The School of Seinfeld
“You know the way you smell when you first come home from the beach? Well, I want to make a cologne that captures the essence of that smell.”
Cosmo Kramer’s entrepreneurial spirit throughout 180 episodes of Seinfeld created some of the series finest moments. From cologne that captures the essence of the beach to making your own pizza pie, Kramer’s often unsuccessful entrepreneurial schemes never deterred him from conjuring more creative ideas in the pursuit of innovation.
Undeterred and relentlessly motivated, on occasion one of his ideas would pay off as is the case in season 5 when he successfully pitches a coffee table book about coffee tables to Pendant Publishing. When to hold onto an idea and when to fold or pivot is an important lesson in our professional and business lives.
In 2008 I watched a lot of Seinfeld when working on designing an infographic that graphed re-occurring themes and references from all 9 seasons. In a show that claims to be about nothing, there was always clever writing and impeccable timing that belied some of the character’s flaws and darker themes. There are certainly some interesting life and business lessons to take away behind the wacky characters and bizarre storylines.
George begins eating a candy bar with knife and fork.
Mr. Morgan: Uh, what the hell are you doing?
George: I am eating my dessert. How do you eat it, with your hands?
At an earlier meeting, George witnesses someone eating a candy bar with a knife and fork. When he decides to start doing this himself, he does so with gusto and conviction. How many times have you been in a situation that you felt uncertain or unprepared for? Be decisive and approach the situation with confidence, no matter the potential outcomes. George didn’t overanalyse the situation, he made a decision and owned it.
Often when describing specific scenarios from episodes, the humour can be lost as it is so specific. In an interview, Jerry Seinfeld said “even things that aren’t funny become funny because they’re so specific”. Seinfeld was one of the first shows to draw its humour from the minutiae of everyday life rather than broader contextual humour. Working in branding and advertising, where ideas are lauded and cut down every minute, reframing an idea in a different context can sometimes give it legs it didn’t have before. A pez dispenser doesn’t seem like a particularly funny object on its own but when Jerry places one on Elaine’s knee during a piano recital, it is one of the funniest moments of the series.
To this day, I often re-watch episodes and they remain to be as relevant and as funny as they were when they first aired. Who would of thought watching four morally flawed characters experience and scrutinise the everyday could be so relevantly funny. As Jerry would say – “The fabric of society is very complex, George.”