Sunday, November 15, 2015

Seinfeld Is the Purple Rain of Comedy

Yes, the beloved sitcom. 
In SAT terms, it would look like this: (I think)

Seinfeld: Comedy
Purple Rain : Music

What? How? WHY?? 
I’ll explain (or just sum up)
I have some extra time on my hands. 
For the sake of argument, we’re going to focus on Purple Rain the film. Since the whole album is in the film anyway, it’s a no-brainer. 
And we’re going to talk about Seinfeld the show…. also a no-brainer. 

         The fact that either of these works exist, is kind of a miracle. Jerry Seinfeld had some Carson appearances under his belt. He was a regular on the late show circuit and an established vet of the Stand-Up scene. By no means was he a household name. Now we’re gonna give this guy a prime time TV show?! Yup. And the show is gonna be based, not just on the comedy, but (kinda sorta) on the life of Seinfeld (and its creators)
Prince had just released his 4th album, 1999, and had his first top ten hit (Little Red Corvette) not relegated to the R&B charts. Also not a household name. Now we’re gonna let this guy be in a movie?! Yup. Not only that, but the movie is going to be based, not just on his music, but (kinda sorta) on Prince’s life (and its creators)
That’s crazy. 
Imagine giving a comedian his/her own TV show and they only have a couple thousand followers on Instagram or Twitter.** 
Imagine Kanye having a movie about his life right after College Dropout was released. 
We’re not talking about a documentary either( fuckin’ Bieber). Considering what happened as College Dropout was being made*, you have a case for one. We’re talking about a fictional story. An actual Hollywood movie! 
AND NEITHER OF THEM CAN ACT. Jerry spends half the time trying not to break. It’d be interesting to look at clips from Jimmy Fallon’s SNL years and compare them to some Seinfeld scenes. Not hating at all. You try and keep a straight face when Michael Richards or Will Ferrell is on top of their game. 
And we’re not talking an indie film. We’re not talking a USA, CW status TV show. 
We’re talking NBC. We’re talking Warner Bros. 
These are the corporations that bet on Seinfeld and Prince. And they won.
**This fact either gives you hope or disheartens you. Most companies are so afraid of risk nowadays that even if they take chances, their fingers are so far in the pie, no one wants to eat. i.e. Whitney Cummings’ sitcom, or Mulaney on Fox. The days of letting the artists do their thing while taking a risk and giving them a sitcom/movie are long gone. Prince and Jerry were allowed to do what they do
*Just listen to Through the Wire

Prince had Bobby Z, Wendy, Lisa, and the Doctor.
Seinfeld had Elaine, Kramer and George. 
If these “crews” aren’t around, this article is about how more people should watch the original Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three. Instead, we have comedic actors and musicians at the top of their game. 
In Purple Rain,* Wendy is the best actor in The Revolution**.
And when you look at the people behind the scenes, you realize they were needed too. 
Jerry had Larry David and George Shapiro. 
Prince had Albert Magnoli (Director) and Bob Cavallo.(Manager, Producer)
Remember that both Jerry and Prince are dealing with new mediums. Prince had his share of music videos, and Jerry his share of tv appearances. But neither had really acted…. AT ALL. Sorry, I know I said that before. 
Most important, though, is the fact that both were smart enough to know they were going to need help. 
Considering all the stories you hear about Prince and knowing how isolated a stand-up’s writing process can be, this is pretty impressive. And the smarts that both men had lead to two of the greatest works of art in the late 20th Century. 
Apologies for the hyperbole. #clickbait
*Prince did put in a lot of work to be the best actor possible. This included watching every take and making sure he didn’t repeat what was “bad.” Also, he looked cool and confident every time he was onscreen which takes you a helluva long way. 
** The best actor in the movie is Morris Day, despite dropping into kind of an offensive caricature at times. 

Sponge worthy.
Purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.
How’s the family? 

No matter which you choose, they are all classic. Timeless, even. (shout out to Snagglepuss)
And there are more. Purple Rain has a few more visual type references, but both pieces are in the lexicon. We still talk about both. Fondly. 
We talk about where we were or how we felt about the Seinfeld finale. 
We remember the first time we saw Purple Rain. (in my case, I remember when I fell in love with it.)
We can try hella hard to replicate Kramer’s entrances. Or Elaine’s dancing. 
We do the same for Prince’s splits or the steps to The Bird. 
Of course, you might be thinking every great show or memorable movie has its quotes and choreography. And you would be right.
But the lasting legacy that Seinfeld and Purple Rain have torches any sitcom or rock n roll movie you could bring up. 
No other sitcom after Seinfeld has had the lasting effect that Seinfeld has. And if you quote a popular TV show nowadays you don’t exactly make laughs with those references*. Maybe enemies. But not laughs. 
Seinfeld references unite us all. And if people don’t like it, they probably shouldn’t be your friend. 
You have your Seinfeld borrowers like Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, New Girl, just to name a few. You even have your stand-up centered sitcoms that were successful; Home Improvement with Tim Allen and Everybody Love Raymond with Ray Romano. NEWS FLASH: No one’s really quoting either of these. Unless they just woke up from falling asleep in ’97. 

As far as movies that borrowed from Purple Rain go:
“Misunderstood, under-six-foot artist from the Midwest with dreams of making it big who doesn’t look the part of the music he performs. His fellow peers are rivals that will spare no expense in trying to embarrass him. Gets a pretty girl, but loses a pretty girl to a rival. Lives at home with parents; got beef with parents. Someone gets shot. The world is closing in. Music saves him. Has to battle in club to save rep. End result is an Oscar. The world is even in more love with him. I’m talking about 8 Mile, what were you thinking about?” - from Questlove’s “33 Reasons Why Prince is Hip Hop”

We can agree that this is the only HUGE rock and roll movie other than Purple Rain. And all 8 Mile has is one of the most recognizable songs in the last 15 years. No small feat, but Purple Rain has, like, 4. And it’s album/movie is over 30 years old. 
[real quick, real quick. And this is kinda crazy- Seinfeld had an episode (The Betrayal) that was presented backwards. At the end of Darling Nikki, there is a message from Prince that’s backwards. Also don’t forget the bouts that Seinfeld had with feminine wardrobe and accessories.]

*bazinga? more like barfzinga. HammIriiight? "Hug it out bitch" died out a while ago, “I don’t think so, Tim” died with the year- 2000-end-of-the-
World rumors. I can go on. But why bother? You know you still quote Seinfeld hella often. I know I do. 

Prince and Jerry have had their share of ladies. 
Sheila E, Vanity, Apollonia, Carmen Electra.
Courtney Cox, Teri Hatcher, Catherine Keener, Anna Gunn, Jennifer Coolidge, Christine Taylor, Kristin Davis, Debra Messing, Lauren Graham, Amanda Peet, Marcia Cross (Not a complete list)
And if I have to tell you which list is for whom, then there’s nothing more that can be done for you. Good-bye.

Neither artist has done anything as big as the show or the movie/album. That Summer of 1984 for Prince and 1990 - 1998 for Seinfeld were the pinnacle for each of them. 
No one really talks about Around the World in A Day (follow up album to Purple Rain) or Bee Movie. Some people are talking about Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Some people are also talking about Prince’s new all ladies group 3RDEYEGIRL… They might be the same people. These people are most likely my friends. 
Most people still talk about Seinfeld. Most people still talk about Purple Rain. Also probably my friends. 
This was the pinnacle for both parties. Their Festivus. Their Afterworld. It’s not that their work after wasn’t good, it’s just not AS good.What are we looking at for Jerry? Bee Movie? Comedian? Comedian is a pretty good documentary and Bee Movie is Bee Movie.
For Prince, scattered hits litter the paisley devastation that Purple Rain left in its wake. Raspberry Beret. Sign o’ The Times. Head. Diamonds and Pearls. There are a lot of hits but no single album holds a candle to Purple Rain. 
As Chris Rock said, “There’s no Baby Be Mine (in reference to Thriller) on Purple Rain.” You don’t skip tracks when you’re listening to Purple Rain. Unless your Grandparents or kids are around then you probably skip Darling Nikki out of respect. 
It’s a safe bet you skip the other Prince movies:Under the Cherry Moon and Graffitti Bridge. They each produced some good singles, but most people forget that Prince made a couple of other movies. 
In addition to Jerry and Prince, this was also the tip top for the supporting players involved. Jason Alexander: chillin. Michael Richards: chillin and unfortunately, it might not be his choice. All the musicians in Purple Rain continue to work. In fact, both Purple Rain and Seinfeld saw the ladies thrive after each was finished. Let’s not forget Julia Louis Dreyfus, who seems to get better with age. Her work in Veep is fantastic. And then you have Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman who are also Emmy winners (¾ of an EGOT) for their scoring work on hit TV shows. 

Neither Jerry or Prince wanted to be stuck doing the same thing. Prince was over it. He was done touring. He called off the Purple Rain Tour with not much fanfare. No World tour was scheduled. It stayed stateside. 
Jerry called off the show after 9 seasons. 
In doing so, both of them turned down MILLIONS. They both left the glory of the show and the movie/album on their terms. 
Artists WITH integrity. 

Maybe this makes complete sense to you. Or maybe it was just a weird thought in this old brain of mine. Regardless, two of my favorite things are remarkably similar. Similar in execution, influence, legacy, and creation. 
I don’t know how I saw it. But it’s there. 
I only wish that Jerry kinda dug wearing the puffy shirt. Because this article would’ve written itself. 

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