‘Seinfeld’: Why Jerry Seinfeld Returned to Stand-Up Following Series Finale

by Alex Falls

Throughout most of the 90s, there was hardly a more recognizable figure in entertainment than Jerry Seinfeld. His NBC sitcom Seinfeld became one of the biggest shows in the history of television. Even today the streaming rights for the show are a highly lucrative and sought-after property. Seinfeld was a veritable pop-culture phenomenon during its heyday.

One of Seinfeld’s most cherished memories is learning that famed film director Steven Spielberg was among the many fans of the show. It used to air endlessly on network syndication, but now fans can pour over any episode they want on Netflix.

Despite reaching such iconic status in the hearts of American television viewers, Seinfeld and co-creator Larry David decided to hang it up. The show about nothing came to an end in 1998. During an interview with The New York Times in 1997, Seinfeld said the decision to end the show came down to not wanting to overstay their welcome. “I wanted to end the show on the same kind of peak we’ve been doing it on for years. I wanted it to be graceful,” Seinfeld said.

However, the show’s finale was not seen as a high point. He said endings are particularly hard in comedy. He told Vulture in 2017, “There was a lot of pressure on us at that time to do one big last show, but big is always bad in comedy.”

Why Did Seinfeld Return to Stand-Up Comedy?

Seinfeld may have become a household name by the time his show ended, but he made the choice to back away from the spotlight after years of dominating TV screens. Instead of transitioning into big-budget movies, he returned to the stage to perform stand-up comedy.

The comedian did maintain a slight presence in Hollywood. He occasionally performed in commercials, cameos, or take voice-over roles. But given the legacy of the show, stand-up comedy feels like a natural home for Seinfeld. He revealed his reasoning for sticking to his roots in an interview with Extra in 2021.

“I like a simple life, actually. There’s a simplicity, and a poetry to doing stand-up,” Seinfeld said. “You just write, and perform it. And if they [audiences] like it, you’ve had a great night.” He went on to say working in television was like being part of a machine, and instead desired to “go back to a quiet life.”

Seinfeld has stayed quiet for the most part since the end of the show. Although, he has further endeared himself to viewers through his new and more simplified show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The show revolves around Seinfeld taking his famous friends for rides in cars from his own personal collection. They then share hilarious stories and anecdotes over coffee.

He’s gone more outside of the box lately. Seinfeld just directed his first feature film, Unfrosted. The comedy tells the story behind the birth of the Pop-Tart. He’ll also star in the film and even co-wrote the screenplay.