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April 29: Jerry Seinfeld

Lawrence Bush
April 29, 2010

jerry seinfeldJerry Seinfeld, the creator (with Larry David) of the most popular situation-comedy in television history, was born on this date in 1954. His father was a Galician Jew; his mother of Syrian-Jewish descent. Seinfeld has cited “The Abbott and Costello Show” and pioneering radio host Jean Shepherd as major influences. Like “The Honeymooners” before it, “Seinfeld” was filled with physical comedy, simple scenarios about friendship and social irresponsibility, and richly caricaturish characters. Seventy-six million people watched the series finale in 1998. His co-star Jason Alexander is also Jewish, and Julia Louise-Dreyfus has one Jewish paternal grandfather who fought in the French Resistance. The show was also carefully apolitical and its characters were ethical delinquents, which perhaps helped feed a coarsening of American culture in the 1990s. Jerry Seinfeld himself was — gasp! — a campaign contributor to George W. Bush in 2000.
“Being an actor is the art of becoming other people; being a comedian is the art of learning who you are.” —Jerry Seinfeld

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.