Jerry, what’s the deal with Bee Movie?

By Jon Roe

I interviewed Jerry Seinfeld. Sort of. When movie studios release projects they want to be successful, they want to get as much publicity in the shortest time span possible. This means adequately managing the time of their stars for interviews and hitting the big outlets. The Gauntlet, despite what its editors may think, is not a major media outlet. So, when a big movie comes along, we’re content with a media pass to the pre-release screening. Rarely do we get to do any interviews with movie stars unless it comes via the laziest tool known to publicists– the college conference call. The college conference call, strangely, makes everyone happy. The publicists are happy because they get identical stories in hundreds of college and university newspapers across the continent. The student editors are happy because they can pretend they talked to a big star. The writers are happy because they get to ask a real, live famous person a question–maybe.

So, it was when the Gauntlet received an invitation to a North America-wide conference call for Seinfeld’s upcoming Bee Movie. Though the Dreamworks people were nice enough to transcribe the whole 25-page monstrosity so I wouldn’t have to, the lack of flow to the questions and the lack of common themes makes the answers akin to firing a poorly-made shotgun at a pack of ducks–most of the shots are going to miss.

So Jerry, what’s the deal with Bee Movie?

“I was intrigued to work in a completely different form than anything that I’d ever done,” said Seinfeld to someone from the University of Maryland. “It’s a completely different way of presenting my comedy.”

The major themes of the questions were Seinfeld, the show, and why Seinfeld, the man, hadn’t done anything since the show ended in 1998. Seinfeld was quick to point out that his main career is stand-up comedy and noted that because stand-up isn’t really a mass media thing, it seems like he’s been sitting on his ass for nearly a decade–which isn’t the case.

“After the TV show, I was kind of done with the acting and scripts and cameras and all that stuff,” said Seinfeld. “I just wanted to be a comedian again. Then, this came along and I thought, ‘well, if I’m going to get back into that kind of thing, at least it’s in a completely different way.’ That got me excited to do something new.”

Unlike his Seinfeld co-stars, who seem to be using to shotgun approach to projects and have been turning up with a lot of lame, sometimes racist, ducks, Seinfeld has been very selective on what he’s worked on. Beyond his stand-up, he’s only made a few select guest-shots on TV.

“It was really up to my experience being on the TV show Benson in 1980 and I was given this terrible material to do,” said Seinfeld. “Then I got fired from the show because they didn’t think I was being funny enough and I’m doing their material. Even though I was a young comic, I still was kind of offended by that predicament. And I go, ‘why should I suffer because of your bad writing? I can write for myself.’ So that’s when I decided that I would only do my own stuff from then on.”

He can afford to be selective. Seinfeld reportedly made $60 million from syndication rights and stand-up shows last year. This makes Seinfeld, the man’s, selection of Bee Movie as his first major project since Seinfeld, the show, even stranger. Cartoony, 3D, CGI movies are a dime-a-dozen these days. But, despite what it looks like from previews, it isn’t aimed at kids–at least from what Seinfeld said to someone from Old Dominion University.

“One of the things I’m most excited about and how this all kind of came together in the end is there doesn’t seem to be any specific target audience for it,” he said. “We’ve played it for little kids and we’ve played it for adults–and college-age. Everybody seems to find it funny.”

Fortunately for all those out there holding their breath and hoping when they inhale Bee Movie’s fumes, it won’t stink to high heaven–as Seinfeld pointed out earlier–the writing is a large part of what makes things funny. Seinfeld, the man, shares writing credits with former Seinfeld writers Spike Feresten and Andy Robin as well as with Barry Marder, a friend of Seinfeld’s. Feresten also wrote for the Simpsons and both Feresten Robin worked on the Michael Richards Show, which lasted eight episodes back in 2000.

If the solid writing cast and Seinfeld’s own selectiveness gives no solace to the wary consumer, then Bee Movie will have to stand on it’s own six bee feet. Seinfeld, the show, is gone and won’t be repeated–though that didn’t stop dozens of college students asking Seinfeld, the man, questions about it.

As the 30-minute conference call winded down, I did get to actually interview Seinfeld–if only for one question. How much control does Seinfeld exercise over his projects?

“I don’t think there’s anything in the movie that I wasn’t involved with from the script to the character design, to the editing, to the music, to the props, to the lighting and the city, the cars, the sound of the cars,” said Seinfeld. “I got into everything just because someone’s got to. It’s like a ship and somebody has to be the captain. Even if you’re wrong, you got to go, ‘okay, we’re going that way, men.’”

So I did get to interview Jerry Seinfeld. Sort of.

Leave a comment