For nine years, comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld starred in a sitcom on NBC called Seinfeld, in which he played himself with the premise of a standup comic’s process between life experiences and standup material. Seinfeld is often famously referred to as “a show about nothing,” but over the course of its 180 episodes, they tackled issues of gender, sex, dating, race, homophobia, disability, birth control, abortion, smoking, and alcoholism, influenced the world of comedy forever, and remains a timeless classic to this day. Seinfeld wasn’t a show about nothing – it was a show about everything. Jerry Seinfeld would not make a true “show about nothing” until he teamed up with Crackle, years after Seinfeld went off the air , to make a web series called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. In each episode, Seinfeld drives a different car with a different comedian in the passenger seat and they go and get coffee at a different coffee shop. In his first guest Larry David’s words, “You’ve finally made a show about nothing.” There have been some really terrific guests on the show throughout its history. So, in honor of Netflix’s acquisition of Comedians in Cars, here are the 15 funniest and most enjoyable episodes.
15. Sarah Silverman: “I’m Going to Change Your Life Forever”
Sarah Silverman is one of the best comics out there, but she also has an impeccably dark sense of humor, which has led to a lot of controversy surrounding her jokes. She talks very nonchalantly about rape and racism and sexism and religion and, to some people, she’s a straight shooter and they love how blunt she is with these very real issues, but to others, she’s a problem. She’s faced controversy for comments about child abuse and using racial slurs – but she doesn’t care, and that’s what makes Sarah Silverman well, Sarah Silverman. As she and Seinfeld drive around Los Angeles in a 1969 Jaguar, they talk about her upbringing in New Hampshire, the friends the two of them share in the comedy biz, and how Silverman’s face looks like a sock puppet.
14. Bill Maher: “The Comedy Team of Smug and Arrogant”
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is not a show about politics. Real Time with Bill Maher is a show about politics. Comedians in Cars is a show about comedy and comedians and the comedic process. But when Jerry’s guest was Bill Maher, a comic whose humor derives almost entirely from the world of politics, they had to discuss political views. Jerry talked more about politics when Maher was his guest than when Barack Obama was his guest. But Maher has a terrific ability to make politics funny, and in the middle of 2015, when Maher was on the show, politics was finding a way to make itself funny as the guy from Celebrity Apprentice was preparing to run for the office of President of the United States. But it’s not the political stuff that makes this a great episode – as with many Comedians in Cars episodes, it’s the reminiscing that Seinfeld does with his guest about their early days of doing standup. The part where Seinfeld and Maher discuss the idea of performing as a comedy duo by the name Smug and Arrogant is an episode highlight.
13. Jon Stewart: “The Sound of Virginity
Trevor Noah has been doing a fine job of hosting The Daily Show for the past couple of years, but no one will ever be able to top Jon Stewart. Under Stewart’s reign, the show was a ratings giant, a trailblazer in the realm of news satire, won 22 Emmy Awards, and managed to get nominated for news and journalism awards, despite purporting to be nothing but satirical comedy. Everyone who’s done political satire in the past thirty years owes a debt to Jon Stewart. And that’s why it was so fascinating to see him converse with Jerry Seinfeld. Stewart is the king of political satire and current events commentary, while Seinfeld is the king of observational humor about everyday situations. So, it was like seeing the champions of two different sports get together to discuss technique over coffee. It was fascinating. Plus, we got an insight into the hectic process of making an episode of The Daily Show. Delightful.
12. Bill Burr: “Smoking Past the Band”
Bill Burr is easily one of the funniest people alive. He’s certainly one of the only comics to become wildly famous and never lose the common touch. With a lot of comics, when they make it big, they start doing material about being rich and schmoozing with celebrities and it’s not entertaining or relatable for normal people to watch. But Bill Burr is just a regular guy. That’s part of what made his conversation with Jerry Seinfeld so fun to watch. They’re just talking about things that regular people talk about. It’s not a vapid Hollywood conversation like the highly flawed Lorne Michaels episode. This is one entertaining watch. Also, the fact that Burr constantly acknowledges anything he says that could be misconstrued by bloggers and YouTubers as politically incorrect or insensitive is always a joy to watch.
11. Michael Richards: “It’s Bubbly Time, Jerry”
As it turns out, Michael Richards is just as wacky in real life as Cosmo Kramer is in the TV show. A reunion of the two former fictional neighbors would’ve been fantastic, no matter what, but this was a truly exceptional episode on top of that. They tell each other what their favorite little pieces of performance are from Seinfeld and then, when they get to the coffee shop, Richards puts on a weird little blond wig to disguise himself from fans. Then, as soon as they get out of the car, he spots a pedestrian who looks exactly like his disguise and they get a picture together. This bizarre coincidence led to the producers putting a disclaimer at the beginning of the episode to ensure that nothing had been planned. After an amiable conversation in the coffee shop, Richards and Seinfeld address the elephant in the room: Richards’ meltdown at the Laugh Factory, where he yelled a bunch of racial slurs at some black audience members. Richards clearly regrets what he did and has been seeking redemption ever since, and his friend Jerry Seinfeld will support him all the way.
10. Trevor Noah: “That’s the Whole Point of Apartheid, Jerry”
Jerry Seinfeld and his guests usually don’t talk about anything during their episodes beyond what kind of coffee they like, how much they know about cars, and making humorous observations about those two topics. But when Trevor Noah, the South African host of The Daily Show, came on the show, they actually talked about something real. Noah grew up during Apartheid, when the interracial relationship between his black mother and his white father was illegal, and they discuss this in depth on the show. They manage to make the conversation somehow enlightening and funny at the same time. They also discuss the day that Noah found out he would be taking over hosting duties of The Daily Show from Jon Stewart, which is the kind of juicy behind-the-scenes story you expect to hear on this show. All in all, a resounding success for the Comedians in Cars format.
9. J.B. Smoove: “Everybody Respects a Bloody Nose”
J.B. Smoove is a guy who is never not funny. In everything he’s in, particularly Curb Your Enthusiasm, he never fails to get a laugh. On Curb Your Enthusiasm, he plays Larry David’s sidekick. Larry was never supposed to have a sidekick, and even when Smoove came in to play Leon in season 6, it was never intended to be a large role. But he was so incredibly funny that they’ve kept him on ever since, and his role has grown larger and larger each season. You can’t get enough of him. And based on his episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, it seems like he never turns it off. He’s always that hilarious and brash and full of energy. It’s a joy to watch!
8. Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks: “I Want Sandwiches, I Want Chicken”
When you consider the size of legends in comedy, you can’t really get much bigger than Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. They started out as writers for Sid Caesar along with some of the greatest writers who ever lived, like Neil Simon and Woody Allen. Then Reiner went on to make some of the greatest comedy movies and television of all time, from The Dick Van Dyke Show to The Jerk, while Mel Brooks became the undisputed king of the movie parody with films like Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and Spaceballs. On Comedians in Cars, in an episode that was supposed to just feature Reiner as the guest, Seinfeld is invited to join the two legends for dinner, which they’ve apparently done every night for half a century. To see Jerry Seinfeld, Mel Brooks, and Carl Reiner in the same room together is quite the sight to behold.
7. Will Ferrell: “Mr. Ferrell, For the Last Time, We’re Going to Ask You to Put the Cigar Out”
The Will Ferrell episode of Comedians in Cars, as he and Seinfeld drive around Marina del Rey in a 1970 Plymouth Superbird, gives the sort of insight into the life of a movie star that you don’t usually get in talk shows. He talks about working on the editing of the movies and attending the test screening and the focus groups and listening to people through a two-way mirror as they talk about how much he gets on their nerves. It’s a much less glamorous portrayal of the glitzy Hollywood industry than we’re used to. And, as one might expect from Will Ferrell of Anchorman and Step Brothers, this episode is also one of the most genuinely funny instalments of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
6. Larry David: “Larry Eats a Pancake”
It was only fitting that the first comedian to feature on Jerry Seinfeld’s new show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee was Larry David. Back when they were both on the comedy club circuit in New York is when Jerry was approached by executives from NBC about the possibility of making a series for them. Jerry enlisted Larry’s talents in creating that series, and their combination of contrasting worldviews made for a very unique style indeed, and the rest is history. So, it made sense that when Jerry came to make a new series, he enlisted Larry’s talents once again to make his odd new format work. What’s beautiful about the episode is that it’s clear that no one makes these two laugh more than each other.
5. Steve Martin: “If You See This on a Toilet Seat, Don’t Sit Down”
When you listen to Steve Martin talk about the art of standup comedy, you can tell he misses it. You can tell he hates being stuck in the doldrums of trite, formulaic, conventional Hollywood blockbuster product and misses the days when he would step up on a stage with an arrow through his head and a banjo in his arms and make thousands of people laugh their asses off. Seinfeld and Martin discuss Martin’s groundbreaking comedy book Born Standing Up (a comedy book both in the sense that it’s about comedy and in the sense that it’s a hilarious read), working on Saturday Night Live without ever being regular cast members, and which new kids on the block they admire in the comedy world. Seeing Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Martin riffing together is a comedy nerd’s dream come true.
4. Chris Rock: “Kids Need Bullying”
Chris Rock is the undisputed greatest comic in the world. He combines social commentary – particularly involving race – with his unique brand of humor and gets huge laughs for it. A lot of people know him as the zebra from Madagascar or the black one from Grown Ups, but comedy fans know that Chris Rock is the best comedian out there. And it’s not just that his material is good – his performing style is unparalleled. He’s always on when he’s out there on stage. And that’s why it was interesting to see what he’s like during everyday life. He’s calmer and quieter, but still really funny and watchable. He and Seinfeld go way back. They started out together in the late 20th century. These guys are old friends. The episode is also notable for tackling a serious social issue as they get pulled over by the cops, at which point Rock gets candid about what it feels like to be a black man in America getting stopped by the police.
3. Barack Obama: “Just Tell Him You’re the President”
Jerry got Barack Obama to appear on his show right at the height of his second term, in 2015. He’d gotten Osama bin Laden killed, he’d gotten same sex marriage legalized across the nation, and he was working on the bill for Obamacare. When Obama was on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, the President went down to California to do the interview in the comedian’s garage. But that’s a podcast, it’s audio, and the whole format is Marc’s garage. The format of Comedians in Cars means that Jerry can travel around, it’s loose, and it’s visual. So, he goes all the way to Washington to see Obama in the White House. They try to drive around the block, but the Secret Service guys won’t allow it, even if Obama’s driving himself and making the order. So, they stay at the White House and talk politics. But while other interviewers talk to Obama about policies or Republicans or geopolitical tensions, Jerry is more interested in the Presidential lifestyle and getting to know Obama as a person.
2. Jim Carrey: “We Love Breathing What You’re Burning, Baby”
There’s a growing misconception that Jim Carrey, once the biggest movie star in the world, is going crazy, but it’s clear from this episode, as we see Carrey going through his normal, everyday life. He climbs over his gate when he has the key, he drops his sweetener into his coffee from as high up as he can get – but that’s not because he’s crazy. It’s because, in his own words, he wants to “keep life interesting, Jerry.” Jim Carrey’s not crazy. He’s just gone clear. Just because someone realizes the vapidity of show business and hates the concept of celebrities and the idea of phony media personalities controlling the cultural zeitgeist and hates being trapped in the corporate capitalist rat race and wants to actually experience the world for what it really is, they call him crazy!
1. Garry Shandling: “It’s Great That Garry Shandling Is Still Alive”
There’s a tragic kind of melancholy in that the Garry Shandling episode of Comedians in Cars is called “It’s Great That Garry Shandling Is Still Alive,” and it premiered in January 2016, and in the episode, they discuss death and medical problems and getting old, and in March 2016, Shandling died in real life. In Comedians in Cars, the comedy legend behind It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show gives Jerry a candid interview about losing old friends and deteriorating with old age as they wander through the places of their lives – the comedy clubs, the TV sets – and reflect. They riff off of each other, making witty remarks about the foibles of being a wealthy white man and how no one wants to hear them complain about it. It’s a beautiful episode, especially if you’re familiar with Shandling’s work and you’re aware of the weight and influence that he carries in the world of funny.