Jerry Seinfeld’s Web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is an exercise in simplicity: Seinfeld drives around the city with a fellow comic. For the most part, the comedians chosen work on a similar level to Seinfeld’s: Larry David, Michael Richards, George Wallace, even Sarah Silverman, whose raunchy material is a major departure from Seinfeld’s observational quips, has lots in common with the comedy vet. So, I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued when I saw that in one of the latest episodes, Seinfeld meets up with Internet comedienne Miranda Sings.
What’s interesting about Miranda is that she’s a character, almost bordering on performance art. The creation of Colleen Ballinger, Miranda Sings is a send up of the delusional sad sacks who think themselves superstars because they post videos on YouTube. In an almost seamless performance, Ballinger portrays the sour, self-involved Miranda Sings, who has little patience for Seinfeld, who plays with Ballinger gamely, but doesn’t seem always at ease.
It’s because Seinfeld is a creature of early 90s stand-up, that the pairing of Miranda and he makes for such a fascinating show to watch. Unlike the other Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, the interaction between the two comics is rife with passive aggression and hostility. Miranda lives in a world in which she reigns supreme, and Seinfeld’s vintage schtick doesn’t fit; Seinfeld, for his part, has built a comic persona that is the ultimate everyman: on Seinfeld, his alter-ego was unlikable, but it wasn’t to the degree of Miranda Sings’ persona, which is meant to be ugly.
And though Seinfeld is the bigger star, it’s Miranda who’s the star of the episode. Ballinger steals the show with consummate skill. And though Seinfeld’s a master at what he does, no one can accuse the guy of being edgy: but Miranda is – she’s proudly unappealing in a way that would make the misanthropes of Seinfeld cringe. And Seinfeld is brave in letting his world be intruded by something so current as Miranda Sings. For the most part, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is a congratulatory back-slapping fest in which Seinfeld and a comic will make each other laugh (at the exclusion of the viewers, sometimes).
Like Seinfeld, the late Joan Rivers also adapted to Internet with a Web series, In Bed with Joan. Though, the bulk of her guests were established comedians and comedic actors, she reached out to YouTube celebrities, as well. She was willing to let her very Hollywood style of comedy intersect with the very democratic nature of YouTube comedy.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is a great way for Jerry Seinfeld to find a renewed sense of relevance. If he’s willing to take risks, like working with someone as volatile and unpredictable as Miranda Sings, he may find a brand new audience. A great step was appearing on Miranda’s YouTube channel in the hilarious video, “How to Be Famous! feat. Jerry Seinfeld.”