By Roger Friedman, ,
Published May 18, 2015
Remember when Jerry Seinfeld was getting married and starting to have kids with wife, Jessica? He swore he would not work either subject into his stand-up act. Well, he’s gone back on his word.
On Monday night, Seinfeld performed a brilliant one-hour show at the (WaMu) Theater at Madison Square Garden that contained a lengthy diatribe about his marriage and being a dad to three young kids at age 54.
Somewhere in heaven, Alan King was smiling.
In front of a totally sold-out crowd that included a few well-known faces, such as L.A. Reid, Dina Lohan and soap actress Maura West, Seinfeld really turned on the charm and worked like a dog to give the audience a knock-out show.
It was all for a good cause, called Stand Up for a Cure, a charity started by New York oncology nurse Jordan Belkin to raise money for lung cancer research. But with very high ticket prices, up to $3,500, Seinfeld did only his A-plus material.
Of course, it’s amazing to look around the MSG theater and see nearly every one of the 5,600 seats occupied. This is the power of Seinfeld based on the goodwill phenomenon of his TV show. The show, by the way, went off the air 10 years and two weeks ago. But thanks to reruns, Jerry and pals live on without aging.
That Seinfeld himself has been able to return to stand-up is testimony to how good his own material is. You could say the live show, like the TV show, is about nothing. It’s all bits of observational humor, but woven together into what appears to be a seamless whole.
Seinfeld stays away from topical humor, although he did touch on Hillary Clinton’s endless run for the White House. "I think she’s doing it so we see all the colors of pants suits she’s bought," he said. Of the actual election, he whined: "Just pick somebody. Anybody!"
He also did a long take on the Iraq war, staying away from anything too controversial but making irreverent humor out of suicide bombers. Seinfeld says the problem with the Arabs is, to paraphrase, "all that sand and no actual beach. It’s driving them crazy."
Seinfeld hit on a litany of keywords during the hour, including prescription meds such as Viagra and Cialis, burials and cremation, cell phones, BlackBerrys, senior citizens and the inanity of contemporary lingo (such as the overuse of "great" and "sucks").
But it was the marriage material that hit a nerve. There was enough of it, too, for him to write a humor book on the subject. He said he can’t hang out with single guy friends any more. "You got a girlfriend?" he said rhetorically. "That’s Whiffle ball," he joked. "I’m at war. I’m in Iraq."
A nice bit about his home "tone of voice" scored big with the audience, too. "I’m not allowed to use my normal speaking voice at home," he said. "That’s why I’m here, talking to you."
Seinfeld was introduced by Alec Baldwin, who thankfully didn’t do stand-up, and comedian Colin Quinn, who was a superb warm-up act. After-party entertainment was provided by The Bacon Brothers (actor Kevin and brother Michael).
You know India Arie, and you probably love her. She is a very talented contemporary R&B singer with loads of respect, many devoted fans and a hit debut CD called "Acoustic Soul" from 2001.
But now India is hopeful that "Sex and the City" will do for her what it’s done for all the women in the cast: Give her a break-out hit.
I ran into India, who once was one of Stevie Wonder’s back-up singers, on Monday night at the Apollo Theatre’s annual fundraiser celebration. Smokey Robinson received an award, and so did Denzel and Pauletta Washington. Earth, Wind & Fire performed; the Rev. Al Sharpton and Janet Jackson were on hand; and soul legend Chuck Jackson oversaw the proceedings from the presidential box with wife, Ellen.
But it was India who surprised me. She told me the song of hers that was chosen for the movie and its commercials — a sensational cover of Don Henley’s "Heart of the Matter" — already has been out and was a flop.
The album, called "Testimony: Volume 1, Life & Relationships," actually was released by Universal/Motown two years ago. And — par for the course — the label, India says, did nothing. The result is that India has left Motown for another Universal label, One Republic, and she’s started her own mini-label to showcase talent she respects.
But now "Heart of the Matter" is featured on the "SATC" soundtrack, which is a runaway hit. "So Universal is going back to radio with it and starting all over," India told me. "Hopefully this time it will work."
Let the — legal — downloading begin!
PS: India did tell me she recently heard her famous duet with Julia Fordham, "Concrete Love," on the radio for the first time. "I was home in the kitchen and I had XM on, and there it was," she said with a smile. "I’d never heard it like that before. It’s pretty good!"
There’s a lot of good stuff written all over the Web about Bo Diddley, who died Monday at age 79. I found an interesting piece here. One thing I didn’t know: He wrote Mickey and Sylvia’s famous, famous single, "Love Is Strange." I’m sure he never got paid properly for it. Of course, he also wrote the rock-blues standards "Who Do You Love?" and the self-titled romp that he called "Bo Diddley."
How do you explain Bo Diddley to a generation of pop stars who can’t play an instrument, don’t actually sing and can’t feel the history of American popular music beyond their Gucci handbags and idiotic tattoos? You can’t. He was one of a kind, he invented this thing, and we would not be here without him.