I did my doctoral studies in the field of preaching. In my personal library reside some 75 volumes written by preachers for preachers. I took every course my seminary offered on the topic and still have the notes. I have verbatims that I’ve written and typed from interviews that I conducted with some of America’s greatest pulpiteers. Yet one of the most helpful resources that I maintain in my collection is a documentary on Jerry Seinfeld titled, The Comedian.
The Comedian is an 87 minute DVD that chronicles Jerry Seinfeld’s return to stand up comedy following his successful television career. Seinfeld determined to return to comedy from the ground up. He tossed all of his material and committed to begin with all new, never performed material. I appreciate the honesty of the work which reveals Seinfeld’s struggles and even his failures.
It’s definitely entertaining, especially if you’re a fan of stand up comedy or Seinfeld’s brand of humor. But to the eye of those who have to do any form of public speaking, the documentary holds several insightful lessons.
For example, it was interesting to see the stand ups struggle with ego, insecurity, and vulnerability. One would think that these experienced entertainers would be numb to audience opinion, but they were surprisingly sensitive to audience response. Some were very open to feedback from peers, while others worked as lone rangers, rejecting any feedback, including positive comments.
I admired their passion and single focus shared among members of the comedy circuit. They ate, slept, and drank comedy. Their lives off stage were intertwined with their craft.
Their work ethic was impressive. Far from the fun and games one might imagine, they described their work as “the daily grind.” Like preaching, the performance was the “fun” part. But the good ones shared one thing in common: the daily practice of writing, rehearsing, and evaluating.
My favorite part, though, was to see the struggle they shared when it came to developing new material. At one point, Seinfeld is congratulated for having accrued eight minutes of brand new material in his first three months of work. As I listened to this section, I laughed at the thought that pastors are routinely required to develop between 20-25 minutes of new material each week, atop the rest of their pastoral duties.
If you preach or teach with any regularity, The Comedian will serve as an insightful and encouraging word. If you view it through the lens of your pulpit ministry, you might even find yourself helped in a hopeful kind of way.