Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Episode 22 - The Library

The Plot:  If you liked “Cartwright”, you’ve got to love “Can’t-Stand-Ya”.  Another of the more memorable episodes, the Library opens with Jerry learning that he has a fine on an unreturned library book from 1971, Tropic of Cancer. Jerry is convinced that he did indeed return the book, as he remembers the girl he was with that day, Sherry Becker, and her orange dress which is "burned into his memory" and that they were chewing “Blackjack” gum. Jerry must go down to the library to sort it out, and he invites Kramer, who enthusiastically accepts.

When they get to the library, Jerry learns from the librarian, that his "case" has been turned over to the library investigations officer, Mr. Bookman. Eventually George arrives at the library, and he's very upset, claiming that the homeless man on the steps outside the library is none other than Mr. Heyman, a physical education teacher at Jerry and George's high school.  Jerry explains to Kramer how George was responsible for getting Heyman fired. As Jerry and George depart, Kramer stays behind and starts chatting with the librarian, Marion.

Meanwhile, Elaine is concerned when a co-worker forgets to ask her what she wants for lunch, and it sets her to worry that Mr. Lippman is planning to fire her.

The following day Jerry, George, and Elaine meet at Monk's, where George tells Elaine the story of why Heyman was really fired. Flashing back to the old high school locker room, Heyman and some of the high school boys give George a wedgie, all the while Heyman deliberately mispronouncing George Costanza's name as "Can't-Stand-Ya". As the flashback ends, George confesses that he complained about the incident, and Heyman was fired the next day. Kramer arrives at the diner to alert Jerry that the library cop, Mr. Bookman is waiting for him outside his apartment.

In one of the great show moments of all time, (Bookman steals the scene) Bookman and Jerry argue in his apartment about whether Jerry returned the book or not. As Bookman leaves Jerry's, Marion is waiting to enter Kramer's apartment, and quickly runs in when she sees Bookman. She worries that Bookman will return to the library and find that she is not there, but she finds it hard to leave her new-found love.

Jerry then proceeds to look up his high school girlfriend, Sherry Becker. When Jerry meets up with her, he finds that she has gained weight, and he is a little perplexed at her recollection of that day. She remembers that she wore a purple dress, not an orange one, that they were chewing Dentyne, not Blackjack gum, and that the book they read to each other was actually Tropic of Capricorn, not Tropic of Cancer. Jerry then remembers that the book he returned to the library was Tropic of Capricorn and he actually loaned Tropic of Cancer to George, and runs out of the diner.

Kramer and Marion are caught by Bookman as the two stroll through the library after hours.

Meanwhile, George arrives at Jerry's apartment, and confirms that the man outside of the library was indeed Mr. Heyman and proceeds to tell how he just received an "atomic" wedgie from him on the library steps. Jerry then confronts George about the book, which George then remembers losing after the original high school locker incident with Heyman.

Jerry reluctantly pays Mr. Bookman, who subjects Jerry to another lecture. The episode ends with Heyman, homeless in an alleyway, muttering "Can't-Stand-Ya, Can't-Stand-Ya", with the dilapidated long-lost copy of Tropic of Cancer lying next to him.

Fun Facts:

  • This was the first episode with the green mountain bike mounted on the wall of Jerry’s apartment.
  • Kramer is doing math for Jerry and figures out that $0.05/day for 20 years works out to $50,000.  In fact, it only amounted to $365.25.
  • This is the first episode with Mr. Lippman as Elaine’s boss at Pendant Publishing.  The actor playing Lippman (Harris Shore) appeared in this episode only and was replaced (by Richard Fancy) for all other Lippman episodes.

Favorite Quote:   Another one where I am not capable of picking just one:

Jerry:  It reminds me of like this pathetic friend that everbody had when they were a little kid who would let you borrow any of his stuff if you would just be his friend. That's what the library is.  A government funded, pathetic friend.

Kramer: Bookman. The library cop's name is Bookman. That's like an ice cream man being named Cone!

Kramer: Look at her. This is a lonely woman looking for companionship…Spinster…Maybe a virgin. ... Maybe she got hurt a long time ago. She was a schoolgirl. There was a boy.  It didn't work out. Now she needs a little tenderness. She needs a little understanding.  She needs a little Kramer.
Jerry: Eventually a little shot of penicillin

Elaine: Why do they call it a wedgie?
George: Because the underwear is pulled up from the back and ... it wedges in..
Jerry: They also have an atomic wedgie. Now the goal there is to actually get the waistband on top of the head. Very rare.
Elaine: Boys are sick.
Jerry: Well what do girls do ?
Elaine: We just tease someone until they develop an eating disorder.

Favorite Scene:   A contender for best scenes by a non-regular cast member, the scene where Bookman comes to Jerry’s apartment is a classic.  Bookman’s over the top inquiry and accusations was an instant classic.

Bookman: I saw you on T.V. once; I remembered your name--from my list. I looked it up. Sure enough, it checked out. You think because you're a celebrity that somehow the law doesn't apply to you, that you're above the law?
Jerry: Certainly not.
Bookman: Well, let me tell you something, funny boy. Y'know that little stamp, the one that says "New York Public Library"? Well that may not mean anything to you, but that means a lot to me. One whole hell of a lot.  Sure, go ahead, laugh if you want to. I've seen your type before: Flashy, making the scene, flaunting convention. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. What's this guy making such a big stink about old library books? Well, let me give you a hint, junior. Maybe we can live without libraries, people like you and me. Maybe. Sure, we're too old to change the world, but what about that kid, sitting down, opening a book, right now, in a branch at the local library and finding drawings of pee-pees and wee-wees on the Cat in the Hat and the Five Chinese Brothers?  Doesn't HE deserve better? Look. If you think this is about overdue fines and missing books, you'd better think again. This is about that kid's right to read a book without getting his mind warped! Or. maybe that turns you on, Seinfeld; maybe that's how you get your kicks. You and your good-time buddies. Well I got a flash for ya, joy-boy: Party time is over. You got seven days, Seinfeld. That is one week!

The Lesson:  Oh where to start.  Once again, there is a plethora of lessons for startups.  However, my personal favorite from The Library is inspired by my life as a lawyer.  The speed at which early stage companies move, causes founders to cascade from one crisis to another and one opportunity to another, sometimes in very short time durations.  As a result, no matter how young or old you are,our memories can be faulty when we finally are called upon to deliver the goods.  Jerry has the image of Sherry Becker and returning the book “burned into his brain”, only to find out he was wrong on almost every detail.

In startups, 20 hours can sometimes feel like 20 years of activity.  It is impossible to rely on your memory to determine all of the things you discuss/analyze/decide on a daily basis.  Entrepreneurs should, at all times possible, take a moment to write down the results of every meeting/call/discussion.  Not a full analysis, but a bullet point list of the key takeaways so that tomorrow when you begin to act on your side of the equation, you have a clear picture of what your responsibilities are.  Relying on your memory for 20 hours, 20 days or 20 years is a recipe for disaster, and one that won’t be found in the cookbook section of the library.  Five minutes of recap is a small price to pay to keep a Bookman out of your life.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Episode 21 - The Dog

The Plot:  After extolling the greatness of so many episodes, you can almost hear the squealing of the brakes on this very pedestrian effort from the show.

In The Dog, Jerry is on a plane returning to New York when a drunk man seated next to him (Gavin Polone) falls sick and asks Jerry to take care of his dog while he is taken to the hospital. He promises to call Jerry and reclaim the dog as soon as he is released from the hospital. The dog, Farfel, irritates Jerry with its barking and making messes, and Jerry feels as though he does not dare leave his apartment, for fear of what Farfel might do. He resents the animal: "I like dogs. I'm not sure this is a dog."

Jerry, George and Elaine had a date to see the movie Prognosis Negative, but Jerry asks them to go without him.  George and Elaine realize they don't have much in common without Jerry around; they begin to have a good conversation only when they start making fun of Jerry.

Kramer attempts to break up with his girlfriend, Ellen, in a melodramatic fashion—and later attempts to get back together in the same fashion. Kramer gets genuinely angry at Jerry and Elaine because, first, they encouraged the break-up, and then they awkwardly applauded when Kramer fixed it up.

Jerry’s frustration with the dog grows so great, he is about to take Farfel to the pound, when Elaine steps in and offers to watch him.  The next scene shows Elaine wrestling to get back a sweater that the dog has chewed.  Gavin finally calls while Elaine is watching Farfel. Gavin reveals that he was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, the reason he could not call earlier, and comes for the dog.

Gavin, a true dog-lover, promises Jerry, "Pre-prediction. You'll be calling me to ask if you can come and visit him before the month is out." Jerry replies, "Prediction. I never see you or him again for the rest of my life."

Fun Facts:

  • The movie they are going to see, Prognosis Negative, was actually a screen play written by Larry David about a patient who misinterprets a biopsy being negative as bad news.  This story line returns in a future episode in which George misinterprets the prognosis from a doctor.
  • Farfel was named after a TV dog that used to appear in ads for Nestle Quik chocolate milk.  Once again with the chocolate milk.
  • Gavin was named after Larry David’s agent, Gavin Polone.

Favorite Quote:   

Jerry:  "On my block, a lot of people walk their dogs, and I always see them walking along with their little poop bags, which to me is just the lowest function of human life. If aliens are watching this through telescopes, they're going to think the dogs are the leaders. If you see two life-forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume was in charge?"

Favorite Scene:   Again, not too many memorable scenes in this relatively ordinary episode, but you do get a great sense for the disdain the characters have for most of the people around them when Kramer announces that he is breaking up with his girlfriend.

Kramer:  I can't, I gotta get this Ellen out of my life.
Jerry:  You're breaking up?
Kramer:  Oh ho ho ho yeah, the sooner the better. I can't wait to do it. You know how there's some people you worry about whether you're going to hurt their feelings? With her, I'm looking forward to it. I'd like to get it on video, watch it in slow motion and freeze frame it. Oh ho, yeah.
Elaine:  Kramer, I don't know how you lasted as long as you did.
Kramer:  Woah, you didn't like her?
Elaine:  If you could see her personality it would be like one of the Elephant Man exhibits, you know where they pull off the sheet and everyone gasps.

The Lesson:  So my first real stumbling block.  There really isn’t a dramatic scene or storyline with a key lesson for entrepreneurs.  I may be reaching a little bit here, but the one ideas that jumps out to me is to be careful how you speak about others to your business associates.  In The Dog, Elaine & Jerry bad mouth Kramer’s girlfriend in anticipation of his breakup with her.  At one point Jerry wonders aloud why no one has “killed her”.  Pretty strong language, that comes back to bite them (pun intended) when Kramer and Ellen rekindle their romance.  This leaves Jerry , Elaine and Kramer is an awkward situation for the remainder of the episode.

Oftentimes entrepreneurs will be tempted to speak ill about others, be it competitors, vendors that didn’t perform, former employees or others they do business with.  And it is amazing how often the people that they badmouthed will reappear in the course of their business life cycle.  Today’s sworn enemy can become tomorrow’s necessary ally in the blink of an eye.  It is never a good idea to let your emotions get the better of you and disparage others needlessly.  In the startup world it is rare that others end up like Farfel, never to be seen or heard from again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Episode 20 - The Pen

The Plot:  OK, I was going to promise that this was the last time I would call an episode unforgettable or classic for at least the next two weeks, but I looked ahead and saw that the Library episode is just two away.  So you’ll just have to live with my hyperbole.

The Pen introduces us to one of the greatest show characters ever, Jack Klompus.  In this episode, Jerry and Elaine go to Florida to visit Jerry's parents for the weekend and plan on going scuba diving. Morty, Jerry's father, is also being honored at a ceremony the next night. Jack Klompus comes over to write Morty a check for a previous night's dinner and Jerry notices Jack's pen. When Jerry asks about it, Jack tells him that it can write upside down and that astronauts use it in space.  After Jerry shows great interest in the pen, Jack offers to give it to him, repeating over and over “take the pen”. Jerry refuses his offer several times, but Jack persists and Jerry finally gives in. Helen, Jerry's mother, asks why he took the pen and says he should give it back because Doris Klompus will tell everyone in the condo that Jerry made Jack give it to him.

Elaine is forced to sleep on a sofa bed with a bar that sticks up through the mattress and hurts her back keeping her from being able to go scuba diving. She is extremely uncomfortable and it is not helped by the fact that the air conditioning is turned off. Morty suggests she take muscle relaxants. Rumors begin to spread around the community that Jerry wanted Jack to give him the pen. Jerry goes scuba diving without Elaine. When he returns, he has black eyes because the capillaries around his eyes burst when he went underwater and the pressure was too tight on his mask.

Jack comes over again and Jerry returns the pen. Morty yells at Jack for "taking Jerry's pen".  Elaine decides she wants to take the muscle relaxants, but takes a slight overdose and shows up at the ceremony honoring Morty, wacked out her mind.  She keeps channeling Marlon Brando screaming “Stella” in reference to Jerry’s Aunt who she has just been introduced to.  Jerry has to wear sunglasses because of his black eyes. Jack is the Master of Ceremonies and turns the dinner into a "Roast", making cracks about Morty at the podium. Morty starts arguing with Jack again about taking back the pen and they start fighting. The next day, a chiropractor looks at Elaine's back and tells her she should not go anywhere for at least five days, extending both her and Jerry's stay even longer.

Fun Facts:
  • This is the first and only episode in which both Kramer and George do not appear on camera.
  • In this episode, Aunt Stella is married to Uncle Leo.  While Uncle Leo appears in 13 more episodes, Stella never appears and in Season 7 Leo has a girlfriend, with no mention of what happened to Stella.
  • Liz Sheridan who played Helen Seinfeld throughout the show called this her favorite episode.

Favorite Quote:   

Helen: He talks about it all the time. Every time he takes it out he goes on and on about how it writes upside down, how the astronauts use it.
Jerry: If he likes it so much, he never should have offered it.
Helen: He didn't think you'd accept.
Jerry: Well, he was wrong.

Favorite Scene:   The entire scene when we first meet Jack Klompus.  His entry, his wheat field eyebrows, his Brooklyn accent, his cheapness and his insistence that Jerry take the pen, established Jack as one of the great Seinfeld characters of all time.  When settling up for dinner from the previous night, he calculates the bill to be $19.45 while denying that he had a coke.

Jack: So that's $17.10 and the tax and the tip.
Morty: All right. Make it 20 bucks.
Jack: It's: $19.45, Morty.

The Lesson:  In the Pen, the true lesson is in fact the easy one.  Don’t ask for something unless you are really ready to accept it, and don’t offer something unless you are really ready to deliver.  I am amazed at the number of times people ask me for a meeting to discuss their startup and once we sit down they confess that they really aren’t quite sure what direction they are headed.  They just wanted to talk.  Clearly I am not special or unique.  Nearly everyone who you would ask for advice is already extremely busy.  You are only going to get one opportunity to make a first impression.  If the first impression is that you are not organized, not for real, and not aware of the value of my time, I am going to be very reluctant to sit down with you when you are finally ready.  Likewise, I am also in awe of the startups that are out “selling” their product or service to customers before it is even close to being completed.  If you are selling me on something and offer it to me for a price that fits, be prepared for me to say yes.  Be prepared for me to take the pen.  For if you’re not, you may end up with a great deal of regret and a lost opportunity. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Episode 19 - The Truth

The Plot:  “Kramer, saw me naked”.  With those four words, the Note episode changed forever, the way we looked at Elaine.  We knew Jerry had seen her naked, but now Kramer, this was too much.

The basic plotline of this episode centers around Jerry being audited by the IRS.  What triggered the audit?  When Jerry and Elaine were first dating, he contributed money to a charity (at the suggestion of Kramer) for the surviving victims of the Krakatoa volcano disaster.  Despite Jerry’s feigned concern for the “brave Krakatoans”, he later admits that the contribution was nothing more than a feeble attempt to look good in front of his new girlfriend, Elaine.

While griping about the horrible experience of the audit, Jerry gleefully announces that he has a secret weapon in his fight with the government.  George is currently dating a woman who used to be with the IRS and she has taken his case and assured him that all is well.

At that moment, they cut to George and said girlfriend having lunch at Monks.  After a couple of light back and forth comments, she senses something is wrong with George and demands “The Truth”.  George explodes, telling the woman how pretentious she is and how he can’t stand being around her any more.  After he leaves the woman at Monks, George walks into Jerry’s apartment to tell him about the outstanding breakup, only to realize how integral she was to Jerry’s tax situation.  George places a call to the woman’s office to try and mend the relationship, only to find out that she has been taken to a mental institution (along with Jerry’s tax papers.

While this is going on, the infamous “Kramer saw me naked” scene plays out.  Despite not being part of any story line for a couple of episodes, Kramer is apparently still dating Elaine’s roommate Tina.  Elaine enters Jerry’s apartment and is clearly annoyed at Kramer.  As Jerry asks what is going on, Elaine describes how Kramer came into her bedroom without knocking.  “I thought it was a closet,” says Kramer.  After some uncomfortable conversation, Kramer offers to allow Elaine to see him naked and starts to disrobe, causing Jerry to freak out.

The episode ends with George and Jerry visiting his ex-girlfriend in the mental institution.  After some polite conversation, George is able to convince her to give him another chance, which allows Jerry to ask about his tax matter.  The girlfriend lets him know that she was so upset by the breakup with George that she threw all of his tax papers and receipts in the trash on her way to the nut house.  The final scene has Jerry trying to track down copies of receipts for his tax case.

Fun Facts:

One of the best quotes ever from George, “I’ve driven women to lesbianism before, but never to a mental institution,” becomes the basis for an entire episode later in the show’s history.
This is the last episode to feature Tina and Kramer’s relationship although the show never discusses their breakup.
The Krakatoa volcano erupted in 1883 (no real need for a charity donation in 1991) and is still considered one of, if not the loudest sound ever heard in modern history.  It was heard more than 3,000 miles away.

Favorite Quote:   

George:  The truth? You want the truth? It is your earrings! It is the chopsticks, but it's so much more! You're pretentious! You call everyone by their full name! You call my doorman, Sammy, "Samuel" but you didn't even say "Samuel", you went "Samuelle!" Pappy-ay mach-ay? What the hell is pappy-ay mach-ay?.

Favorite Scene:   Jerry trying to explain that his intentions when contributing to the Krakatoan relief fund were purely charitable.

ElaineWhat did you think, that would impress me?
JerryYou got it all wrong! I was thinking only of the poor Krakatoans!
ElaineLike you give this donation for 50 bucks and I'd start tearing my clothes off?
JerryThose brave Krakatoans east of Java! Who sacrificed so much for so long!

The Lesson:  Once again, the obvious lesson (take every step necessary to avoid running afoul of the IRS) is too easy and no fun.  The real lesson for startups is to make sure your intentions are honorable for all of your actions.  How often are entrepreneurs tempted to spend money, build a feature or take a meeting in an effort to try and impress an outside constituency?  I know over the many years I’ve been involved with startups that I’ve lost count.  You deviate from the plan, from the core mission of your venture and ultimately find that you missed the mark completely and there is time or dollars that you’ll never get back.  Don’t waste your time buying a sponsorship to a big event because you want to see your name associated with others on the marquee.  Don’t take a meeting with a well established VC group before you’ve finished building your MVP, just so you can say you had the meeting.  The truly successful startups stay focused on the tasks at hand.  They stay true to the purpose and mission of the company, and they do not run head long into situations just trying to impress the pretty girl at the end of the bar.  Stay focused on your business and not on the Krakatoans and you’ll see a better return on your investment.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Episode 18 - The Note

The Plot:  The premier episode of Season Three.  Jerry, George, and Elaine are all in some form of pain and they all conspire to get a free physical therapy massage by getting a note from Jerry's dentist (Roy) to present to the insurance company. When they show up for the massage, each of them ends up with a less than satisfactory experience.  Jerry's masseuse becomes paranoid and thinks Jerry is insane when he makes some casual remarks about a small boy who was kidnapped in Pennsylvania.

George becomes very uncomfortable when he finds out that his massage therapist is a man. He deadpans one of the most quoted lines in show history, when he tells Jerry that he thinks 'it moved' during the massage and starts to have doubts about his sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, Kramer claims he saw Joe DiMaggio in Dinky Donuts but the others do not believe him. According to Kramer, DiMaggio was a very 'focused' eater—the same way he used to play. Kramer knows this, as in an attempt to get his attention at the donut shop, Kramer began to pound on the table and yelp like a wounded dog.  All of his antics had no impact on Dimaggio, who kept dunking his donut without even looking up at Kramer.

Not surprisingly, Jerry gets a frantic call from his dentist letting him know that Roy got into trouble for passing around the fake massage prescriptions.

In Roy's office, George becomes uncomfortable when Roy repeatedly asks for George's opinion of Evander Holyfield. George says, "I mean, he's a nice guy and a good fighter, but I don't LIKE him." This builds on George's insecurity about his own sexuality. Since he prefers a physical therapist over just a masseuse, Jerry tries to see the physical therapist masseuse once more, but can't because she's afraid he will try to kidnap her son.

The episode ends with the four eating in Monk's, and viewing Joe DiMaggio dunking his donuts (though DiMaggio's face is never seen). George then says, "You see? Now that is a handsome man!" Jerry and Elaine raise their eyebrows. Kramer tries to break DiMaggio's concentration by banging the table and yelping again.

Fun Facts:
  • This is the only episode, besides the Pilot, that had a different theme song.  For the first episode of the season, they tried a jazzy version of the theme, complete with backup singers.  Everyone hated it and the original theme song returned the next week.
  • In the final credits, Jerry’s dentist is referred to as Lloyd, not Roy.
  • The child actor who played the massage therapist’s son, was actually Jerry’s real-life nephew.

Favorite Quote:   

This one is too obvious.  It may be the greatest George line of all time.  Could it possibly have been delivered any better?  It was so great, that he repeats it in a different context in Season Five’s The Mango.

George:  I think it moved.

Favorite Scene:   George is describing how he got injured and why he needs a massage.

George:  One of those kids called me a "Mary."
A what?
 I was jumping over a puddle and for some reason I went like this (he makes a very dainty flying gesture). They called me a "Mary." So I chased them, and I tripped and I fell.

The Lesson:  It would be oh so easy to go with the, “don’t ever try and cheat the system” lesson, but alas that’s not even a challenge.  No, I think the real message of The Note, is that “focus” is important in everything entrepreneurs do.  Haven’t you ever met people who said they were entirely organized at the office, but completely unorganized at home?  Do you believe them?  I don’t.  How often do you see a person with a neat office, but a messy car?  How about never. 

People are who they are.  People can’t be one way at work and let it all go when they leave the cozy confines of their office.  As we have noted many times, entrepreneurs are never “off the clock”.  Even if it were possible to be one way at work and another in private, you can’t afford to let everything go.  That is why you need to be focused while at work (on the task at hand), at home (where your family needs and deserves your time and attention), and even when you have one of those rare quiet moments to yourself (a donut and coffee on a Sunday morning).  The habit of being tuned in at all times is one that will allow you to recognize opportunities when you least expect to see them.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Episode 17 - The Busboy

The Plot:  The last episode of Season Two.  JerryGeorge, and Elaine are at dinner when a menu on an adjacent table catches fire. George puts it out and explains to the manager that the busboy left the menu too close to a candle (although, in explaining the situation, he is hoping to get some free dessert as he is rather displeased with his pesto pasta) and Elaine jokingly declares she is never eating there again. The busboy is subsequently fired, upsetting Elaine and George.

George and Kramer track down the guy's address and go to his apartment to apologize.  In the course of a rather odd apology, the busboy notices that his cat is missing and that the door to his apartment was accidentally left open. A few days later, the busboy comes to see George, and tells him that there was an explosion at the restaurant, killing five employees, including the busboy hired to replace him. He thanks George for saving his life.

On an entirely different story line, Elaine has a boyfriend she met in NYC, but he lives in Seattle.  The young man is coming to visit her for a couple of days.  She is extremely excited about his impending arrival, but only a few days later, is about to kill him.  Having him stay in her apartment has changed her opinion considerably.  Counting down the hours until he departs, Eileen wakes up to realize she has overslept and that this thorn in her side might miss his flight.  Later, in Jerry’s apartment, she recites an amazing story of driving through Manhattan to try and get the schlep to his airplane and how she would of made it had she not encountered a five-car pileup on Rockaway Blvd. With the fella still with her, he gets into a fight down the hallway with the busboy, resulting in injuries on both ends, causing him to be laid up at her apartment indefinitely.

Fun Facts:
  • This is the first episode in which Jerry did not figure prominently in any story lines.  He had a minimal supporting role in both the busboy and the boyfriend stories.
  • Again with the apartment!!  The entire episode, Jerry lives in #5A, but one quick scene at the end has #3A on the door.
  • George claims that he can tell you the best public toilet anywhere in NYC.  Years later, in the Larry David Show, Larry wrote this into an episode in which George has turned this knowledge into an incredibly successful iPhone app called “iToilet”.

Favorite Quote:   

Jerry:  So they went out a few times, but apparently, when the fellow returned home, he discovered that the Benes tattoo does not wash off so easily.

Favorite Scene:   One of the all-time great scenes for its physical comedy is Elaine’s frantic efforts to get her boneheaded boyfriend out of her apartment after oversleeping.  It is eerily reminiscent of an old Gilda Radner skit on Saturday Night Live, as she runs around in circles, bumping into things with almost no discernible purpose.  It leads right into her dead eyed description of the drive to the airport.

Elaine:  I never knew I could drive like that. I was going faster than I've ever gone before, and yet, it all seemed to be happening in slow motion. I was seeing three and four moves ahead, weaving in and out of lanes like an Olympic skier on a gold metal run. I knew I was challenging the very laws of physics. At Queens Boulevard, I took the shoulder. At Jewel Avenue, I used the median. I had it. I was there.. and then.. I hit the Van Wyck. They say no one's ever beaten the Van Wyck, but gentlemen, I tell you this - I came as close as anyone ever has. And if it hadn't been for that five-car-pile-up on Rockaway Boulevard, that numbskull would be on a plane for Seattle right now instead of looking for a parking space downstairs.

The Lesson:  Once again, I could probably pull three or four different lessons out of this episode.  However, the overriding lesson for entrepreneurs is one I actually learned from my father at a very early age.  My father used to always tell me to keep things in perspective, because, “things are never quite as good or quite as bad as they seem at the time they happen.”  This has been very helpful advice for me over the years.  Often I have been faced with a great challenge or a great success and thought that was the end all be all.  I would either succeed and be a king of the world, or I would fail miserably and have to face my family in shame.  Never did either of those extremes actually result.  Our successes were not life changing wins.  They were just simple victories that allowed us to grow as a company.  Likewise, those death inducing challenges were not mortal wounds at all.  Rather, they were the kinds of mistakes that all entrepreneurs make and the good ones learn from.

In this episode, the busboy thinks his life has ended when he is fired from his job.  Things get even worse when his cat runs away.  A few days later, with a little perspective (he didn’t die in the kitchen explosion, he landed a higher paying job, and his cat returned) all of a sudden, getting fired doesn’t look so bad.  He is on top of the world, only to have it all fall apart when he gets in the fight with Elaine’s boyfriend.  At the end, he is right back where he started, as a busboy with a cat.  Things are neither as good nor as bad as they seem at the time.  A lesson well worth remembering.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Episode 16 - The Chinese Restaurant

The Plot:  Alright, I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record (and I know, that's a dated cliche), but this is another of the iconic episodes.  Perhaps the most relatable of all.  So much of the show had a little bit of a New York City undercurrent to it, that some subtleties were missed by the rest of the country, but this episode spoke to people all over the world.  I’ve had so many people tell me how much they were looking forward to this episode of the blog.  Given all the hype about this one episode, I hope I can deliver.

Jerry, George and Elaine decide to eat dinner without a reservation at a Chinese restaurant before seeing Plan 9 From Outer Space. Jerry lied to his uncle, saying he could not make it to his house for dinner that night, in order to go see the film. The maĆ®tre d' repeatedly tells them they will receive a table in "5, 10 minutes". George is nervous about his girlfriend Tatiana, whom he left during sexual intercourse because he needed to use the bathroom and thought hers was too close to her bedroom to provide enough privacy. He tries to call her, as she has agreed to talk to him, but a man is using the public phone and ignores George. Jerry notices a woman inside the restaurant that he's met before, but cannot remember her name.

A bored Jerry dares Elaine to take an egg roll from someone's plate and eat it, offering her $50 if she does so. Elaine approaches a table with an elderly group of diners and whispers to them that her friends would give her $50 to eat one of their egg rolls, and she is willing to give them $25 of it. She softly speaks the offer without moving her lips, and the diners are hard of hearing, so they fail to comprehend what she's saying. Realizing the futility of her efforts, she simply walks away, failing to collect on the wager

A guy walks into the restaurant and the host immediately pulls out a table for him, causing Jerry to complain that they were there first.  The Maitre d’, informs them that Mr. Cohen is “always here.”  This prompts Elaine to try and tip her way into a table by giving the guy $20, which fails miserably.

George becomes frustrated when other patrons monopolize the phone. When he is finally able to call Tatiana, the answering machine answers his call and George leaves a message. Tatiana calls the restaurant to reach George, but the maitre d' calls "Cartwright" instead of "Costanza".

The mysterious woman encounters Jerry, and Jerry remembers she is his uncle's receptionist. Realizing that he has been caught in a lie, he decides that he might as well call his uncle and have dinner with him after all. George and Elaine agree to leave. The maitre d' calls their party as soon as they have left.

An interesting side note, several years later, Seinfeld pointed to this specific episode as a turning point for the show.  “The Chinese Restaurant was the point where the network said, 'You know, we really don't understand what you're trying to do with this show, and we think it's wrong. But we're going to air it anyway.' I was thrilled that NBC took that attitude. We had done enough good things at that point that they were willing to trust us."

Fun Facts: 
  • The first episode in which Kramer does not make an appearance.  Rumor was that he was pissed about not being included in this great episode.
  • The first time (that I could find) that the show was referred to as a show about “nothing."  Walt Belcher, a TV critic for the Tampa Tribune called this episode, “the ultimate episode about nothing.”
  • The first of several Seinfeld episodes to play out in real time.
  • One of the few episodes that does not include a single scene inside Jerry's apartment.

Favorite Quote:   

This is impossible to pick a single quote.  This one had too many classic lines, so bear with me:

Jerry:  Just a movie? You don't understand. This isn't plans 1 through 8 from outer space. This is Plan 9! This is the one that worked, the worst movie ever made… I can't go to a bad movie by myself. What, am I gonna make sarcastic remarks to strangers?

Elaine:  Remember when you first went out to eat with your parents? Remember, it was such a treat to go and they serve you this different food that you never saw before, and they put it in front of you, and it is such a delicious and exciting adventure? And now I just feel like a big sweaty hog waiting for them to fill up the trough.

George: (After Elaine asks whether she should accept the egg roll bet) Are you kidding me?  For 50 bucks I'd go stick my face in their soup and blow

And the best…….

George: Excuse me, I'm expecting a call. Costanza?
Maintre d’: Yeah, I just got a call. I yell 'Cartwright! Cartwright!', just like
that. Nobody came up, I hang up.
George: Well, was it for Costanza or...
Maintre d’: Yes, yes, that's it. Nobody answered.
George: Well was it a woman?
Maintre d’: Yeah, yeah. I tell her you not here, she said curse word, I hang up.
(George comes over to Jerry and Elaine, stunned)
George: She called. He yelled Cartwright. I missed her.
Jerry: Who's Cartwright?
George: I'm Cartwright!
Jerry: You're not Cartwright
George: Of course I'm not Cartwright!

Favorite Scene:   This episode is all in one location, the Chinese Restaurant, so you can’t really list a favorite scene.  This is the best of all of the dialogue.  As George tells the story of having to leave Tatiana’s apartment, the pure absurdity of the moment and his insecurity creates comic gold (thanks Bania).

George:  So we start to fool around, and it's the first time and it's early in the going, and I begin to perceive this impending intestinal requirement, whose needs are going to surpass by great lengths anything in the sexual realm.  So I know I'm gonna have to stop. And as this is happening I'm thinking, even if I can somehow manage to momentarily... extricate myself from the proceedings and relieve this unstoppable force, I know that that bathroom is not gonna provide me with the privacy that I know I'm going to need...So I'm dressing and she's staring up at me, struggling to compute this unprecedented turn of events. I don't know what to say to reassure this woman, and worst of all, I don't have the time to say it. The only excuse she might possibly have accepted is if I told her I am in reality Batman, and I'm very sorry, I just saw the Bat-Signal. It took me 3 days of phone calls to get her to agree to see me again. Now she's waiting for me to call her.

The Lesson:  It seems odd to even try and pull a lesson out of this episode.  Because it was so relatable and yet absurd at the same time, I almost feel cheap trying to make more out of it than what it was.  But the point of this exercise it to dig deep into every episode for some nugget of useful guidance.

That being said, the Chinese Restaurant does provide a great lesson for entrepreneurs: PATIENCE.  Rarely do startup companies achieve overnight success.  You don’t just walk in and have everyone roll out a table for you.  It takes long hours and hard work to see a business grow from nothing more than an idea on the back of a napkin to a profitable venture.  Incredible frustration can set in when someone who started their company after yours, speeds by you on the road to profitability.  It doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road, it means your venture might need a little more time to get things just right.  If you are frustrated by the pace of your company’s growth, you can try some unconventional efforts to jumpstart your venture.  While I wouldn’t advocate going over to someone else’s business and stealing ideas off of their table, it is sometimes worth it to spend a little money in an effort to spur things along.

How often have we seen companies or individuals not able to muster the requisite patience to allow their business to grow.  They walk out on the business just minutes before their product/service is discovered by others, allowing someone else to sit at their table and eat their food.  Patience is a virtue in business as well as life, and one we should all seek to exercise a little more of in our daily lives.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Episode 15 - The Baby Shower

The Plot:  One of the darker episodes in show history.  Elaine holds a baby shower for her friend Leslie at Jerry's apartment, while he is performing in Buffalo. George is excited, as he expects the baby shower to be the perfect opportunity to confront the woman who gave him the worst date of his life by pouring Bosco chocolate sauce on his red-collared shirt while doing performance art. Jerry is frustrated by his television's bad reception, and is convinced by Kramer to have cable illegally installed by two Russians.

As Jerry is sleeping on the plane he dreams of returning to his apartment only to find several FBI agents there interrogating Kramer who told them about the illegal cable, it shows that the Russian was an FBI undercover agent. Jerry tries to flee only to be gunned down by the agents.

Waking up from the dream, Jerry discovers that his comedy show has been canceled due to bad weather, and he convinces George to come pick him up at the airport. Jerry informs George they cannot go back to his apartment because of the baby shower, but discovers that George is wearing the red shirt and wants to encounter Leslie at the shower.

Kramer and the two Russians crash the shower to install cable television. The party is ruined when the two Russians eat all the food and get into a fight. When George and Jerry arrive, George's plan proves unsuccessful, as he cannot muster the courage necessary to yell at Leslie. When a woman confronts Jerry because he never called her back after a date, the good mood of the shower is completely ruined and the guests leave. Jerry changes his mind about the cable hook-up, but is still charged with a large amount of money. When he refuses to pay, the Russians break his television set.

Fun Facts:
  • The first episode in which Elaine hints at her interest in the Kennedy family.  Another recurring theme throughout the show’s history.
  • The broken television at the end of the episode is just a sticker of a cracked TV screen, placed over the television that was used throughout the history of the show.
  • The first reference to “Bosco”, the chocolate syrup, that plays a role in multiple episodes in the future.

Favorite Quote:   

Kramer trying to convince Jerry to hookup illegal cable television:

Kramer:  I'm offering you 56 channels. Movies, sports, nudity, and it's free for life!.

Favorite Scene:   The opening scene when George, Elaine and Jerry are discussing the impending baby shower.  Classic Seinfeld just missing the basic point of the whole event.

Jerry: What's her husband's name, again? Chip? Kip? Skip?
Elaine: Todd.
Jerry: Todd. Oh yeah. (To George) He's a Kennedy.
Elaine: No, he's not.
Jerry: C'mon. He's a third cousin, or something.
Elaine: By marriage.
Jerry: Oh, by marriage. (To George) We went to their wedding. You should have heard him talking about Chappaquiddick - trying to blame the whole thing on bad directions.

The Lesson:  A little bit of an odd episode.  As I mentioned earlier, it is one of the darkest Seinfelds ever.  Even the dream sequence where Jerry is gunned down by the police is, as quoted by Larry David, a little Tarantino-esque, and it doesn’t get much darker than that.   The three story lines (the baby shower, George’s revenge, and the illegal cable) are all intertwined and keep appearing and disappearing throughout the show.  Yet, the only dominant theme from the episode is revenge.  George has held this pent up rage for years and is ready to unleash it upon the performance artist.  Not unexpectedly, at the critical moment, he is unable to go through with his revenge plan and ultimately ends up meekly cowtowing to her demands.

Thus, the lesson of this episode for entrepreneurs is: do things for the right reasons.  Sometimes entrepreneurs launch a company for all of the wrong reasons.  They lost a job and have nothing else to do; they are tired of working for their boss, but have no clear vision for the business; or even in rare cases, revenge.  “I will show that S.O.B. boss of mine what a mistake he made passing me over for that promotion.  I’m going to start a company that competes with my current employer and I’m going to destroy them.”

While not assuring failure, rarely does a genesis from these dark places, produce a successful result.  Startups are much more likely to be successful when they result from a positive place.  I see a problem and I have a better solution.  I like this product/service but I think I can make it better.  Letting your darker emotions dictate your business strategy will usually end up just like George, with crap on your clothing and your tail tucked between your legs as you ask for your old job back.