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Film Review: In “Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill,” Jerry Seinfeld Is Behind the Times with his Observational Shtick

Written by: Patrick Howard | May 6th, 2020

Film poster: “Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill”

Jerry Seinfeld: 23 Hours to Kill (Joe DeMaio, 2020) 1½ out of 4 stars.

Believe it or not, it’s been 22 years since comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld graced us with an original stand-up special. From the start of the 1980s to the late 1990s, Seinfeld engrossed millions of fans with his sharp and relatable observational comedy through his standup and his hit sitcom, Seinfeld. While Mr. Seinfeld has made a comfortable living with his brand of humor for decades, one question has popped up: is Jerry Seinfeld still relatable? Seinfeld has now teamed up with Netflix and produced a new standup special, 23 Hours to Kill. Just as you would expect with ol’ Jerry, he has a few opinions on the current booming sociological, political, and technological society we’re living in.

One thing that must be credited to Jerry Seinfeld is his awareness of his wealth. Yes, it’s not exactly the bravest thing a rich, white celebrity has ever done, but it never hurts to hear from time to time. Jerry gets it. He understands that he may not have the same problems as most of us but he does have problems. Sadly, this superficial declaration of the painfully obvious is the only thing that is a true standout in 23 Hours to Kill.

I want to preface saying that this observational shtick is not the issue here. It’s a beloved foundation of standup comedy. It’s just a shame the observations Seinfeld makes in 23 Hours to Kill are 20 years too late. Just about every controversial topic is pushed into the spotlight: smartphones, things that suck, and commercial flights. Innovative, right?

Still from JERRY SEINFELD: 23 HOURS TO KILL ©Netflix

Today’s zeitgeist is and should be a collection of content available for any comic brave enough to go on stage and share their opinion; except that opinion isn’t the only factor in making someone laugh. Time needs to be dedicated to the craft as well. And Seinfeld has proven he’s a comedian of refined craft, but the material in 23 Hours is still the safest material it’s ever been. Seinfeld was once a brilliant comic who had a finger firmly pressed on the pulse of the American conscious. However, 20 years have come and gone, and Seinfeld has missed his chance to stand side by side with his peers and comment on world culture with a fresh perspective.

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Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.

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