What is absurdity? If you’ll oblige and let me get philosophical really quick, Albert Camus, the leading writer and philosopher in Absurdism, considers absurdity to be the confrontation between two ideals. He goes on to say that the human condition is itself absurd in our desire for significance in the face of a cold and silent universe. Dark shit…
To take it one step further for a second, Camus discusses three ways to deal with the absurd through Revolt, Elusion, and Acceptance. Revolt is suicide in the face of this realization, Elusion is avoiding this confrontation of reality and substituting it with something like, and lastly, Acceptance refers to the ideal method in which one comes to terms with the absurdity of our existence and instead of eluding or giving up, he accepts it. This is where Seinfeld comes in.
I think one of the big things that’s always drawn me to Seinfeld beyond its humor, is its approach to humor. Seinfeld takes a really surreal approach in the way that they deal with the everyday nothingness we constantly find ourselves entangled in. Seinfeld presents common people and situations in such idiosyncratic ways that sometimes you can’t remember if you’re watching something written by Jerry Seinfeld or David Lynch.
I tend to incorporate the dream logic that I would use when watching surreal films when I put on an episode of Seinfeld. They live in New York, but it’s not our New York. It’s a fantasy-camp version where all the absurdities of human nature are amplified. Human nature, as it is, is wacky. It makes no sense why we do some of the things we do. The things we take for granted could very well be seen as completely alien to someone who wasn’t from this planet. I mean what the hell would they think of people sticking their tongues into each other for pleasure? I don’t know, but I still like it.
While Seinfeld takes note of these facially absurd tendencies of humans, I feel like Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld took it a step further when they characterized our four friends. Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer can all be seen as perfect examples of those who took Camus’ third and most recommended choice when it comes to being faced with the absurd. They didn’t off themselves when faced with the absurd (at least not to our knowledge) and they didn’t try to elude by finding religion. No, George converting for a girl isn’t the same thing. What they did was accept it.
When we see all the wildly over-exaggerated people and circumstances that the gang runs across, it’s almost as if they’re never surprised by the ridiculousness of it. Whether it be Crazy Joe Davola dressing up like a clown or Elaine running to apologize to a virgin then running against the light and hitting a Chinese delivery boy, Seinfeld constantly uses drawn out series of events like these to exemplify how absurd life really is. It’s also a great little insight into how powerful the butterfly effect is, but that’s for another conversation. The fact that Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine are rarely ever phased by the circumstances they encounter acts as much more than just good comedy, that’s what their sociopathic tendencies are for. They act as perfect examples for how to approach the absurd.