For your viewing pleasure: Costas & Seinfeld: Who’s on First?

July 13, 2012

With the All-Star break an extra day longer this year, the MLB Network had to find something to fill the time usually taken up with endless repeats of the same information. So they premiered Costas & Seinfeld: Who’s on First?, a deconstruction of the classic comedy routine.

The Seinfeld fan will recall the two-part episode with Keith Hernandez in which one story arc was a spitting incident involving Kramer and Newman. The show featured a Zapruder-like film, played over and over. That’s kind of what happened last night.

I don’t know how many times Abbot and Costello performed the skit; must have been hundreds if not thousands. I don’t think the one they used in the Seinfeld and Costas half-hour program was the best version; it seemed kind of sloppy, actually. For me, the feature film The Naughty Nineties contained the definitive version:

I wonder how many Seinfeld and Costas looked before settling on the one we see in their program. I do understand the choice, however, as Seinfeld goes into meta-form to discus spacing, timing, positioning, etc. It’s easy for those of us who have not studied comedy in depth to pass it off as something that just happens, but Seinfeld could — should — teach a course.

An aside: In 1977 I worked at a summer camp in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec with my best friend, Jeff. As American with unique accents (Jeff more so than me), we were quite popular. We did a lot of comedic routines, including “Who’s on First,” which most of the kids and staff up there had never heard before. With all due modesty, we did it pretty well. We had the timing down cold, I was Abbot; Jeff with his accent made a better funnyman.

One day a few members of the Montreal Expos (I believe it was Gary Carter, Steve Rogers, and Larry Parish, but I could be wrong) came up for a lunchtime visit (the grandfather of some of the kids was the then-owner of the team) and the camp chanted for Jeff and me to do the routine, which we did, although I don’t think the ballplayers were all that impressed.

There were a few negatives: too many commercial breaks for such a short program, for one. And the constant repetition of the same skit (couldn’t they have found a few different ones? It would have been interesting to listen to a comparison, to see what remained the same from one to another, and what might have changed and why).

I’m sure MLB will be airing this program again, so as they say, check your local listings.

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