anything? And in the, I suppose you could call it the introduction to the preface. Another book pops up, which is the last laugh by Phil Berger. And I would love to just know how that book entered your life.
[00:02:17] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:02:17] How did I find that? I really don’t know, but, but I still haven’t. I have the copy that I bought wherever I found it. I mean, I was in high school and I did the absolute minimum you could do to, to survive in high school. I never read anything outside of high school except magazines, car magazines, comic books, and Esquire.
[00:02:46] Cause uh, I dunno. And those years, you know, um, early, early seventies, Esquire was really full of character and about encouraging male boldness and inventiveness in lifestyle and just life in general, you know, they were very sophisticated and it was everything I wanted to be. I wanted to be urban and I wanted to be smart and smarter than I was.
[00:03:15] And. I’d want them to have like this cool adventurous life. And they were very encouraging to that. I don’t, I don’t think there’s anything like that around today. That was essential. And the same with the, that book, the last laugh, it was, it was just like whatever made men in centuries past become explorers.
[00:03:37] You know, I don’t know how they became that. I guess I remember reading about explorers clubs, like in. 17th 18th century London, you know, I have two sons and a daughter and that’s, that’s the thing I really wanted. If I could pass along, the two things I would want to pass along would be ethics and boldness in life.
[00:04:04] But that doesn’t answer your question where I got the book. I don’t know.
[00:04:07] Tim Ferriss: [00:04:07] That’s okay though. The Genesis story is, is secondary. It’s really the context that you’re providing. And just as a quick side note, a friend of mine, Cal Fussman used to write the, what I’ve learned. Interview series in Esquire back when they had that back.
[00:04:23] When, uh, when, you know, when it had, and maybe still does on some level that character that you’re describing that boldness, what was it inside the last laugh that grabbed you so much?
[00:04:31] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:04:31] Yeah. So if I look back at my whole life starting, you know, about like second or third grade, it was all this inexorable March towards this, uh, pursuit of.
[00:04:47] The comedy arts and there was nothing else about comedy. Albert Brooks did a album, but did an article in Esquire called school for comedians. And it was a parody. And I had no idea it was a parody because he grew up in LA and he was making fun of what comedians might need to learn to be comedians. And, uh, have as an early seventies Esquire article, and I had no idea it was a parody.
[00:05:17] I mean, I just, Oh, there’s a school. Or I just wanted to learn about this world. And the last laugh really took your deeply into the world. And it is a completely hermetically sealed world that is frankly, unrelated to the rest of the entertainment industry. And it’s really unrelated to almost all other creative arts.
[00:05:45] It is a very sealed ecosystem. The world of comedy, particularly standup comedy, and I was desperately thirsty for any scrap of data about it.
[00:05:59] Tim Ferriss: [00:05:59] Now you have much like an Olympic athlete of sorts with training logs and workouts and so on. You have 45 years of hacking away as it’s put in the books description on yellow notepads and so on.
[00:06:15] You’ve preserved all of this and I’d lived to speak. Or to hear you speak more accurately, a bit about your writing process and the preparation that he did for this. I read in the New York times, and I’m just gonna read this short bit. You can fact correct this if need be, but here’s how it reads. I still have a writing session every day.
[00:06:33] It’s another thing that organizes your mind. The coffee goes here. The pad goes here, the notes go here. My writing technique is just. You can’t do anything else you don’t have to write. But you can’t do anything else. I would love to hear you elaborate on that because it actually sounds very similar to what the fiction writer Neil Gaiman has as his first writing as well.
[00:06:52] Yeah. But w but what does that look like for you, Andy? What do your writing sessions tend to look like if we look back over the last, I dunno, 10 years, because I’m sure it’s changed over time.
[00:07:03] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:07:03] No, it hasn’t changed. It hasn’t changed as the coffee, which I didn’t know about coffee in my younger years. I think I discovered coffee after I had kids and I didn’t have time to have a long meals with my friends anymore, but we can meet for coffee.
[00:07:21] And then I realized, boy, this coffee really gets you talking. And I thought maybe I’ll do a show where you just talk with coffee and that’s kind of where that came from, that comedians and cars show. But my writing sessions used to be very arduous, very, uh, painful pushing against the wind in, in soft muddy ground with like a wheelbarrow full of bricks.
[00:07:50] And I had to do it because there’s just a, as I mentioned in the book, you either learn to do that or you will die in the ecosystem. And I learned that really fast and really young, and that saved my life and made my career that I grasped the essential principle of survival in comedy. Really young. And that principle is you learn to be a writer.
[00:08:23] It’s really the profession of writing. That’s, that’s what stand up comedy is. However you do it. Anybody, you can do it any way you want, but if you don’t learn to do it, In some form you will not survive.
[00:08:38] Tim Ferriss: [00:08:38] And when you sit down, is it an empty page? Is it bits and pieces that you’ve noted through the week as observations that you then flesh out? What, what is actually in front of you? When you start
[00:08:48] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:08:48] what’s in front of me is I’m usually about 15 or 20 pages of stuff. That’s in various States of development. And then there’s a smaller book. Of just really, really random things like, um, when you’re on a cell phone call and the call drops and then you reconnect with the person they’ll go, I don’t know what happened.
[00:09:20] As if anyone is expecting. Them to know anything about the incredibly complex technology of a cell phone. They offer this little, I don’t know if this is an excuse or an apology. They go, I don’t know what happened there. So anyway, so I don’t know. So that’s an example of something in that my little, little tiny notebook that I don’t know what to do with that, but it’s just so stupid to me and funny.
[00:09:47] So that to me is like a, it’s like an archery target, 50 yards away. And then I take out my bow and my arrow and I go, let me see if I can hit that. Let me see if I can create something that I could say to a room full of humans in a nightclub that will make them see what I see in that. There’s something stupid.
[00:10:13] And funny about that. To me, that’s the very, very beginning. Then I’ll write something about it. It’ll be, if I’m lucky it’ll be a half a page or a page on a yellow legal pad and I’ll write that. And then, and then session the next day. If I get around to it, I will see it again. And I’ll see what I have and what I like.
[00:10:38] And I don’t like, and as any writer can tell you, it’s 95% rewrite. So I have two phases. There is the free play creative phase, and then there is the Polish and construction phase of, and I love to spend inordinate. I mean, it’s not wasteful to me cause that’s just what I like to do. Amount of time refining and perfecting every single word of it until it has this pleasing flow to my ear.
[00:11:11] And then it becomes something that I can’t wait to say. And then we go from there to the stage with it. And then from the stage, the audience will, then I imagined, you know, it’s a very scientific thing to me. It’s like, okay, here’s my experiment. And you run the experiment. And then the audience just dumps a bunch of data on you of this is good.
[00:11:35] This is okay. This is very good. This is terrible. And that goes into my brain from performing onstage. And then it’s back through the rewrite process and then new ideas, Diaz will come and it’s, you know, it’s just millions of different kinds of development. It’s just that. So you’re just trying to get your, you’re just going to that place of creating, fixing jettisoning.
[00:12:03] It’s extremely occupying. It’s never boring. It’s. The frustration I’m so used to, at this point, I don’t even notice it. And it’s just a work time. It’s just work time, which, and that’s my, I liked the way athletes talk about, I got to get my work in that you get your work in. I like that phrase. One of the reasons I was looking forward to doing the show with you is I know that it’s something you are very interested in.
[00:12:33] The craft, the, the, yeah, the systemization of the brain and creative endeavor, or, you know, I really think when I’m working, it’s very much like when you’re watching a pitcher working on stage, then now we’re going, so that’s the different, so basically it’s onstage and offstage. It’s it’s the desk. And then the stage, Jen, then back to the desk and then back to the stage. And that’s endless
[00:13:01] Tim Ferriss: [00:13:01] the process and the repeatable process, the experimentation like you phrased it is extremely interesting to me. And if we took or take that cell phone example, the dropping of reception, that’s an observation. It seems to me that you are a real connoisseur of questions, whether those questions are being used as part of a bit.
[00:13:23] Or possibly as prompts. And you mentioned the coffee in part leading to comedians in cars, in a Harvard business review interview. You also mentioned that it’s important to know what you don’t like a big part of innovation is saying, you know what? I’m really sick of question Mark. Right? And for you, that was talk shows where the music plays.
[00:13:43] Somebody walks out to a desk, shakes hands with the host, sits down. Yeah. And what am I really sick of being a departure point for innovation? I would love to hear about any questions. If there are questions that you use as prompts to help elicit observation or materials for you.
[00:14:02] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:14:02] No, no, that that’s, that part is somewhat having a very cranky nature and being a sensitive kind of, I don’t know if it’s perceptive.
[00:14:14] Perception, but you’re just provoked by a lot of things. You know, that if you’re lucky enough to have that, the next thing you must do is nurture and protect it and never lose it. And the enemy of it is success. Success is the enemy of irritability and crankiness because now you have money. And you can remove the difficulties from your life and that’s not good.
[00:14:48] Tim Ferriss: [00:14:48] How do you contend with that? Because you’ve had certainly you’ve, I would imagine, have had to do things to offset in that case, the creature comforts. And so on that come along with the amount of success that you’ve had.
[00:15:01] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:15:01] Yeah. The thing I did that really solved almost all of that issue is I got married.
[00:15:09] Okay. And please elaborate that you’ll never run out if you get married and if you have kids, then, then you’ve got a goldmine.
[00:15:24] Tim Ferriss: [00:15:24] You mentioned just a few minutes ago about word smithing until you get everything pleasing to the ear and really obsessing over the. The pros, I’ve read that one of your explanations for the success of all of your television was that quote, the show was successful because I micromanage it, every word, every line, every take, every, edit, every casting.
[00:15:50] And then later on, if you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. There are a lot of questions I could ask about this, but I suppose one as if you were for such a period of time, I understand the logic of it, but for such a long period of time, obsessing over the details like that. Did you not find yourself at risk of burnout or just hitting a point of overwhelm or did that not happen?
[00:16:15] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:16:15] Oh, we’re talking about the series now, or just, we’re talking about the series, the series or the series as a, um, you know, if you want to look at the comedy arts is the only thing that interests me creatively, I think, or the only thing I’m any good at, but. If you’re looking at the different comedy art show, if you know, if I were to break it down, let’s just say it to like basics of stand-up comedy, a television series, or a movie, I would analogize those two different vessels on the water.
[00:16:47] So a TV series is like a pretty big boat that you can run with. A couple of people. A movie is a yacht. There are so many people. It’s a beautiful thing. There’s a lot of money involved. Everybody wants it. Everybody thinks it’s the ultimate way to go across the water and stand up for me is a surf board.
[00:17:11] It’s just you, you paddle out and you try and catch the energy and you’re all on your own and you can do it and go home. And nobody, but you really even knows what happened. I think the more people you add to the, the vessel. The faster, you’re going to struggle to maintain its progress through the water.
[00:17:35] For sure. The TV series got to a point we did at nine years and the way I was doing it, that was as far as it could go before it was really going to, uh, stop cutting through the water in that beautiful way that it was doing. That’s why I pulled out of it. Before I had to, before anyone wanted me to, because I didn’t want to be on a boat that was starting to struggle.
[00:18:04] I didn’t want to have that experience. And I, even more than that, I didn’t want the audience to have that experience. I wanted to complete this gift to them in a way that they would always go, Oh, I was given a lovely thing. One time in the nineties. And it was just lovely. I wanted them to have it like that.
[00:18:29] No excuses. No, if onlys, no, it did go on a bit, maybe longer than it should have. I didn’t want to, I just wanted them to have this lovely gift. That’s why I stopped the TV series. I could also describe the TV series to you as a weather event that has an energy that gathers and become cyclonic. But every storm blows itself out.
[00:18:54] And that, that storm was about to run out of energy. And, um, so it’s the same thing. Cause I I’m, I was at the center of the storm and I could feel the slowing. Of the cyclonic curve. The funnel
[00:19:10]Tim Ferriss: [00:19:10] is that, sorry, the thing that you had a role model for, is that something you simply perceived because it’s very rare for someone to step out like Rocky Marciano.
[00:19:20] Usually they go a bit too far, they get slapped around a bed or they end up signing in a baseball mitts at Caesar’s palace or whatever it is. Did you have any model for that? Was that something you decided entirely on your own?
[00:19:34] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:19:34] The classes I had and I would never compare myself in any way, shape or form was the Beatles.
[00:19:41] The timeframe of the Beatles was nine years. They broke up for different reasons. We had no discord on my show, like date, her struggled with, but the portion size of the Beatles just felt so right to me. And I thought that, and they were together about nine years and we were together about nine years. And there was something about adding that other digit to go to 10.
[00:20:07] You know, like if people said to me, how long did you do that series for? And if I said 10 years, I could just hear people go, wow, 10 years. It’s just, just the portion size just felt too big.
[00:20:22] Tim Ferriss: [00:20:22] You mentioned, I guess, irritation as a wellspring of comedic material. Is it irritation or is it sensitivity in the. Connotation of a very sensitive scale where you’re just perceiving more. Is it a dissatisfaction or a irritability or is it,
[00:20:43] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:20:43] I think your five senses have been made a little too good and it’s not quite comfortable.
[00:20:52] I have a friend, actually, two friends. It was really weird and they’re married. This is a really weird story and they both suffered. From this rake down in there hearing there’s a bone in the hearing canal. That’s I guess it’s like a, I think it looks like a little wishbone or something, you know, there’s all these little fine bones in there.
[00:21:13] The stirrup, all these tiny bones. So both of them, the husband and the wife first, the wife, and then the husband, like six months later, it’s a very rare condition. So anyway, they both had to get this very delicate. Surgery on their inner ear. And they replace that bone with a piece of titanium that’s made to do the same thing, and it’s actually this fantastic cure for this problem.
[00:21:43] And so they both have these titanium ears now. And when they first got it, their hearing was like, too good. And it was a little uncomfortable for them. And I think now they’ve adjusted to it fine, but I’ve reminded me of how I feel like my senses are my eyes and my ears and my skin. And I just feel everything just a little more than I think I would even like to.
[00:22:11] Right. And so that’s, yeah, I think that’s just kind of a genetic thing, but I, I don’t know another comedian that isn’t the same. And just has this hair trigger reaction to anything that is irritates them. And a lot of it is visual. I think, I think I mentioned that in my introduction that I think jokes come from a kind of intense visual acuity.
[00:22:38] You did. Yeah. So I think that’s. Part of where it comes from.
[00:22:42] Tim Ferriss: [00:22:42] If we imagine a, we meaning a lay audience, imagines comics in our minds eyes mean you have these sort of hypersensitive cat-like creatures who might be very difficult to put into any type of group, but yet you mentioned a lack of discord. On the show, which I’m not a Hollywood wonky, but I have a little bit of mileage.
[00:23:06] And that seems to be in not altogether common too. What would you attribute that lack of?
[00:23:13] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:23:13] I don’t like discord and I don’t like it and I am fearless in rooting it out and solving it. And if anyone’s having a problem, I’m going to walk right up to them and go. Is there a problem? Let’s talk about this because I cannot stand the kind of turmoil
[00:23:37]Tim Ferriss: [00:23:37] approach to conflict resolution. It’s very proactive. It’s not like you’re being passive aggressive. It’s not like you’re conflict avoidant. Is that something you got from your parents? Is that something that you just came out of the womb, having that direct addressing of, of discord or, or problems.
[00:23:53] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:23:53] I don’t know where I got that. I feel like if you break the human struggle down to one word, it’s confront.
[00:24:00] And so I kind of approached everything that way. And just that the act of the confront is like, you know, what do people always say? Like, meaning you have a problem, all that nonsense, but I did read some pop psychology books. I, I was very much a searcher in my younger years, yoga and Zen and. A little Scientology, transcendental meditation, Buddhism, you know, I read a lot of stuff looking, I dunno what I was looking for.
[00:24:33] I think I was, uh, I was looking for a working philosophy, I think is what I was looking for in life to apply. And I kind of formed my own little, I don’t know if religion is the right word, but I’ve definitely created my own belief. Or operating system. I think operating system would be the best term for what I’ve created, because it’s very pragmatic.
[00:24:56] It’s not faith-based in any way. But that’s my, one of my biggest principles is confront
[00:25:06] Tim Ferriss: [00:25:06] are there any other examples that you could give from your operating system? Any other guiding rules or principles or anything that’s stuck from that sequence?
[00:25:16] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:25:16] Well, uh, my, my guiding rule is systemized. What’s the problem. The problem is like my daughter, my daughter is very creative. She’s extremely bright.
[00:25:27] She’s got an incredible head on her shoulders. And I see myself in her at that age. She’s way farther advanced than I was at that age. But she doesn’t know. I said to her, you, she has a creative gift. Okay. So I say to her, when you have a creative gift, it’s like someone just gave you a horse. Now you, you have to learn how to ride it.
[00:25:51] You’ve got to learn how to ride this horse. And I’ve seen people that are born by the dozens and dozens. I’ve seen people that were given black stallions and it usually kill if you, if you have a black stallion, like from that movie and you’re born and they just put you on it and that’s what happens, they just put you on it and you either learn to ride this thing, or it’s going to kill you.
[00:26:17] Then we have many, many examples of that. So she’s trying to write this thing. She’s struggling. I can’t write, I keep putting it off. So I explained to her my basic system, which you already talked about at the top of the show, which is if you’re going to write, make yourself a writing session, what’s the writing session.
[00:26:37] I’m going to work on this problem. Well, how long are you going to work on it? Don’t just sit down with an open-ended. I’m going to work on this problem that that’s a ridiculous torture to put on a human being’s head. It’s like, you’re going to hire a trainer to get in shape and he comes over and you go, how long is the session?
[00:26:54] And he goes, it’s, open-ended forget it.
[00:27:00] It’s on the right there. You’ve got to control what your brain can take. Okay. So if you’re going to exercise, God bless you. And that’s the best thing in the world you can do, but you got to know when’s it going to end? When’s the workout over. It’s going to be an hour. Okay. Or you can’t take that. Let’s do 30 minutes.
[00:27:20] Okay, great. Now we’re getting somewhere. I can do 30. I’m trying to teach my son who knows how to do transcendental meditation. How to do it, I assume you know about I do. Yeah. Cause I can’t do it 15 minutes. Like, okay, let’s do 10. Let’s do 10. Let’s come up with something you can do. That’s where you start everything.
[00:27:42] That’s how you start to build a system. So my daughter, so I said to her, you have to have an end time to your writing session. If you’re going to sit down at a desk with a problem. And do nothing else. You got to get a reward for that. And the reward is the alarm goes off and you’re done. You get up and walk away and go have some cookies and milk you’re done.
[00:28:05] If you have the guts and the balls to sit down and write, you need a reward at the other end of that session, which is stopped now, pencils down. So that’s the beginning of a system that to me will. Help almost anybody learn to write, uh, which is something, you know, I kind of wanted to teach in a way because I find it.
[00:28:29] I think it’s so simple. I think exercise is pretty simple too. And, but people don’t, they don’t come up with baked goods, simple little systems, they just try and do it. And that’s, to me, that’s, you’re going to fail.
[00:28:43] Tim Ferriss: [00:28:43] The simple doesn’t mean easy. And that point you made is so important. The incentives, right?
[00:28:49] Having a reward, having a defined format. How long did your daughter end up choosing for her writing duration or how long?
[00:28:58]Jerry Seinfeld: [00:28:58] I told her, just do an hour. That’s a lot. She says a lot. I ride all day. No, you’re not. Nobody writes all day.
[00:29:08] Can’t write all day it’s it’s. It’s torture. Yeah.
[00:29:13] Tim Ferriss: [00:29:13] If you taught a class on writing, what other lessons might you have or resources or anything exercises? Cause I’m imagining that your daughter could sit down. She says, all right, I have an hour. And then you ask her how her writing session went. And she said, well, I didn’t have any idea what to write.
[00:29:26] So you’d have, I don’t know what age the students would be in your course, but what else would be a component of your class on writing?
[00:29:34] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:29:34] Well, I would teach them to learn to accept your mediocrity. You know, no, one’s really that Gregg, you know, who’s great. The people that just put tremendous amount of hours into it, it’s a game of tonnage.
[00:29:48] You know, how many hours are you going to work per week, per month, per year? You might even want to chart that or with your exercise. If you want to get in shape, I couldn’t get in shape. I was like a start as a jogger, you know, like in the seventies, I would run three miles a day and then I got older and I got married late and I had young kids and I really had to get in shape.
[00:30:12] And I picked up this book by bill Phillips, called body for life butter for life. And it’s really, really, so it’s such a system for a primitive, you know, brain. I do it to this day. I think it’s a work of genius, this book, and it really got me in shape. Because he broke it down to here’s what we’re going to do in minute one.
[00:30:39] Here’s what you’re going to do. Two minute, five minute 12, and this is going to end in the 45 minutes or whatever it is. And every minute I know exactly what I’m doing and that like turn the key for me. And all of a sudden I was getting in shape. I never had to ask. What am I doing now? But what are we doing next?
[00:30:57] It was very, it’s like, you gotta treat your brain like a dog. You just got, you got it. So stupid. The brain, the mind is infinite in wisdom. The brain is a stupid little dog that is easily trained.
[00:31:19] Confuse the mind with the brain. The brain is so easy to master. You just have to confine it. You confine it. Yeah, and it’s done through repetition and systemization,
[00:31:32] Tim Ferriss: [00:31:32] let’s talk about feedback in the experimental loop that you mentioned earlier, which was desk stage desk stage desk stage one form of feedback would be audience feedback.
[00:31:45] And I’m curious what other forms of feedback you have now.
[00:31:48] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:31:48] There is no other feedback. That means only thing. Okay. Got it. Well, I’ll tell you here’s a, here’s a little, uh, find point of writing technique that I’ll pass along to your writers out there. Never talk to anyone about what you wrote that day.
[00:32:06] That day you have to wait 24 hours to ever say anything to anyone about what you did, because you never want to take away. That wonderful, happy feeling that you did that very difficult thing that you try to do, that you accomplished it. You wrote, you sat down and wrote. So if you say anything, it’s like the same resign you ever heard the thing, like you never tell people that name you’re going to give the baby until it’s born, because they’re going to react.
[00:32:44] And the reaction is going to have a color. And if you’ve decided that that’s going to be the baby’s name, you don’t want to know what anybody else thinks. So I will always wait 24 hours before I say anything to anyone about what I wrote. So you want to preserve that good feeling. Cause if you, if let’s say you write something and you love it.
[00:33:03] And then later on that day, you’re talking to someone and you thought, Hey, what do you think of this idea? Blah, blah, blah. And they don’t love it. Now that day feels like, Ugh, I guess, you know, that that was a wasted effort. So you always want to reward yourself the key to writing, but to being a good writer is to treat yourself like a baby, very extremely nurturing and loving, and then switch over to Lou Gossett and officer and a gentleman, and just be a harsh prick.
[00:33:37] Bob busting son of a bitch about that is just not good enough. That’s got to come out or it’s got to be redone or thrown away. So flipping back and forth between those two brain quadrants is the key to writing. When you’re writing, you want to treat your brain like a toddler. It’s just all nurturing and loving and supportive.
[00:34:06] And then when you look at it the next day, you want to be just the hardest and you switch back and forth.
[00:34:13] Tim Ferriss: [00:34:13] When you would come off stage and feel like you had really nailed the set you just killed. Yeah. Would you ask for. Feedback from other comics who you might respect, who are there, would you do something to celebrate instead,
[00:34:30] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:34:30] not feedback you don’t need to, you don’t need to ask the that’s the that’s the paradise of stand-up comedy.
[00:34:38] You don’t have to ask anyone anything. Uh, standup comics receive a score on what they’re doing more often and more critically than any other human on earth. You know, even a picture is not on the mound for an hour and 20 minutes straight, you know, having his pitches judged by the umpire. And by the way, some of those calls are opinions of the umpire that may or may not be true.
[00:35:06] Every opinion the audience gives you is 100% accurate, right?
[00:35:13]Tim Ferriss: [00:35:13] How they feel as fact suffer that pain or have that advantage. When you did well much like after checking the box of doing an hour long writing session, would you reward yourself or was that not part of the process for you?
[00:35:30] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:35:30] I reward myself constantly.
[00:35:32] I mean, but there’s no greater reward than that state of mind that you’re in when that side is working. If you can extricate yourself from your self, which is the goal in all. Sports and performance arts. If you get out of your mind and are able to just function, you know, you’re the sense technique that you have.
[00:35:57] There is no greater reward, but you know, if you want to have an ice cream sundae, go ahead. It’s going to pale in comparison.
[00:36:06] Tim Ferriss: [00:36:06] Yeah. Did you have a long-term plan? Let’s just, if we go back to the early days, did you have any type of long-term career plan for yourself or was it really the ball in front of you and executing on that one next step?
[00:36:22] And then the career emerged from that approach or something? Are you asking me if I had a backup plan, if standup didn’t work out. No, I’m asking you if you had a long-term career plan within the world of comedy.
[00:36:35] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:36:35] Well, if you could make a living as a standup comedian, unless, you know, you were George Carlin.
[00:36:42] So I didn’t, I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t end the, the truth was there really wasn’t there really wasn’t a, a world by an infrastructure that exists today. We didn’t know if there was any jobs out there. Even if we were able to learn how to do it, we had no idea what we were doing. We were, it was completely blind leap of faith out of the plane with the.
[00:37:08] The parachute hopping there. Wasn’t laundry on there.
[00:37:12] Tim Ferriss: [00:37:12] What is the feeling? I mean, you mentioned it, I would love as someone who is hypersensitive for you to describe that feeling that would make an ice cream sundae superfluous, right. That feeling of getting that feedback, what is it in the body? What is it or in the mind, however you want to answer that, what does it feel like?
[00:37:31] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:37:31] I, I sometimes you’ll have to describe it as math and music. Which is kind of the same thing. Music is so mathematical as his stand up is extremely mathematical. So, you know, I mean, I, I certainly don’t have to tell you a what that you’re just looking for a state of mind. You’re trying to maneuver yourself into a state of mind that you know, is your highest function level, but there are many levels below that that are good enough to get the job done so that you can call yourself a professional.
[00:38:04] So that’s all there is, you know, is it’s musical. It’s very rhythmic and musical. It is for me, I’m looking for the, to get myself in a rhythm and then to get the audience in a rhythm very much like, uh, a conductor I think would feel, you know, a conductor has a piece of music. I have a piece of music in front of me, and now I have to get the symphony to be doing it the way we know it can be.
[00:38:30] And then the audience comes along and supports that. And it’s this absurd struggle. And I really think being a conductor or a surfer as the best analogy, because the forces that you’re attempting to Chorale are so much greater than you. The wave has so much more strength than you have. All you can hope to do is navigate within it.
[00:38:54] That’s the goal to just get to that very brief. Very transitory perception of mastery. It seems in this moment that I am completely mastering this audience, but it’s only a moment. It’s only a moment I couldn’t stay up there very long. Even an hour is not a long time. Totally. It’s not a long time. And it takes years and years and years of work and study and practice to be able to do that.
[00:39:27] To do the hour. The hour is really the standard in my business. A lot of people can do 20, some can do 35. There’s a lot of really good guys at 45 an hour, an hour 15. I think again, my I’ll go to my favorite, uh, which is baseball for analogies. It’s the complete game. Can you finish the game? And that’s that’s the hour, 10 hour 20.
[00:39:57] That’s nine innings of mastery.
[00:40:00] Tim Ferriss: [00:40:00] Yeah. You need to have not just a lot of material, but a lot of practice and tonnage as you put it to perform at a high level for that period of time and, and manage their energy and yours, it has, it has to ebb and flow. And that’s just to piggyback on the analogy you used a very much.
[00:40:22] Similar sports. And I’ve had a lot of athletes on the show and even some surfing legends, like layered Hamilton, they’ll say they should call surfing paddling because that’s what you’re actually doing. Most of the time you get to show at the end of the day is the cover shot surfing the big waves, but that’s really the output of a lot of tonnage.
[00:40:38] And I know you you’ve been quoted as thinking of yourself more as a sportsman than an artist. And for a lot of athletes, routine is, is super key to. Managing energy and putting in the reps and producing good results. There’s a quote from you in the New York times. And the quote is I’m not OCD, but I love routine.
[00:41:00] I get less depressed with routine aside from the writing sessions. Are there any other routines for you that are particularly important as scaffolding or automatic behaviors?
[00:41:13] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:41:13] Yeah. Exercise, weight training, and transcendental meditation. I think I could solve just about anyone’s life and I don’t care what you do with weight training and transcendental meditation.
[00:41:27] I think your body needs that stress, that stressor. And I think it builds your resilience of the nervous system. And I think transcendental meditation is the. Absolutely ultimate work tool. I think the stress reduction is great, but it’s more the energy recovery and the concentration fatigue solution, which is of course, you know, as a stand-up comic, I can tell you, my entire life is concentration fatigue, whether it’s writing or performing my brain and my body, which is the same thing are constantly hitting the wall.
[00:42:07] And if you have that in your hip pocket, your Columbus with a compass.
[00:42:15] Tim Ferriss: [00:42:15] Yeah. Just chatting with Hugh Jackman on the podcast. And, uh, he’s also a. Devout seems like an odd word to use since it’s, it can be used quite secularly, but proponent of TM. How many times, what is your weekly schedule look like for weight training? When do you do it and do you do TM twice a day or
[00:42:35] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:42:35] I do it at least twice a day, but I will do it anytime.
[00:42:39] I feel like I’m dipping energetically. Yeah, yeah, yeah. If I sit down and the pen doesn’t move for like 20 minutes, I know I’m out of guess. Why the pen moving my weight training routine is three times a week for an hour a session. But I’m into that. I’ve been into that, you know, I mentioned the bill Phillips, a body for life program, uh, the hit training.
[00:43:05] So it’s three times a week of a weights and three times a week, the, uh, interval cardio training, there are a lot of days, so I want to cry instead of do it. Because it really, it really physically hurts, but I just think it’s balancing, it’s very balancing to the forces inside the humanity that I think are just, they overwhelm us.
[00:43:28] We are overwhelmed by our own power. And you got up, put that ox in the plow, make it, do the stuff that it doesn’t want to do. It just keeps it what the hell do oxes do in the wild? I can’t imagine they were happy. Checking Twitter, just developing neuroses,
[00:43:51] you know, put it in the harness. I mean, I, I don’t know. A lot of my life is I don’t like getting depressed. I get depressed a lot. I hate the feeling and these routines, the, these very difficult routines, whether it’s exercise or writing, and both of them are things where it’s like, it’s, it’s brutal. That’s another thing I was explaining to my daughter.
[00:44:14] She’s, she’s frustrated that writing is so difficult. No one told her that it’s the most difficult thing in the world. It’s the most difficult thing in the world is to write people, tell you to write, like you can do it. Like you’re supposed to be able to do it. Nobody can do it. It’s impossible. The greatest people in the world can’t do it.
[00:44:37] So if you’re going to do it, you should first be told what you are attempting to do is incredibly difficult. One of the most difficult things, there is way harder than weight training, way harder. What you’re summoning, trying to summon. Within your brain and your spirit to create something onto a blank page.
[00:44:59] So that’s another part of my systemization technique. Learn how to encourage yourself. That’s why you don’t tell someone what you wrote and be proud of yourself. Encourage, you know, treat yourself well for having done that. Horrible horribly impossible thing
[00:45:17] Tim Ferriss: [00:45:17] I would have to imagine. And maybe this is just a projection because I, I hope that when I have kids, which I don’t have yet, that this will be true for me.
[00:45:25] But that being kind to your creative self and offering positive reinforcement for yourself through the process would affect how you parent I would have to imagine.
[00:45:35]Jerry Seinfeld: [00:45:35] Yes. Yes. Unfortunately we seem to have lost the Lou Gossett side of parenting. So
[00:45:47] pesky child protective services, what are they? No, but yeah, it is similar. You want to be very encouraging, but you also want to explain, there are laws in life that you need to know about, or your it’s going to hurt. I think one of the better lines I’ve come up with over my life is that. Pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a void with great speed.
[00:46:16] Can you say that one more time, please? Pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a void. You don’t know that that post of your bed was not where you thought it was, but when your foot hits it, that knowledge is going to come rushing in really fast, going to really hurt when your foot hits that post. Cause that was a piece of knowledge that you didn’t have that you’re going to get you’re about to get.
[00:46:45] Tim Ferriss: [00:46:45] You were talking about black flex stallion and learning to ride black stallion, lets you be broken yourself by your superpowers slash potential murderers. I’ve struggled with depression for decades and have found some real spite in the last five or six years for a whole host of reasons. But aside from the writing and weight training, is there anything else that has contributed to your ability to either stave off or mitigate depressive episodes or manage?
[00:47:14] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:47:14] No. I still got them still got them. The best thing I ever heard about it was that it’s part of a kit that comes with a creative aspect to the brain that our tendency to depression seems to always accompany that. And I read that like 20 years ago and that really made me happy. So I realized, well, I wouldn’t have all this other good stuff without that.
[00:47:39] That’s just comes in the kit that you have a tendency to depression. But I think it’s fair to say that I don’t know a human that doesn’t have the tendency. I’m sure it varies.
[00:47:50] Tim Ferriss: [00:47:50] Number of friends who are in comedy and a lot of them are afraid of getting any type of treatment or taking antidepressants because they worry that it would Rob them of their comedic.
[00:48:01] Insight. I don’t know if that’s something you’ve run into yourself or is it more that you accept it as a natural byproduct or companion to the sensitivity?
[00:48:13]Jerry Seinfeld: [00:48:13] I, I would agree with a chemical intervention inter stabilize your mood. I would be nervous about that also. And besides which as, you know, as we all know, there are many other better remedies that.
[00:48:31] You know, it’s basically a pair of running shoes. It’s probably better than any of the drugs they have on the market, depending on the severity, of course.
[00:48:39] Tim Ferriss: [00:48:39] Yeah. Or at least make sure that you’re adding those elements into your life. Since I think we all know people who take antidepressants and are still depressed, so it’s worthwhile to tick off the bigger boxes.
[00:48:53] Uh, behaviorally speaking
[00:48:54] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:48:54] depression is really a creative source. I think irritability and crankiness. Right, but not depression. Depression is just an annoying thing we have to deal with.
[00:49:05] Tim Ferriss: [00:49:05] He gave me a quote. I’ll ask you one more question and then,
[00:49:07] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:49:07] uh, we can, we can go a little more, so much. Let’s go. Let’s do it.
[00:49:13] Tim Ferriss: [00:49:13] So I’d love to ask about following up on depression. I’d love to ask about failure, uh, just to keep this bright and shiny. Can you think of how a particular failure or apparent failure set you up for later success? Uh, in other words, do you have a favorite. Failure of any type, something that seemed catastrophic at the time that in fact set you up for great things later.
[00:49:38] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:49:38] Yeah. Yeah. I have a couple really good ones and there’s another thing I try and teach the kids, you know, when something horrible happens, I think of all the things I would trade. If you could take your experiences and, and asked to trade them in the last ones I would trade. Would it be the failures? Those are the most valuable ones.
[00:50:02] When I, uh, moved to LA, I was only doing comedy for years, but I had built up a pretty good reputation in New York. And New York was really in those days, still very much the miners to LA, which was the majors. And so I went out to LA and people talk that I was coming and that I was. You know, one of the hot guys coming out of New York and I was only doing it for years.
[00:50:26] I was, you know, 25 years old. I mean, I really still just starting. And the comedy store was the club in LA that you had to break into that that was the club and the guys that work there and the women were killers. I mean, these people made the room just shake with laughter. It was very intimidating to go on there.
[00:50:52] And I went on there and I did very well. You know, in those days you would, you would call and they would give you spots if you were good. And I would never get spots. I would get like one spot a week and you know, one spot a week, it’s like one push-up a week it’s like, don’t even bother. And so I asked to meet with Mitzi shore.
[00:51:11] Who’s the owner of the club and person who ran the whole thing there. And she said to me, she said, I’m the kind of person that needs to get stepped on. And, uh, that’s what you need. You need someone to step on you and I’m going to be that person. And, uh, she said, if you called and said, if I had four spots available and you called in, I would give all four spots to this other guy.
[00:51:38] She mentioned this other guy. And I sat there in her office and I nodded,
[00:51:46] I said, well, I won’t mention the name of the guy. She said she was going to give the four spots to Jay. I said, well, if maybe he can’t do all four, I’d be happy to take any of the ones he can’t do. And I walked out of there and I never worked at the comedy store again and saying, you’re not working at the comedy store in LA.
[00:52:07] It’s like saying I want to be a baseball player, but not the majors, not the majors in the United States.
[00:52:16] I’m gonna apply my tray someplace else. Lithuania. Yeah. And so from there I went from, I hope it doesn’t sound armadas from being absolutely at the top of the heap in New York city to playing a discos in the basement. In LA you know, to like eight people, but my resentment and hostility to her, I was a guy who was, I would say I was a three day a week guy in terms of my writing discipline in those days.
[00:52:53] And I went from three days a week to seven right there. And I was like, okay, we’re not this, uh, this is, uh, I was angry. I was angry. I was frustrated I was resentful, but I used that it was just fuel for me. She wasn’t stopping me. Nobody was going to stop me. But when someone is that hostile to you, that can be a very good thing.
[00:53:20] You’re top, if you’re tough enough to eat that. Shit and say, I’m, she’s not stopping me.
[00:53:27] Tim Ferriss: [00:53:27] That’s a great story. I actually think one of my friends, uh, Alexis Ohanian co-founded Reddit, and at one point early on, they were super excited about, of course their company, their baby they’d put all of their waking hours into it.
[00:53:40] And they met with some Yahoo executive who was basically just fishing for insight information. And at some point in the meeting, This exact said, Oh, there’s your traffic? Oh, that’s a rounding error for us. And so Alexis and his and his guys took a huge, they made a poster that said you are a rounding error and put it on the wall in their office.
[00:54:02] It works. It works. So what then transpired after you went from three days a week to seven days a week, when did you get a glimmer of. Hope or vindication
[00:54:16] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:54:16] the tonight shows so AMI and every comedian in the world wanted to get on the tonight show in the seventies and eighties. It was the only way out of the clubs to real gigs was to be on the tonight show.
[00:54:33] The clubs was you’re working for free, right free zero. You know, that’s not really the object. The object is to get paid. Topics is to be a professional. So when you’re on the tonight show, you’re going from the service road to lane one no more, no more Applebee’s yeah. In five minutes. And I, and I told that story in the book too, what that felt like, you know, my favorite sporting thing.
[00:55:06] I mean, I have a baseball. Maniac, but the hundred meters in the Olympics is that as a thing I love, I love the a hundred meters. And that’s what happened when you did the tonight show in those days, you, I, when I see Lindsey Vonn at the top of a mountain, or I see those guys kicking their legs, when they’re in the blocks, you know, I know what that feels like.
[00:55:30] I know, and I’m very grateful that I know that. You know, if you’re an adrenaline junkie, which I am. There’s no good comedian that isn’t, that’s a big treat in life to know how that feels that I’m going to change my whole life in the next three minutes.
[00:55:49] Tim Ferriss: [00:55:49] How many times did you rehearse that? Three minute segment of material.
[00:55:56] I mean, I would imagine you must have done it a thousand times before you thousand thousand 10. Did you ever have another conversation with Mitzi shore or did any, did you ever convey any message to her or have any communication?
[00:56:12]Jerry Seinfeld: [00:56:12] I, I did. When I got my TV series in the nineties, I moved up to this fantastic house in the Hollywood Hills that overlooked all of LA.
[00:56:21] Every day, I would drive down the Hill to go to the studio to work on the show. I would see Mitzi taking her walk on a nearby street that we happened to have in common. And I would always give her a nice look.
[00:56:39] I wouldn’t . But, uh, our eyes,
[00:56:45] no men, no men. And you know what, maybe she was right. Maybe I did need someone to step on.
[00:56:55]Tim Ferriss: [00:56:55] Did she respond that way? That just seems so aggressive. Did you do anything?
[00:57:01] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:57:01] Never be the broken, the type of broken wing bird that she wanted to. Have in her little chicken coop of dysfunction, what was the with? I was not built like that.
[00:57:17] The only real I want to be a stand-up comic is cause I wanted to say to myself and to the world, I don’t need you. I can do this myself and the comedy store was filled with people that needed her. The comedy world knows that it was a druggie. Yeah. It’s a very dysfunctional world, the comedy world, because you’re taking these people that, that, that can’t fit in.
[00:57:41] They can’t, you know, they have this one skill and then you put them in a situation where they can get anything they want. So whatever dysfunctional chemicals, sexual you’re lazy, you’re broken, you’re messed up. You know, now you’ve got, you have no structure around you to fix it. Yeah. You know what I mean?
[00:58:01] You know, you’re out in the world and you’re completely on your own. It’s designed to break human beings, standup comedy. It’s a perfect way to break a person psychologically.
[00:58:14] Tim Ferriss: [00:58:14] You know, I’ve only been to the comedy store once I was brought there by a friend and I went into one of the back rooms, I’m sure you would know the name of this room, but they listed off a whole lot of old names.
[00:58:24] I want to say Sam Kinison and a bunch of others. And they said, this is where they used. This was the green room, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And there was this huge table with a mirror top with thousands of. Scratches on it and not from fingernails. Right. And you just think, Oh my God, if you don’t have rails to stay on, I mean, pun intended, I guess the environment is just designed to destroy
[00:58:49] Jerry Seinfeld: [00:58:49] and yes, part of the. Fun the moguls, if you it’s like you’re efficient, the Hudson it’s it’s, it’s a toxic environment. The attrition is brutal. You never have to say I don’t get why people like this comedian. Don’t worry. Don’t worry. You don’t have to comment on it. The, the environment itself will correct. It is a self-correcting ecosystem of pure toxic water,
[00:59:30] Tim Ferriss: [00:59:30] the self-sufficiency or desire for self-sufficiency that you gave voice to the, uh, proving to others that you don’t need. That you can do it on your own. Seems to be a very sharp contrast to a lot of entertainers. I know including comics who seemed to have a lot of codependency, right? Like they need the audience to validate, like they need life support if they had respiratory collapse and was that perspective and that character or constitution.
[01:00:01] Jerry Seinfeld: [01:00:01] I have to say the constitution is, it is kind of rare, but I also have to say, I don’t know anyone who made it over a long period of time that didn’t have it. Yeah. And that’s another thing that kind of led me to the leads me to the weight training aspect. I think it’s a big, it builds your constitution.
[01:00:22] Tim Ferriss: [01:00:22] Yeah. The weight training, you know, and I, I just want to give credit where credit is due with bill Phillips. I read that book long time ago. This is before my second book, which was on physical performance. And I was really impressed because it is to me first and foremost, a book about behavioral modification and behavioral psychology.
[01:00:43] And it really nails those elements really, really well. And, you know, if I think back across, you know, the hundreds of interviews on this podcast, whether it’s Bob Iger and the world of business and heading Disney or an athlete, or otherwise, if you look at the people who have really performed at a high level for decades, Uh, weight training seems to be one of the constants or one of the near constants.
[01:01:08] Jerry Seinfeld: [01:01:08] Yeah, because you’re deteriorating. You’re just trying to bend that curve a little bit. You know, I’m 66. I shouldn’t be performing at this level at 66. I should be over. So you have to, you have to cheat the biology.
[01:01:23] Tim Ferriss: [01:01:23] Yeah. 66. I never, I mean, I suppose I could have tried to do the math. I never would have guessed.
[01:01:28] Do you just wake up some days and find that number to be unbelievable to you? Or is it a foregone conclusion, I guess, because you’re in your own body and go year by year,
[01:01:36]Jerry Seinfeld: [01:01:36] I find it. I find it funny and I find it very, it really makes the game fun. Because I know this should not be happening. I am getting away with murder.
[01:01:48] So I love it really makes it, that’s another thing I believe in, we’ve talked about systemizing. Gamifying is another thing I’m very big on. Let’s make this into a game, you know, whatever the problem is, let’s make it a game to me. It’s a fun game. I, I honestly, you know, I wouldn’t say this around my family, but I don’t care if I dropped dead tomorrow.
[01:02:10] It’s like, I just wanted to, uh, I still feel like I played the game. Well, you know, that’s all I want to feel. I just want to feel like I played the game. Well,
[01:02:20] Tim Ferriss: [01:02:20] what would be an example of gamifying? I mean, I’ve read of course the, about the Seinfeld’s productivity secret the marketing, the crosses on the calendar, which I guess, yeah.
[01:02:31] Jerry Seinfeld: [01:02:31] Well, that’s not really a game. That’s more based that I think stats are good. If you want to improve anything. My trainer Adam, right. I always liked to play this game, or this was the maximum amount of weight you did three months ago for this many seconds or whatever. And then it’s like, that’s so it’s a game now.
[01:02:55] Let’s see if I can keep the reps going for 30 seconds. Last time was 25. So it’s a little game. It’s just it’s again, this just goes back to my. The human brain is a schnauzer. It’s just a stupid little. Contraption that you can easily track. As soon as you tell me, I did a 25 seconds last time. Okay. Let’s see if I can do 30.
[01:03:16] Yep. That’s not wisdom. That’s not intelligence. It’s a stupid little machine. It’s going to do that every single time. Every time you tell someone your last best was 25 seconds, you’re going to try for 30.
[01:03:33] Tim Ferriss: [01:03:33] Well, thinking back to the, what ox do when they’re not in a yoke. Uh, and how disquieted they would be if they were checking Twitter all day.
[01:03:41] Yeah, yeah. In the world of dog training, I know a couple of really high-level dog trainers. And one of the expressions you hear, it’s kind of this mantra, like you would find in the military or something, which is a tired dog, is a happy dog. And just ensuring that your dog is properly exerted. Right. And I think there’s a lot.
[01:04:01] To that as a human also. Yeah. So if, if you’re looking at gamification in the, let’s just say the fitness realm, are there other ways that you’ve applied that to your creative or professional work? I guess you have these logs. So in a way, I mean, you have.
[01:04:17] Jerry Seinfeld: [01:04:17] Yeah, but I don’t believe I don’t score myself creatively.
[01:04:22] I don’t believe in that. Uh, this kind of gets into my thoughts on material. I don’t know if this will. Aluminate this for you, but one time, uh, I love to go on stage at Gotham and hearing about the vaccine today. Got me very excited that maybe I’ll be going back there soon. On 23rd street in the, in the city.
[01:04:47] And that’s what I like to play with material. So I always I’ll go there and I’ll, and I’ll go onstage, I’ll do 20 or 30 minutes of just working on material. And then I like to take questions from the audience, you know? And, um, when I perform for gigs, it’s, the audiences are too big to really take questions.
[01:05:03] It’s too difficult, but, but in a room of a couple hundred people, you can take questions. So one night this guy says to me, um, he says, when you go back to the same city, Twice. Do you ever worry that they’re gonna see the same show you did last time? Or how do you know what you did and how do you know when it’s time to take a piece of material out of your act that you’ve been doing it too long and it needs to be retired and you should do something else.
[01:05:32] You know, I mean, you just kind of reasonable questions, uh, from a, uh, a regular person. And I said, ah, so these pieces I w I was doing tonight, I said, do you think that you could think of things similar to this? And the guy says, Oh God, no, not in a million years. And I went, yeah, that’s what I was thinking.
[01:05:56] So. What does me the point of that story, if I’m going on stage and I’m doing these bits however long, it took me to figure this stupid bit out, you know, and however many years I’ve been doing, which I don’t even know, just be glad I’m doing that. You know, it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. So this goes to my nurturing side of the equation.
[01:06:24] If you’re gutting onstage and standing in front of a group of strangers and trying to make them laugh, God bless you. I don’t give a shit what you do. I don’t care if it’s old stuff, new stuff. I don’t care if you’re dirty, if you’re clean, if you’re going to stand up there by yourself and try and make me laugh, I love you.
[01:06:41] And I’m not going to criticize anything you do beyond that. I’m not going to criticize it and you shouldn’t criticize yourself either. So in other words, there’s no to go back to do I game a fight? No, it’s always a win. If I got up there and tried to do it, I went, yeah. Even if I didn’t reach what I’m trying to reach, even if I, to me, it’s a four out of 10 show.
[01:07:07] I still Pat myself on the back for it. It’s still the wind down. It’s still,
[01:07:12] Tim Ferriss: [01:07:12] when you hear the word successful. Who comes to mind for you and why could be parents could be outside of parents, could be anybody, but for you, when you hear that word, is there anyone who is really a sort of Paragon of what you would consider success or someone you have looked up to as someone who is successful?
[01:07:33] Jerry Seinfeld: [01:07:33] Well, that’s a pretty broad, hyper, hyper broad. It comes down to kind of how you define it also, you know, I think, I dunno if I mean it as a joke, but I, I say a lot. These days, survival is the new success
[01:07:49] and I’m a big, uh, look, Tim, what do you want me to tell you in my business, if you’re 60 plus or I’ll, even if you’re 55 and you’re getting paid to work paid well, you have crushed it. Yeah, so standup comedy, you know, I, I would, I would move this pipe piece of our conversation next to the toxic ecosystem of this world.
[01:08:21] When you have seen the attrition that I have seen, it’s like in the heart of the seat, you know, that book. Yep. Ron Howard made the movie when, when they’re dropping like flies. And, and the, the, the handful that small handful, somebody asked me the other day, how many people, whom, whose careers were made on the tonight show with Johnny Carson are still working?
[01:08:49] I didn’t want to answer the question. So longevity is what I, cause. Cause you had it, you know what I mean? You had it, you had. You had it to, so once you have it, you can only lose it. You know, you can only fail to take care of it. And that’s when we get to health and work ethic and managing yourself so that you don’t break because they’re trying to break you.
[01:09:24] I always tease my friend, Jimmy Fallon. That this is like a sick experiment. These talk show gigs, let let’s take the human being, put them in a studio. For decades doing an hour of television a day and let’s see what breaks it’s, it’s sick. It’s a sick human experiment. I got to take a poke job who. It’s like, they just do it until you’re dead.
[01:09:55] The forever Skinner box. Uh, yeah, that’s brutal. Brutal. I mean, there’s a fantastic book about standup that I read during the virus called seriously funny and. The guy writes only about communities of the fifties and sixties and the introduction of that book, which is like 20 pages long. And he goes through Woody and Lenny and John Rivers and all these great people and how it broke one after the other one, after the other was broken by it, that they, you know, the old worn out.
[01:10:28] Or their brains cracked or their psychology cracked or, you know, it just took them apart. It’s a very, very difficult profession to sustain him. So just to survive to me is the game. That’s my concept of success. Did you beat them at their game? They’re there, they’re just, they designed this thing to kill you.
[01:10:54] Track the travel. You realize what it takes to travel, to go to the airport and fit in your fifties and your sixties to fly on planes, to go to strange cities, to go to hotels, to put on a suit, to go out on stage at eight o’clock at night and run around and yell. You know, and project your physical energy for an hour in front of thousands of people they’re trying to kill you.
[01:11:27] So I have made it into a game like it’s, it’s like Mitzi, I’m going to step on you. And I went, no, no, I’m gonna step on you.
[01:11:38] That’s the game we’re playing. That’s life. Life is they’re trying to kill you. You get this free ride till you’re, let’s be generous 43. And then God goes, you know what? I’m going to move on to the people in there 16 to 23, and I’m going to give them my best. If you want to hang around and you can hang around, but I’m not giving you anything anymore.
[01:12:03] It’s on you now, if you want to stick around, but I couldn’t figure it out.
[01:12:10] Tim Ferriss: [01:12:10] So this, this caught my attention because I’m exactly 43. Perfect. Oh yeah.
[01:12:21]Jerry Seinfeld: [01:12:21] I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna ask you to leave. But I, I got nothing for you. Seriously funny. I’m going to start giving these 15 year old girls amazing stuff.
[01:12:32] And the boys I’m going to give them crazy by that. That’s my focus. My focus is 15 year olds turning them into. Humans you and with you? Yeah. I’m the eight foot sturgeon in the Hudson. Barely limping along. Yeah. Uh, no, one’s going to ask you to leave, but we’re not giving you no food, no help. There was no help.
[01:13:00] Tim Ferriss: [01:13:00] Survival is the new success. Uh I’ll uh, if you have time for one or two questions, then we’ll we’ll I can bring this to a close. I need to go do some interval training, lead some lentils. This is a question that sometimes hits a dead end and I’ll take the blame for that. If it does, you’ve already given a bunch of possible answers to this, but if you had a billboard, metaphorically speaking, that could get a message, a quote, an image, question, anything.
[01:13:25] Out to billions of people. What might you put on that billboard?
[01:13:30] Jerry Seinfeld: [01:13:30] Back in the eighties, I had a friend who was teaching a comedy course at the improv Melrose in LA. And he asked me if I would come in and talk to the class and I said, sure, I went in and there was like, uh, I don’t know. Maybe 20 people in the class, in the atoms in the afternoon.
[01:13:50] And I went up on stage and I said, the fact that you have even signed up for this class is a very bad sign for what you’re trying to do. The fact that you think anyone can help you or there’s anything that you need to learn. You have gone off on a bad track. Because nobody knows anything about any of this.
[01:14:16] And if you want to do it, what I really should do is I should have a giant flag behind me that I would pull a string and it would roll down an honor. The flag would just say two words, just work,
[01:14:36] Tim Ferriss: [01:14:36] just work.
[01:14:40] I love it. Well, that is I think an excellent place to wrap up. Jerry people can find you on all the socials, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook at Jerry Seinfeld. The new book is, is this anything which features your best work across five decades? That’s nuts in comedy and it’s a fascinating book and a hell of a ride.
[01:15:00] I highly recommend people check it out for anyone. Who’s a student of creative process. It doesn’t have to be comedy, but craft, whatever that craft happens to be. I think you are a real exemplar of just doing the work, but doing it in it’s also a systematic. Whey, which is a particular species of working that I think makes a beautiful case study.
[01:15:23] And this has been so much fun for me. I really appreciate you taking the time. I’m Jerry. Thanks. So I love talking with you, Tim, and, and your podcast is the best. Oh, thanks so much. It really makes my day to have the chance to have a conversation with you. I’ve had the bass riff from Seinfeld, going through my head all day and prep for this.
[01:15:44] And it’s a real gift that you’re showcasing and sharing your notes with the world over such a period of time. I mean, it is, I think something that will really. Provide, you know, like you said, just work, but nonetheless we’ll provide so much, so much help to an inspiration to people who are just setting out unlike the 43 year old, eight foot sturgeons, those 15 year olds and 15 to 20 year olds.
[01:16:14] And I will, uh, let you get back to your day, but this has been great. And please do let me know if I can help in any way or with anything else. Oh, it’s been a great pleasure, Tim. Great pleasure. And thank you for the kind words. It’s much appreciated. Absolutely. To everybody listening. We’ll have links to everything, including is this anything in the show notes as per usual at Tim blog slash podcast.