Q&A: Jerry Seinfeld

The comedy god on his TV likes and dislikes - and devising entertainment series Marriage Ref

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Which TV series would you take to a desert island?
Batman, with Adam West. It’s funny, it’s got adventure, it’s got some romance, it’s very colourful and it’s very upbeat. It made me happy when I was a kid. Every time I’d hear the theme song I’d be happy.

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What’s your guilty TV pleasure?
I don’t feel guilty about anything. I’m a good guy! I don’t hurt other people. But it would probably be 30-minute infomercials for 70s soft-rock love songs. I’ll do a show and I’ll come back to the hotel room, turn on the TV and I’ll sit on the edge of the bed and I won’t get undressed, I’ll just sit there in my suit with my tie half down and watch that for 30 minutes.

Who was the first TV star you fancied?

I was more attracted to movie stars. Raquel Welch was a pretty big deal for me in the 60s. Any female in a James Bond movie was my ultimate object of desire. Any woman who walked by in a bikini.

What would your price be to go on Strictly Come Dancing?
It’s not about the money. It’s the time. I don’t want to give them the time. I would do it for nothing if I was going to do it. But dancing takes so much time.

Which star have you met who was different to what you expected?
Paul McCartney. Dealing with intense fame for such a great period of your life, and being as comfortable with it as he is, surprised me. Most people who have half that level of fame become acts of seven veils, of disguise and deflection. He seems to have none of that. Me? I cope pretty well, but not on his level. He’s smooth as silk.

What’s your movie for when you’ve got a day off or are ill?
The Graduate. The most perfect movie ever made.

The worst thing about being a multimillionaire comedy god?
I’ll never, ever understand why a regular person would think it would be easy to make me laugh. They try. They come up and say, “Something funny happened to me the other day…” and you just want to go, “No, please stop. Whatever you think is funny is not going to be funny to me.” Comedy is a difficult profession. So people who are good at it are better at it than you! There are no dumb comedians.

I think we’ve got some in the UK.
They’re playing dumb.

You’re friends with Ricky Gervais. Some people here are worried that he’s “gone a bit LA”, with his weight loss and all-black outfits. Is he all right?
Ha ha! No one has taken more heat for losing a bit of weight than Ricky. Mostly because the people saying it are still fat. That’s why they’re mad. I’ve asked him about the T-shirt. I think it is too tight, but he’s comfortable with it. Ricky does not apologise. That’s why we love him.

Has he paid his dues, though? He only did 14 episodes of The Office. You did 180 Seinfelds.
The only dues are standing in the line of fire and not getting killed. It doesn’t matter if you did it for a week or ten years. Ricky did it hosting the Golden Globes. Nobody ever got anything out of that: it’s the dumbest show, but he made it into something. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time.

You devised the original American version of ITV’s new show Marriage Ref, in which a celebrity panel adjudicates on real couples’ disputes. US critics hated it. Was that new territory for you – bad press?
No. Everybody forgets we got bad reviews on Seinfeld all the time. There’s nothing that a certain group of people don’t hate. You can type anything into the internet, put “I hate” in front of it and there’s a website. People love to hate.

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What were you aiming to do with The Marriage Ref?
I wanted to make a funny show about marriage. I love the morality, the comedy, the stupidity. And I love to laugh at other people’s problems. Who doesn’t?