I just saw HBO's create-an-award TV show devoted to Jerry Seinfeld with esteemed guests Garry Shandling, Chris Rock, and Robert "all I can do now is impersonate Rodney Dangerfield saying 'I'll tell ya...'" Klein. I wasn't surprised to see Anderson Cooper as host, given the HBO/Time Warner love affair. But what scared the hell out of me was his admission that he and Jerry are good friends: that the Jerry who claims to hate convention can be close to a Pradafied teleprompter machine-man. I've been a big Seinfeld fan for a long time--but probably, not like you. I grew up right near him; his sister lived on my block; his personality colored the sense of humor that swathed my high school (see this book review, and this review of his documentary Comedian). So, yes, I admire the guy, and feel as if he's a part of me. For that reason, though, it was pretty strange to observe what he's become: how obsessed he seems to be with pristine, $25,000 suits and shiny ties (despite the Porsche obsession, this is the guy who used to endorse not caring about luxury, staying fanatic about white sneakers, but never skewing posh in any sense of the word); how humble he says he is, and pretends to be, but how he obviously thinks a lot of himself (he should be better at hiding this); how above all the nonsense he places his concerns. (When Robert Klein said that he found Larry David's show "mean-spirited"--a gem that came right after his bizarrely racist assertion that Chris Rock is the "great Black hope"--all Jerry would do is mildly smirk. Jerry never comments on issues like this; he stays removed like a politician; even when he got Michael Richards on Letterman to apologize for being, well, Michael Richards, it was just his attempt, he said, to give the man a chance to speak without endorsements of any kind--and I guess we can thank God for that, at least in the case, but it still says something about the teflon ComediOn). Thing is, I still love and respect the guy. But it's clear that he's elevated his stature in his mind, and is now playing this role so as to become Historic--as if everything he says is being documented. He's right in one sense: he will be historic. For his TV show, though. His material was always funny, and certainly innovative for 1980. But lest you've been dead for 15 years, you know that comedy has moved on from 'didja ever notice' jokes about airplanes. I still appreciate Seinfeld's thoughts--they can skew brilliant, and his idea that people don't pay to see you but to see what you've worked out, what you actually have to say on one particular day, is smart. But the tight, observational stuff he does seems a little too rehearsed in our improv-drenched comedy culture--and then it doesn't excite, unless it's brilliant, which isn't all the time. In fact, Seinfeld, the man, seems a little too rehearsed, even as an interviewee--this from the guy who made fun of Shandling for jotting down a few notes for his panel discussion. I can't say I fault Seinfeld for all of this when networks devote shows to his legacy, and everyone in the comedy world bows down to him. But what made Seinfeld, the comic, great right before his show came to air was the fact that you felt as if what he was saying was new each time he said it. And even though the panelists touched on that gift last night, it doesn't come across in Seinfeld's new material anymore. He's a practiced craftsman of the generic perception-joke (sans the timeless, dark wit and pure anger that surrounds Larry David's thoughts), and that just may be too outdated for some. I'll always be in his corner, but it's important to note this development in his persona. I love that he said award shows are stupid, actors never do anything short of playing pretend, and that he would have much rather been off in a corner that night making fun of what a crock of shit this very show was. I just wish I believed it all.