Seinfeld and Kramer on The Creative Process

My wife and I were watching Jerry Seinfeld’s new webisode series “Comedians in Cars Drinking Coffee.”

You should probalby stop reading this post right now and go watch it.

Go ahead.

(pause)

OK, fun right?

In this episode, Michael Richards (Kramer) and Jerry talk about the creative process of making “Seinfeld”. I transcribed this rich dialog from the video.

Michael: You know those performers who just love it?

Jerry: Yeah.

Michael: There’s always a struggle with me.

Jerry: Meh. No. No. I don’t accept the judging of process. It doesn’t matter that you like to rehearse with your nose up against the flat, sayin’ lines. That doesn’t matter.

Michael: You used to see me back there doing that, huh?

Jerry: Yes. We’re all trying to get to the same island. Whether you swim, fly, surf, or skydive in…it doesn’t matter. What matters is when the red light comes on.

Michael: OK. Because sometimes I look back at the show and I think I should’ve enjoyed myself more.

Jerry: Michael, I could say that myself. But that was not our job. Our job is not for us to enjoy it, our job was to make sure they enjoy it. And that’s what we did. That’s what we did.

Michael: Ya know, that’s beautiful, that’s beautiful…

The Creative Process from Seinfeld and Kramer
The Creative Process from Seinfeld and Kramer

So rich. I loved seeing these incredibly talented (and hilarious) people have a heart-to-heart about the creative process of producing such an epic show.

And I can empathize with Michael Richards. I can get too serious while working on creative projects. When I think back, I do have regrets about how I get to the island Jerry refers to.

But should I feel that way? Should you?

Honest questions…

What do you think about the creative process?

Who do we create for? Ourselves, others, or both?

“What matters is when the red light comes on.” True?

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Author: Andrew Zahn

I'm a son, husband, dad, business owner, actor and good sleeper/eater. On this blog, I pave a highway for creative growth by providing food, water, and shelter for those wishing to live, work, and play with creative zest.

  • “Make sure they enjoy it.” You know, I’m not sure I’ve given any thought to audience, you know? In my quest to be “real” maybe I’ve written to much for myself?

    • Whatever it is, if you do it with JOY others will enjoy it as well. People respond to passion.

      • Yes… passion is infectious and that will connect to others.

    • Sometimes we can think too much of the audience, causing us to create something we don’t necessarily love.

      So I like what Jim said about being passionate. But I do think you have to consider the audience at some point, otherwise we may not always form as strong of a connection as we could’ve had we not considered them.

  • Daryl

    I don’t know what Seinfeld meant by “the island”, and it is interesting to hear “successful” people talking about regrets. I constantly make choices about how I live my life, and what I call “mistakes” (or “sin”) are usually the times when someone got hurt (me or someone else). Those are the experiences from which I can learn, to update my worldview and make future choices that bring joy rather than pain. When I simply am most truly and uniquely myself, I act for the good of all – not for myself nor for others. Perhaps “the island” is not what we think of as “success”, but rather “the zone” in which all is joy… I think it only seems deserted until we find it, and it is closer than we think. Perhaps we will be able to spend more time where we wish to be when we think of it as home rather than a destination.

    This reminds me of an Anne Lamott a friend highlighted recently: “Joy is peace on its feet, and peace is joy at rest.” Of course, she attributed this quote to someone else.

    • Yeah… what IS that island? A finished product? A zen of sorts? Hmmmm.

      I always love your comments Daryl–you inspire me to think of creativity in new and refreshing ways! Thanks.

  • Alexandra

    I also loved this part of Jerry and Michael’s discussion (and the whole series–the Mel Brooks/Carl Reiner is also wonderful). I am torn — I really think that in terms of the committing the “red light,” that is true to a point, especially when your actual career is built (and a lot of people’s time and livelihood) on ensuring people love your work. But there should be also some joy for the person doing the creating. So I don’t think it should all or nothing. Hopefully there is joy and pleasure for both the creator and those responding to the creative person’s work. But great thoughts to ponder. Thanks for a thoughtful post as always, Andrew!

    • I agree Alexandra! the Brooks/Reiner is so fantastic and inspiring. I sure hope I have that much strength and vigor when I’m their age.

      I like what you said in your comment about there being a sense of joy in the person creating. I don’t think it’s helpful to say the process doesn’t matter.

      How we create should be important as well as what we create.

  • Love this reference. Thought I was the only one watching it. The Larry David episode is killer. My philosophy on the creative process is, who cares how you get from A to B, as long as you get to B? Sometimes the best of you comes out via unexpected, unintentional, and unconventional methods. The only thing that matters is the finished product.

    • I love the Larry David episode… as well as the Mel Brooks/Carl Reiner one.

      Everyone’s process is different, so why are we trying to make everyone else’s process just like our own?

  • I think we create for both – ourselves and others. When we get inspiration, when we set out to create something, it almost becomes necessary for us to finish it. Creating something is our way of getting out what was in our head and heart. At the same time, others benefit from our creations. And what good is creating something if it simply sits in our house, never used, never seen, never appreciated?

    • It’s soooooo much more rewarding (and powerful) when it’s shared!

      I hear ya Jason!

  • Scrollwork

    I wonder if the artists driven to drink do so because the creative process is such hell. Or because their fear and insecurity are just so overwhelming.

    Do I enjoy the process? When I’m writing, no. When I’m designing quirky clothing, yes. When I’m choreographing, yes. When I’m rehearsing for a dance performance for hours on end—ick.

    • It can be painful.

      I like that you divided up your different creative projects and your level of passion concerning each–because each project is so different, isn’t it?

      My wife loves the whole rehearsal process, but me, not so much. I’d rather just get to the performance.