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How Jerry Seinfeld Defied the Odds and Won the Internet

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JERRY SEINFELD COMEDIANS IN CARS
ASSOCIATED PRESS

When Jerry Seinfeld was shopping around "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" as an online miniseries, he says he was told by digital experts that there's no way audiences would go for it if episodes were more than five minutes each. Seinfeld decided to try anyway, he told a packed house at the Paley Center for Media on Monday night.

He told interviewer David Letterman that the whole idea was "kind of a guess" and that he was most intrigued by the possibility to do something that had never been done before: streaming a show exclusively online at whatever length he chose to with a sponsor (Acura) behind it. In Seinfeld's words, he was trying to fit a whole new medium, inside of people's pockets.

What was particularly noteworthy on this night was how comfortable two celebrities were talking about a series that calls on people like Letterman (who appears in "Cars" in season two) to indulge in these kinds of conversations, just inside of cars while nursing a cup of Joe. But Seinfeld says that all of the elements -- the celebrities, the cars, the coffee -- are essential to make the vehicle move. Different episodes can have different balances and cadences, Seinfeld said, as he acknowledged his unhealthy love for being inside of the editing room. Guests must be stimulated to make the show thrive, and you never know when their passion will come about. Just keep waiting and filming. (The typical episode comes from around 3.5 hours of footage.)

At the Paley event, Seinfeld showed the contrast between actual footage and what airs on the episode through a couple of Before and Afters. You could see starkly why a talented editor is necessary. The addition of music to help push story along and create some emotion helps the flow, Seinfeld said.

Rarely do the celebrities in the series discuss comedy or their craft, something Seinfeld is happy with. Once your remove the live audience, comedians stop performing and just talk like regular people do. That's when the best moments come out.

Whenever Letterman asked Seinfeld to consider the impact of the series, Seinfeld pushed back. "It's an anti-show about a nonevent," he argued. Then he described how he scrubs most signs of "celebrity sightings" within clips.