Pioneers of Television: Standup to Sitcom

For an assignment we were asked to watch and write a blog post about the PBS series Pioneers of Television. The series explores different topics that span the history of television. I did not take me much time to choose the episode titled Standup to Sitcom being that I am a huge fan of comedy. So I sat back on my couch, drank two and a half beers and watched the show. The episode explains the art form of stand up comedy through the careers of comedic giants Jerry Seinfeld, Roseanne Barr, Tim Allen, Ray Romano and Bob Newhart.

The first comedian they explore is Jerry Seinfeld. Footage is shown of the first time Seinfeld performed stand up and his rise to fame following his first performance on Johnny Carson. After Jerry Seinfeld conquered the stand up he then went on to develop and star in what I think is undoubtedly the greatest sitcom of all time. I know Seinfeld is an incredible show because my Dad quotes from it and references it constantly and I still love it. Seinfeld details how NBC came to him and asked what idea he had a for a show. And he replied “I thought you had an idea.” Luckily, Jerry’s good friend Larry David had an idea, which went on to be one of the funniest television shows of all time.

“The whole show came from the way Larry and I relate. And that what was why I had asked him to work with me on it. . And he had a lot more ideas than I had, so he really  helped structure the whole thing.” Jerry Seinfeld on Larry David.

Seinfeld than reminisces about classic moments from the show like the famous Marine Biologist episode and the bit about George doing everything against his instinct. After the success of the show, Seinfeld returned to his place at the top of the standup game. The narrator swiftly transitions from comedian to comedian, detailing the rise to fame and the defining moments of their career. Roseanne Barr quickly went from being a waitress and a mom to moving to Hollywood and starring on a sitcom that was really able to push a progressive message onto the American public. Tim Allen made his career on joking about the blue collar dad. And Ray Romano makes me uncomfortable and I still don’t get what all the fuss is about. It seems like twenty years ago all it took was one good set on the Late Night comedy circuit and then you immediately got a show. What all the figures represent is the classic definition of a good comic. They gave their entire life to their craft. As the narrator puts it “comedy is not a job it is a life.” “You don’t really think about ‘why do i do this?’ it’s just the thing you do” Seinfeld explains.

Comedy has always been something that has grabbed hold of my attention. I still remember the first night my brother showed me South Park when I was younger, and I ended up on the floor kicking my legs in laughter. It seems to exist in infinite forms and has the ability to take us away from all negativity in the world for a brief moment. Comedians to me are like the philosophers of our time. They expose the world and force us to think. Comedy is currently really helping me cope with the current state of the world. Like all art, when comedy is good slips it behind your ego. It bypasses any barriers you’re putting up and speaks directly to the psyche.


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