That’s the first phrase I remember my sister saying that made us both crack up so hard that we were both in tears. She was telling me a story that involved a friend of hers in a bunch of crazy scenarios, and after about 15 minutes of detailed explanation, she just stopped and shouted “POTATO SALAD!”
We both just fell out and laughed our asses off, because I knew exactly what she meant – which was that this friend of hers was nuts, and possibly a homeless guy wearing a bad toupee while running around Manhattan while pulling a rickshaw. If you’re a Seinfeld fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you could even give me a quick but full synopsis of the episode, “Kramer’s Rickshaw Adventure.”
My sister Addye and I are BIG Seinfeld fans and we speak “Seinfeld Shorthand” to each other just about every day. We’ve been doing it since the show first came on, waaaaayyy back in July of 1989.
There were a lot of great shows in the ‘90s that I watched every week without fail – Living Single, Sex And The City, The Critic, The X-Files, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, etc. but none really got to me like Seinfeld. Those were the days before whoop-dee-doo cable tv systems, On Demand channels, You Tube, Amazon Prime. We couldn’t “binge watch”; if you didn’t have your ass on the couch at home watching the “MUST-SEE TV” lineup on NBC Thursday night, you had to wait for summer reruns. Remember those? SUMMER. RERUNS.
In other words, you really had to commit to a show if you liked it and didn’t want to miss it. You had to BE AT HOME, AT A CERTAIN TIME to watch it, and then talk about it with your friends the next day as you stood around the water cooler. Seinfeld was a “water cooler show” – remember water coolers? That was before we had 800 kinds of bottled water.
The other day I asked both my sister and my best friend Sondra (we call each other “Schmoopie”) about which Seinfeld shorthand we use the most with each other – it was hard to do because we laughed hysterically while talking about it. Here’s a top 12 we use regularly in no particular order. Why 12? I have way more than 10, but I’ll spare you the full scope of my insanity.
- “Ahhh HAAAAAAAAA!” When we catch each other in a lie, or guess something correctly.
- “She’s not gonna sweeten, she’s sour…AND I’M BITTAH!” This is my sister when she’s really cranky.
- “EEEEEEYAAAAAAH!” When we want to interrupt or stop each other from talking.
- “My back is like one big monkeyfist” When any part of our bodies hurt.
- “Hipster Doofus” Describing some jackass.
- “ Jussssssssssst doooooooooo iiiiiiiiiiiit” When my sister and I are trying to encourage the other to stop procrastinating.
- “It’s three in the morning, I’m at a cockfight…what am I clinging to?” When I’m talking to Sondra about my dating life.
- “Yadda, Yadda, Yadda” When there’s something important we’re glossing over because it’s bad.
- “You can stuff your sorries in a SACK mister!” When Sondra and I make mock apologies to each other.
- “If I have to tell you again, we’re gonna take it outside and I’M GONNA SHOW YOU WHAT IT’S LIKE!” Which is one of three references to what are known as “The Bus Tapes” that Jerry used in the show – they’re from recordings of the famous drummer Buddy Rich while he was ranting at people on tour buses and backstage, secretly recorded by pianist Lee Muskier in the 1980’s) (When we’re talking about someone we are frustrated with.
- “Yama Hama, it’s fright-night!” and, “She’s a two-face!” When Sondra and I talk about something ugly or unappealing.
- “Oh YEAH, well the JERK STORE called…and they’re running outta YOU!” When someone is acting like a real tool.
Why do we love our Seinfeld shorthand so much? The writing, the kooky characters, the great comedic acting, it’s all stellar. So what if it’s about a bunch of horrifically self-centered white people living in Manhattan that I don’t have a lot in common with, who almost never interact with anyone outside of their tight circle, and are always hanging in Jerry’s apartment…the show is funny. And clearly, the one-liners have served me well.
I remember some of my Black friends were surprised at my love for the show, because there were almost no Black people who appeared in the entire nine-year series. I’m known to be a “militant” when it comes to lack of diversity, so some black friends saw my love for the show as a “betrayal.” My argument was that Friends was WAY MORE egregious, on many other levels. And Sex In The City? Samantha and Miranda dated one Black guy each. I know that Charlotte was too WASPy for that, and Carrie? Well, I’m kind of surprised she only dated white men…KINDA. I also faithfully watched Living Single, and I didn’t have that much in common with those characters either, besides being a black woman.
Jerry wrote about what he knew — his world, which didn’t include a lot of POC. It’s his life, so I can’t be mad at that. My sister and I have talked about this many times, and we still love the show.
Whenever I get into a discussion/argument with a black friend about Seinfeld and it’s lack of diversity, I focus on what matters most, which is humor – Jerry was making fun of himself and his friends, so I don’t think making one of them black would have made it “better” just for the sake of it. And usually the person who is crying foul hasn’t seen very many shows, if any.
Jerry addressed race in funny ways. When George was working for the Yankees – he pissed off his black boss and then was running around like a maniac, trying to scrounge up a black person to show off as his friend…and wound up trying to get the exterminator at the office to do it, with hilarious results. Then there was the time George was cheating at his book club (he trying to impress his girlfriend and was supposed to read Breakfast at Tiffany’s) by wanting to watch the movie on video. But the only copy had been rented out by a family who happened to be Black, though it wasn’t really relevant to the storyline. George asked the video clerk to call the family and he refused, George looks at the computer and gets the family’s address, goes over there, makes up a crazy lie about how he has to watch it immediately, talks his way into their apartment and damn near took them hostage to watch it, and yadda, yadda, yadda, got kicked out before the end of the movie. When the book club meets, he lies about the story, his girlfriend realizes he didn’t read the book, and breaks up with him. Hilarious.
When I’m at home on a weeknight, I always watch Seinfeld reruns, and no matter how many times I’ve seen the show, I’ll watch the entire thing. I always crack up laughing, and I will usually shoot a little video clip on my iPhone and text it to my sister, who will call/text me back instantly. We’ll laugh until we cry. It’s a really comforting thing – to have this way of communicating with a loved one.
If I ever meet Jerry, I will thank him profusely for this gift.