Long before Jerry Seinfeld signed a deal with NBC to develop his show about nothing, he had nothing but the highest of standards in mind for such a sitcom.
In a 1987 interview with Milling About host Robin Milling—which has never before aired anywhere—the then-33-year-old funnyman chatted about his influences, his development as a performer, the role of confidence in his craft, and the possibility of headlining on the small screen.
When asked, “Do you have any interest in having your own show?” Jerry said:
“No. Not unless it was by some very high-quality people. A Cheers type of situation or something like that.
“But I have no desire to be part of most of the crap you see on TV, just so I could say, ‘Hey, I got a TV show!’ That’s no big deal.
As to which crap in particular, Jerry added, “The Facts of Life. Things like that.”
And speaking of future aspirations, the standup said: “I don’t really have any. I just want to get good at this.
“To me, I feel like I’m a musician and this is my instrument and I want to master it.
“I’m sure I’ll end up doing a TV series, I’m sure I’ll end up doing a movie or something like that.
“But my real aspiration is to get good at this, this is my thing,” added Jerry, speaking at his studio apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—which would become the model for his pad on Seinfeld.
He also elaborated on his notion that, in order to grow, comedians have to risk not being funny.
“You always have to try something that you don’t know how it’s going to go. Experimentation, I think, is part of what every human being has to do to become anything. You got to try things.
“You never know if you can do anything before you try it. So with material, there are things that are funny about me that I don’t even know about. Audiences tell you.
“You just do it and then they laugh. So it’s just trial and error—of trying all different things, making faces, moving, saying different things. You just try, try, try.”
Jerry also reflected on his artistic growth.
“In the old days you think, I think the audience will laugh at this,” he said.
“And now I think it starts more from what I believe—that this is funny and I make it work because I believe in it.
“But before, you’re kind of like following the audience around. It’s kind of like the tail is wagging the dog when you start out.
“And then as you go on you start to have your own opinions.
“You get more confidence, and you can never have too much confidence in comedy—in anything, really.
“As long as it doesn’t become arrogance.”
To hear Jerry Seinfeld’s full lost interview—in which he also recalls selling florescent light bulbs over the phone and getting caught by the cops for hawking $1 jewelry on the street—click here.