"I'm never returning to television, because
I'm old, rich, and tired," insists Jerry
Seinfeld when asked if a recent guest appearance on Emmy
award-winning sitcom 30 Rock might lead to a
full-time return to the medium. Joking aside -- not an easy
task for the comic whose eponymous NBC sitcom ruled TV
airwaves for nearly a decade--the Brooklyn,
N.Y., native's attention is on the November 2
opening of Bee Movie.
Seinfeld not only
cowrote and produced the animated feature, he voiced
the lead bee, Barry B. Benson -- a recent college
graduate who is crestfallen on learning worker
bees have only a life of making honey ahead. When he
ventures outside the hive, Barry's chance encounter
with Vanessa -- a florist played by Oscar-winner Renee
Zellweger -- sets into action a series of unforeseen
events, including a lawsuit filed by the bee kingdom
against humans for ownership of the world's honey.
With an all-star
cast including Chris Rock, Megan Mullally, Matthew
Broderick, and Kathy Bates, Bee Movie has the
kind of humor you might expect from Seinfeld. Here the
father of three talks about the film's roots
(Dustin Hoffman's 1967 classic The Graduate),
his definition of success, and how the film's
proposed gay bee wound up on the cutting room floor.
Did you decide on an animated film because you have children? I find if something is funny, it cuts across
demographics. It doesn't matter how old you are
or what country you're from, human beings have an
instinct. If you like funny things, you just know it and
respond to it when you see it. It doesn't
matter if it was written for you or not. It's
just a matter of how funny it is. I don't believe
there's such thing as "We're
going to do this for these people." The people
don't care. It's either funny or it
isn't funny. That's it. End of story.
In one scene Barry floats in a pool of honey as his
parents question his lack of focus. What inspired this
tribute to the classic Dustin Hoffman film The Graduate? In some of the original drafts the entire movie
was a homage to The Graduate. That's my
favorite movie. The only scene that really survived is
the pool scene. The whole thing, the whole idea that
he was seeing this girl he wasn't supposed to be
seeing, that he was keeping it secret from his
parents, that he didn't know what he wanted to
do with his life, it all started with The Graduate.
One of the film's promotional clips playfully
suggests your creative team worked to reflect ethnic
diversity among the bees. Did you consider a gay bee? We had so many bees. We had gay bees, albino
bees, every different kind of bees, but those were all
detours from the story line. The problem with making
movies is the audience wants to follow the story. I
don't particularly want to follow it myself.
I'd rather just go off and make the jokes, but
those are the first things that get cut. They're
considered nonessential to the story. Yes, we had that -- we
had so many different things at different times -- but
unfortunately, that's not in there anymore. We
don't have a gay bee, but there is a drag queen bee.
Does that count?
So many celebrities and actors appear in Bee
Movie, from Renee Zellweger as the lead
human character to Oprah and Sting. Did you just go
through your Rolodex of A-list friends and ask
them to be in the film? Yes, absolutely. I have A-list friends, B-List
friends and so on. The B-list friends, I was like,
"Screw you! You're not good enough to be in
this. You're not even successful enough to be my
friend. In fact, you're out. You're out
of the friendship." Actually, I've met a lot
of people over the years. Once you've met
someone -- even if you haven't met someone --
you figure, "They must know me. I can just call
them." So I just call them. Even Stephen
Spielberg. That's how this all started.
You've got to use your celebrity.
Do you ever watch Seinfeld reruns? No, I really don't. I've done a
lot of stuff with the DVDs, where I have to do
commentary on the different episodes. So I'll go into
the recording studio, they'll play the episode,
and I'll watch it and just love it! I'm
thinking, Maybe I should watch this show more often!
Did you ever expect audiences in 2007 to still
watch the show in syndication? I didn't expect people in '97 to
With your career now spanning stand-up, movies, and
television, do you have a preference? Stand-up, to me, is kind of my home.
That's my home base. That's what I
really started out doing. That's what I feel I do
best. It's what I'm most comfortable
doing. It's a very simple, pure kind of communication
with an audience. Every other creative thing is like
"I'm going to make a painting" or
"I'll write a book" or
"I'll sing a song to communicate to the
audience." With stand-up, though, there is absolutely
nothing between you and the audience. I'm
talking right to the audience. You face them and talk
to them. It's a very electric connection.
Did you always want to be a comedian? I always wanted to be, but it took me a long
while to come to admit it to myself and really go for
it. There is nothing you can attempt to pursue that is
a mistake, even if it's a failure. Failure is not as
big of a deal as people make it seem.
At this point in your life and career, how do you
measure success? I believe as long as you know you give your
best, as long as you're happy with your
performance, it's a success. It doesn't matter
what anyone else thinks. Success is based on how you
feel about your effort. If you did your best,
it's a success.