Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Collection 5 created by Jerry Seinfeld (Embassy Row, Sony Pictures Television)

Starring Jerry Seinfeld.

Self-Made

This week on society’s ongoing outrage cycle: Kylie Jenner will soon be a billionaire and Forbes had the gall to call her self-made.

Setting aside any criticism about how we all tend to be mad at something almost all of the time, this specific critique holds some merit.

Of course, I know nothing of Kylie’s individual talent; but, I can surmise her ability to create her empire to this extent requires a combination of hard work and skill. But, self-made? Please.

The systems and institutions of society—as it stands—bar the concept of self-made, the term a leftover from centuries past when land and wealth seemed like a given, the bounty of a young nation distributed at whim.

In truth, it takes capital to increase capital. And too often, we ignore the softer collection of capital just outside a bank account.

The Capital We Don’t See

For all the people that start a business with $10 in their pocket, you don’t hear anything about capital tied up in property, 401ks, and generational wealth.

For me and my kin, we try our best but there’s always that sliver of belief in the back of our heads that our family will be there for us to fall back on if something truly catastrophic happened financially.

So, if we’re not self-made, how can Kylie Jenner be self-made?

Generational Wealth and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

What does generational wealth have to do with Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee? Well, Jerry Seinfeld is an opinionated man. Arguably one of the funniest men in history but opinionated nonetheless.

This series, a collection of short vignettes where Seinfeld interviews top comedians over coffee, often becomes a discussion of comedy as craft and the philosophical value of comedy within a society.

Seinfeld might be professor emeritus on comedy construction and development, and his reconstruction of what makes a joke land is fascinating.

But, I also felt uncomfortable from time to time when Seinfeld began addressing the macro cultural elements around comedy. Much like Forbes, Seinfeld insists on meritocracy as the only key performance indicator for comedy. To him, audience laughter is the immediate feedback loop that separates the good comedian from the bad, which on the face of it, seems accurate. But, he continues to argue for comedy as the only place where self-made is the only way to succeed. There are, after all, no comedians from Aspen.

Yet, for all the hagiography around Richard Pryor’s origin story, the fact remains: it takes a safety net to pursue such a risky professional track as comedy. Seinfeld comes from Long Island from a loving family. Had comedy not worked, they likely would’ve welcomed their prodigal back with open arms.

So, I reject this notion of comedy as pure meritocracy much like I reject Kylie Jenner as the youngest self-made billionaire.

All the while, I enjoy Seinfeld’s discussion of comedy as craft with other comedians. It’s always enjoyable to talk shop, even if I disagree with a premise or two.

Verdict: 3 out of 5

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