Early this year, streaming giant Netflix announced a major deal with legendary comedian Jerry Seinfeld for two, brand new stand-up specials and the rights to his current series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” In the first special of the budding partnership, “Jerry Before Seinfeld,” which dropped on Sept. 19, Seinfeld returns to the The Comic Strip, the New York City club where he first performed, to do a set of largely autobiographical, early material about his childhood and origins in comedy.
Critics reacted favorably to Seinfeld’s return to televised stand-up. Dennis Perkins (A.V. Club) says the special is “undeniably fun” and that “Seinfeld works the cramped stage of his old haunt with not only the effortless and inevitable confidence of the old pro and cultural touchstone he is, but with an enthusiasm belying any hint of obligation.” Keith Uhlich (Hollywood Reporter) declares that Seinfeld’s “still master of his domain” in the “breezy” comedy special, elaborating that “the occasional dud humor in ‘Jerry Before Seinfeld’ in no way detracts from the larger pleasures of watching this peerless comedian pay tribute to his roots.” Robert Lloyd (Los Angeles Times) concurs, admitting, “I laughed a lot,” and observing, “Seinfeld’s new attack on his early material has a different music and energy… The young man bemused by the absurdities of civilization comes on now like a comic equivalent of an Old Testament Prophet, harsher and hoarser and invigorated with age.”
Though not nearly as prominent a presence at the Emmy Awards as former colleagues Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) and Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm), Seinfeld could find himself in the 2018 Emmy derby for “Jerry Before Seinfeld,” especially given his track record with the television academy since his renowned sitcom “Seinfeld” went off the air in 1998. In addition to his 13 nominations and one win for his series, Seinfeld earned a Best Variety, Musical, or Comedy Special bid in 1999 for “Jerry Seinfeld: ‘I’m Telling You for the Last Time,’” a Best Short-Form Nonfiction Program nomination in 2014 for “Comedians and Cars Getting Coffee,” and a surprising bid for that same program in the Best Variety Talk Series category in 2016.
Seinfeld’s Emmy prospects might be even rosier considering Netflix’s recent breakthrough in the Variety Special categories. At the 2017 Emmys, Netflix earned its first ever nominations in the Variety Special category for “Louis C.K. 2017” and “Sarah Silverman: A Speck of Dust,” although both faltered to James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special 2017” for the trophy. In the past two years, Netflix has had even more impressive results in the Variety Special Writing category, winning in 2016 for “Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping” and earning a nomination “John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid.” This year, Louis C.K. and Sarah Silverman’s specials both earned Writing bids, too.