Jerry Seinfeld may be the ideal comic for a benefit show. He’s a clever generalist, relaxed and nice, very nice. He does not offend gray-haired mothers, frighten small children or get too wiggy for the working crowd.
As headliner for the Wellness Community’s $100-a-plate dinner and show at the Improv here Monday, he was funny without jagged edges. His 35-minute performance amused but stayed clear of danger.
Sam Kinison fans might have been horrified, but not the organizers of the event, who were trying to raise money to open a Santa Ana branch of the Santa Monica-based cancer support group (see accompanying story). Seinfeld’s gentlemanly routine lacked toxic brilliance but had several bright, quirky moments. Besides, it kept in step with the, uh, wellness feeling of the event.
Seinfeld’s most provocative bit dealt with horses, like how is it we can turn them into glue? And what about horse trailers: Do they have to be that undignified, with the horse’s derriere always hanging out? Doesn’t that bother them, make them embarrassed? That’s about as ugly as it got.
The rest of the time, Seinfeld stayed with tried-and-true material. There were some takes on Orange County–particularly Irvine, “the kind of town where everybody seems like they got a haircut that day.” Strolling up and down Irvine streets brings to mind “architects’ renderings, where everything’s perfect.”
From there, it wasn’t too far a reach to the Santa Ana Freeway and a bit on traffic. Seinfeld wondered about the future: When they say it’s going to get worse, “do they mean it will start going backwards?”
Other familiar passages centered on shopping, being a kid and the differences between men and women. Seinfeld found some interesting slants. When he visits the supermarket, for instance, he sometimes reflects while walking down the aisles and listening to the music: “Hmmm, I don’t think I have that album.”
Dennis Wolfberg served as host for the evening, providing several brief monologues during the show, which also featured Steve Shaefer and Hiram Kasten.
Once you got accustomed to Wolfberg’s delivery (he does some unsettling things with his bulgy eyes, and finishes most of his jokes with a sonic exclamation mark that makes it sound as though his vocal chords are looking for a way out of his head), there were riffs to enjoy.
In keeping with the theme of the benefit, Wolfberg focused on health and medical routines, many of which dealt with childbirth. Asserting that the Lamaze technique was developed by a “disciple of Josef Mengele,” Wolfberg said that asking a woman to have natural childbirth is “like asking a man to tolerate a vasectomy by hyperventilating.”
The husband’s role, meanwhile, is to “keep your wife from taking medication. When she begs for it, you just say ‘no.’ “