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Why Bee
Has No Queens

Why Bee
Has No Queens


Jerry Seinfeld discusses his latest DreamWorks animated adventure and explains why the gay bee ended up on the cutting room floor.

"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 watch it!

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.

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