' ' Cinema Romantico: Ranking the 12 Funniest Things in Seinfeld’s The Doodle

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Ranking the 12 Funniest Things in Seinfeld’s The Doodle

Recently the tenth season of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, in which “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David plays himself, premiered. This episode, for reasons too convoluted to explain here, gradually builds to a moment when David’s Secretary, having accused him of sexual harassment, walks in on him wearing a bathrobe and a MAGA hat and sitting with his manager (Jeff Garlin) who looks suspiciously like Harvey Weinstein. David’s panicked reaction in combination with the cumulative effect from every narrative plant sprouting all at once made me laugh so hard that not only did I shed a few tears but My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife expressed concern for my well-being. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long, long time, probably since “Seinfeld” was on the air.

As if to cosmically prove the point, last week, after another especially long day in present-day America, I came home and soothed my weary soul with an episode of “Seinfeld.” Used to be, when I was much, much younger, all I did was rewatch the show. I don’t do that much now. And so, when I fired up Season 6’s “The Doodle”, it wasn’t like seeing it for the first time all over again but more akin to when I saw Neko Case live for the first time in, like, five or six years and her voice, that blessed voice, blew me away all over again.

“The Doodle” doesn’t build as well as my favorite-favorite-FAVORITE “Seinfeld” episodes, like “The Race” or “The Fusilli Jerry”, but, my God, everything else. I mean, somehow, inconceivably, I’d forgotten its dense packaging of uproarious comedy. And so. Because 2020 has already been long and bad, and seems positioned to get even worse, I thought, let’s take the edge off. As it happens, it’s been 25 years since “The Doodle” first aired; here’s to its silver anniversary.

Ranking the 12th Funniest Things in Seinfeld's The Doodle

12. George’s Hello. Enraged by the doodle his girlfriend, Paula (Christa Miller), has drawn of him, convinced it renders him as grotesque, as George, getting up from the diner booth to go to the bathroom, passes Elaine just as she enters and offers a salutation that does not so much barely conceal his rage as not conceal it at all.

11. Draped in Velvet. It says something about his episode’s immense quality that George finally living out his dream and draping himself in velvet, much to Jerry’s astonishment and horror, is this far down the list.

10. Toothbrush. Jerry’s germaphobia was legend, of course, and while there are numerous comic examples to cite, it’s difficult to top this one, made so not so much because of dialogue, as it often was, but because of Seinfeld’s acting, trying to will himself to use his girlfriend’s toothbrush after forgetting his own but ultimately, finally, as if there is an invisible force field between his lips and the bristles, can’t.

9. Elaine: “George should be relieved.” Jerry: “When he’s dead he’ll be relieved.”

8. Mackinaw Peaches. Kramer’s aria on his beloved Oregon peaches that are only ripe for two weeks a year isn’t so much funny in a fundamental kind of way as it is made funny by the conviction with which Michael Richards has his character espouse belief in this piece of fruit as an earthly miracle.

7. Kramer Runs Away. Upon learning he has just unwittingly spent an hour-and-a-half inside Jerry’s fumigated apartment, a panic-stricken Kramer flees. It begins with an as-usual ace bit of Richards physical comedy, sort of throwing his head back, as if he’s just been stabbed with an épée and then rushing forward. It ends with Jerry watching him run away, a one-of-a-kind expression of disbelief shading into disgust.

6. Kramer’s Billy Mumphrey Monologue. As grand as the Mackinaw Peach monologue is, as many times as I recite it apropos of any peach I consume, and while it is in all likelihood a Top 5 All Time Kramer monologue, it is only his second best monologue of THIS EPISODE compared to his explaining the manuscript, starring one Billy Mumphrey, to Elaine that she has to read for an all-important job interview and that has inadvertently become lost in Jerry’s apartment. For a moment, Richards renders his character as an eccentric literary critic holding court.

5. Elaine’s Billy Mumphrey Monologue. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s monologue, in which she just repeats the same monologue that Richards gives to the publisher interviewing her, is even BETTER. Because she’s builds from sheer, stalling terror to I-Got-This bonhomie.

4. Newman Has Fleas. Much of the episode hinges on a flea infestation of Jerry’s apartment, one caused, inevitably, by Newman. And when Jerry goes to confront his nemesis, it leads to a feat of hysterical blocking, the portly mailman trying to hide his incessant itching, as seen in the screenshot above, almost caught in the act, which comes across like their entire adversarial relationship distilled down to a single face off.

3. No More Nuts. As Jerry’s Uncle Leo, the late Len Lesser made extraordinary hay out of the simplest phrase – “Hello.” And yet, for all his memorable bothersome salutations, the Lesser line reading that I have always loved most was this one, after Jerry’s parents and Nana and Uncle Leo have taken over Elaine’s room at the Plaza, living like rock stars, which for a guy like Leo means binge-eating Macadamia Nuts, leading to him, in long shot, roiling in agony on the bed, moaning “No more nuts!”

2. Drawing Class. Did you know Julia Louis-Dreyfus only won a single Emmy for playing Elaine? Egregious. She should have won an Emmy for this scene alone, a scene building off George at the coffee shop asking her to find out if Paula likes him at the drawing class they take together.
“What are we,” Elaine asks, “in high school?” And that is how Louis-Dreyfus (and Christa Miller as Paula) play this scene – like high school. Indeed, it’s a sixty second tour de force in which Louis-Dreyfus turns up the vocal fry and accentuates her indolent posture. Anyone else would have made this feel too much like Steve Buscemi’s memorable moment on “30 Rock”, often shared in Internetz Memes, where as an obvious adult he briefly goes undercover as a high schooler. But Louis-Dreyfus transmutes the air in the room, not by acting like a high schooler but embodying the very damn being of one. In fact, let’s call this 1A.

1. Oh my God. When Kramer begins his Billy Mumphrey Monologue, Louis-Dreyfus has Elaine first respond with this, this resplendent look, not so much of bafflement, because she can believe it, but abject horror, recognizing the depths of her predicament, punctuating it with an all-time “Oh my God” that is a verbal manifestation of her look. In fact, she has another “Oh my God” later, and Jerry gets his own “Oh my God” too, both of which I strongly suspect are intentional, merely underlining just how good this “Oh my God” really is. JLD, a legend.

No comments: