Jerry Seinfeld — A Comedy Legend’s Systems, Routines, and Methods for Success (#485) | Tim Ferris Show

Check out the Tim Ferris Show Podcast Page & Episode Notes

Key Takeaways

  • To survive in comedy you have to be a writer
  • “As any writer can tell you it’s 95% re-write” Jerry Seinfeld
  • If Jerry taught a class on writing, he would teach to:
    • Create a system you can stick with for some time
    • Learn to accept your own mediocrity
    • Reward yourself
  • “I think I could solve just about anyone’s life, I don’t care what you do, with weight training and transcendental meditation” Jerry Seinfeld
    • “If you look at the people who have really performed at a high level for decades, weight training seems to be one of the constants” Tim Ferriss
    • Transcendental meditation is the ultimate work tool
  • “If you could take your experiences and ask to trade them in, the last ones I would trade would be the failures, those are the most valuable ones” Jerry Seinfeld

Key Products Mentioned

Intro

  • Jerry Seinfeld (@jerryseinfeld) is an iconic comedian, most famous for being the main character of the most successful comedy series in the history of television: Seinfeld
  • Host: Tim Ferriss (@tferriss)
  • In this chat, Jerry discusses the systems and routines that allowed him to be successful for so long, plus lessons from failures and much more

Jerry’s Writing Process

  • Jerry finds systematizing his processes extremely valuable
    • He writes every day in the morning
    • Writing sessions should not be open-ended, that’s torture
      • You should have an end time to reward yourself
  • His writing process hasn’t changed much over time
    • He divides his writing into a free play, creative phase, and a polishing phase
      • Jerry spends lots of time in the polishing phase until each sentence creates a pleasing sound in his ears
      • “As any writer can tell you it’s 95% re-write” Jerry Seinfeld
    • After testing his lines with an audience, he goes through the re-writing process again
      • The audience feedback is the only one that matters
  • If Jerry taught a class on writing, he would teach to:
    • Create a system you can stick with for some time
    • “Learn to accept your own mediocrity” Jerry Seinfeld
      • Great writers are those who dedicate a tremendous amount of time to it
  • The key to writing is learning to switch between these two states:
    • When you are writing, treat yourself as a baby in need of care and love
      • Acknowledge that writing is the most difficult thing in the World
      • Reward yourself for doing it
    • The day after, you become a harsh critic of your own work, demanding the very best

Writing and Comedy

  • To survive in comedy you have to be a writer
    • “You either learn to do that or you will die in this ecosystem” Jerry Seinfeld
  • Writing sessions used to feel very hard, but he knew he had to do it anyway
    • Jerry attributes his success to his ability to stick with it
    • Today he’s so used to the frustration he doesn’t even notice it
  • A lot of Jerry’s writing material comes from his “cranky” nature and sensitivity to being provoked by many things
    • Success is the biggest enemy to this because it allows you to remove all difficulties from life

Jerry’s Other Important Routines

  • “I’m not OCD but I love routine, I get less depressed with routine” Jerry Seinfeld from this NY Times article
  • Aside from writing, Jerry also has a routine for weight training and transcendental meditation
    • “I think I could solve just about anyone’s life, I don’t care what you do, with weight training and transcendental meditation” Jerry Seinfeld
    • “If you look at the people who have really performed at a high level for decades, weight training seems to be one of the constants” Tim Ferriss
  • Weight training
    • Jerry follows the program from the book Body for Life: 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strength by Bill Phillips
      • Three times weight training and three times HIIT (High-intensity interval training) in a week
    • The stress from weight training makes your nervous system more resilient
  • Transcendental meditation is the ultimate work tool
    • Jerry practices it twice a day or anytime he’s feeling off
    • It provides stress reduction, energy recovery and helps with concentration fatigue

On Seinfeld

  • Jerry attributes the success of Seinfeld to his obsession with every little detail
    • He decided to end the show after 9 years because it was getting too big and difficult to manage
    • He thought that if he kept going the quality and the audience’s experience would have suffered
  • Jerry managed to keep conflicts low among the people involved in Seinfeld by immediately addressing them as they arose

Lessons from Failure

  • “If you could take your experiences and ask to trade them in, the last ones I would trade would be the failures, those are the most valuable ones” Jerry Seinfeld
  • Four years in his career, when Jerry moved he was strongly rejected by The Comedy Store (main comedy club in LA)
    • He moved from being at the top in NYC to being at basements, in discos in LA
    • The anger from his rejection fueled his determination to work even harder
  • For Jerry, there can be no failure in going up on stage
    • Even if for him it’s a 4 out of 10 show, he still counts it as a win
    • This is part of nurturing and rewarding yourself as a creative

Additional Notes

  • If Jerry could write anything on a billboard seen by Billions of people it would be “Just Work”
    • To learn to become competent in comedy and most other things in life, you have to put in the work
  • In the preface of “Is This Anything?”, Jerry mentions the book The Last Laugh: The World of Stand-Up Comics by Phil Berger
    • The book takes you deep into the sealed world of comedy
  • For Jerry, longevity is one of the best metrics of success in comedy
  • If Jerry could pass along something to his kids it would be ethics and boldness
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Notes By Giorgio Parlato

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