During the spring of 1990, the episode known as “The Robbery” (1.3) on Seinfeld aired. It was the first episode that was not written by Larry David and Seinfeld but by Matt Goldman instead. Kramer played by Michael Richards, finally displayed an action that ended up becoming a recurring gag, sliding through Jerry’s door to his apartment. Such a decision to include this action was a turning point for the television series and arguably was the beginning of the additional distinctive comedic trait to the character that is physical action. This type of comedy is commonly known as slapstick comedy that often includes pantomime and “stylized verbal delivery of comic lines” (Belton 7). On the other hand, some argue that slapstick is an example of low-brow comedy that, “are fractured, disjointed, alogical, and typically have an ‘anti-narrative’”(Bonilla, 21). Bonilla’s theory is therefore claiming that slapstick holds no meaning and adds nothing to the narrative; slapstick instead is an integral part into the humor of Seinfeld by displaying hidden messages about society. The importance of slapstick can be seen with Laurel and Hardy, two comedians from the 1940s who used numerous gags and physical traits of comedy such as the “fright wig”. Marx Brothers also used crude physical humor as a means to make fun of the elite and certain social codes. The show used the past successes of physical comedic actors as inspiration that led to physical comedy being the pinnacle of the show’s success. Kramer is the most physical character compared to Elaine, Jerry, and George. He wore a curly haired wig and scrappy clothes like Chico from the Marx Brothers did. Also, just like the Marx Brothers he makes fun of society. Most of the time Kramer uses his body as a tool for making a point about absurd social trends. In “The Wait Out” (7.23), Kramer pokes fun at the slim-fitting jeans that men often felt the need to wear. The
development of a new walk due to the fact that the jeans are tight takes place and is called ‘Frankenstein’. By having Jerry try to help Kramer take off the jeans before an audition further captures the absurdity behind wearing those type of pants. Another example is when Kramer is at the Tony Awards in “Summer of George” (8.22). Kramer highlights the uncomfortable atmosphere within a high class setting by cracking some jokes to the person seated next to him and she remains emotionless. Also, Kramer further shows that he does not belong with the crowd by eating jerky and flinging it into the person seated in front of him. Kramer emphasizes how the system of public transportation in New York City is ridiculous by physically struggling to get a seat on “The Subway” (3.13). Laurel and Hardy often had shows that included them inadvertently damaging someone else’s property which happens to Kramer too. Kramer does this in “The Revenge” ( 2.7). He decides to put cement mix into the wash at a laundromat as revenge since Seinfeld and himself believe that the owner stole money from Jerry’s laundry bag when he previously did laundry there. By doing physical gags such as falling backwards into the dryers and getting dirt from the cement all over him and struggles to get it off, shows that such actions to seek revenge is a waste of energy. The television series often parodies particular scenes from comic predecessors. Doing parodies could be one of the leading factors for the overall success of physical comedy since it created excitement for the viewers when they knew what was being referenced. One scene that stands out is the famous is the stateroom scene from A Night at The Opera by the Marx Brothers. All of the characters are packed into a small room and chaos ensues when they are trying to get out. Seinfeld does a rendition of this when
all four characters are stuck in the janitor’s closet and try to get out in “The Pothole” (8.16).