Jerry Seinfeld is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and producer, best-known for creating the TV sitcom Seinfeld. He has authored several books over the years, including SeinLanguage, the children’s book Halloween, and Is This Anything?.
It’s really the profession of writing, that’s what standup comedy is. However you do it, anybody, you can do it any way you want, but if you don’t learn to do it in some form, you will not survive.Jerry Seinfeld — A Comedy Legend’s Systems, Routines, and Methods for Success (#485) | The Tim Ferriss Show
In 2012, during an interview with The New York Times, Jerry Seinfeld recounted a three-day vacation to France that would have most travellers green with envy — sightseeing with his family, attending a birthday and checking out a vintage Meyer Manx dune buggy that he was considering buying. But at the end of the trip, the only thing Seinfeld could focus on was the fact that he wasn’t doing standup.
“We did a lot of moving, and we had a lot of fun, but I get thrown off easily,” he admitted. “If I have one weekend off from stand-up, and I do something weird, I completely forget who I am and what I do for a living.”
It comes at no surprise to learn this though. Even though he boasts an estimated net worth of close to a billion dollars, and is frequently ranked as one of the biggest earners in the entertainment industry — Forbes believes he pulled in $69 million in 2016 — we’ll never find a retired Seinfeld lounging somewhere on a private island. Instead, he’s going to be doing what he’s been doing since the ‘70s – writing and performing standup comedy.
“I like money, but it’s never been about the money,” he explained. “It’s similar to calligraphy or samurai. I want to make cricket cages. You know those Japanese cricket cages? Tiny, with the doors? That’s it for me: solitude and precision, refining a tiny thing for the sake of it.
For Seinfeld, it’s the craftsmanship of writing and perfecting a joke that excites him. Even though, he admits, the writing sessions during the early days of his career were “very arduous, very painful,” he realised that success in the comedy world was dependent on putting pen to paper, so he kept at it.
I learned that really fast and really young, and that saved my life and made my career, that I grasped the essential principle of survival in comedy really young. That principle is: you learn to be a writer.Jerry Seinfeld — A Comedy Legend’s Systems, Routines, and Methods for Success (#485) | The Tim Ferriss Show
Jerry Seinfeld’s daily writing routine
Seinfeld’s writing day hasn’t changed all that much in the past few decades. In a 2012 New York Times profile, writer Jonah Weiner recounted the comedian’s morning routine, which involved getting his three kids ready for school, hitting the gym, and then coming back to his home office to start writing. “No street noise penetrates,” Weiner observed of Seinfeld’s workspace. “The pages of the pad are destined for either a wastebasket or a master file containing Seinfeld’s entire act, handwritten.”
Eight years later, in another conversation with The New York Times during the COVID-19 pandemic, Seinfeld described his daily writing routine to David Itzkoff.
I still have a writing session every day. It’s another thing that organizes your mind. The coffee goes here. The pad goes here. The notes go here. My writing technique is just: You can’t do anything else. You don’t have to write, but you can’t do anything else. The writing is such an ordeal. That sustains me.Jerry Seinfeld Is Making Peace With Nothing: He’s ‘Post-Show Business’ | The New York Times
To break up his writing sessions, Seinfeld regularly does exercise and meditation throughout his day. Over the course of a week, he’ll work out three days with weights and three days with interval cardio training, with each session lasting an hour. For his meditation, he’ll do it at least twice a day, but he’ll also use it as a pick-me-up “any time I feel like I’m dipping,” he said during an interview with Tim Ferriss.
If I don’t do a set in two weeks, I feel it. I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don’t I know how to do this already? The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop.Jerry Seinfeld Intends to Die Standing Up | The New York Times
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