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Watch Two of Seinfeld’s Earliest TV Stand-up Routines

The rise of Seinfeld’s star came in the early ’80s when he performed for Johnny Carson and David Letterman. His routine touched on the weather, eyeglasses, driving, and fat people.

Jonathan Zalman
January 22, 2016
Mark Mainz/Getty Images
Jerry Seinfeld in New York City, December 4, 2002. Mark Mainz/Getty Images
Mark Mainz/Getty Images
Jerry Seinfeld in New York City, December 4, 2002. Mark Mainz/Getty Images

As the Internet continues to inches further and further away from the free-form, wild west playground it used to be, I imagine much of the best—or, rather, rarest—content will soon be blocked by a copyright wall through which one can only disassemble with some cold hard cash. And fine. It’s been a good run. Until that happens, however, let’s appreciate some of the vintage content the world wide web has to offer.

In May 1981, Jerry Seinfeld performed a stand-up routine on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for the first time. He looks basically the same (it’s that haircut), just, well, younger. And he jokes about the weather, and Switzerland, and being questioned for drugs while going through customs, making left turns, and a fat guy. (I think fat jokes are cheap but apparently Seinfeld doesn’t as he continues to make them, if even indirectly.)

About a year later, Seinfeld was invited to do his schtick on Letterman, where he begins again with his weather jokes, and ended with his fat jokes. But he switches it up a bit too, by talking about where he grew up (Long Island, “The only place you can count on”) and wearing glasses and braces as a kid.

What’s cool about the clip below, and this is something viewers of the live show may have missed, is that Seinfeld mostly sticks to his original script from his first routine on Letterman 33 years ago.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.

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