Seinfeld, clearly, harbors a fondness of comedy’s past, and revels in the freedom to kibitz with fellow practitioners. In the latest batch of “Comedians” episodes, he hangs out with Jerry Lewis in an episode taped prior to the prickly star’s death last year, Dave Chappelle and Alec Baldwin, among others.
“Do you ever think about your own relevancy? I don’t either,” Chappelle deadpans, which is a pretty fair description of the underlying tone of the whole exercise.
Like Seinfeld, Gadsby talks a good deal about the nature of stand-up comedy. But where he revels in the form, she suggests that she might have to quit comedy altogether, concluding that in a comedy show, “there’s no room for the best part of the story.”
Speaking soberly about the pain she experienced growing up as a lesbian, Gadsby rejects self-deprecating humor, discusses painful moments of victimization and flatly tells her audience that she isn’t there to make them feel comfortable or defuse the tension inherent in her act.
Although that bubbles over into what sounds like rage, she stresses that anger is never constructive, citing the need to share her story because of the difference it would have made to hear others do so when she was younger.
Speaking of the predatory men who historically “control our stories,” Gadsby delivers a plea to combat that by creating forums for new voices.
“Laughter is not our medicine,” she says. “Stories hold our cure.”
Watched together, Seinfeld’s series and Gadsby’s special provide windows into a conversation about what comedy is, and a debate about what it should be. While that wasn’t necessarily the effect that Netflix was seeking, it’s a serendipitous case of generating a thoughtful bang for its bucks.
“Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” returns July 6 on Netflix, and “Hannah Gadsby: Nanette” is currently playing.