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  • Writer's pictureBenita Garvin

The Seinfeld Effect

There’s an episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry and George sell a television series about “nothing.” Jerry expresses his concern about story material. But George replies “everything is material.” Go the grocery store. That’s a story. Lose your glasses. That’s a story. Take a shower. That’s a story!

The viewers roar with laughter. How do you write a show about something as mundane as daily living?

The answer: nothing is mundane. Everything is fuel for your fire. While we might “objectively” share an experience, the way we interpret the experience will be entirely original to each of us.

When I lived in NYC, I wrote a play, a comedy, called “Dark at the Roots” set in a beauty salon. We did a reading in front of an audience, and everyone roared with laughter. Afterwards, a young woman approached and thanked me. She said she found the play ‘deeply moving.’ I thought she was being sarcastic or ironic or something other than serious. I was wrong. She found meaning where, in my mind, there was none. Her interpretation didn’t resemble the story I thought I’d written. I realized then it didn’t matter. Each of us brings our own point of view to every experience. It’s like arguing with your spouse or lover. Objectively you may be in the same argument, but I guarantee each has entirely different points of view.

Anything and everything you have to say about life has undoubtedly been said before. But it hasn’t been said by YOU! What makes a story unique isn’t simply recounting facts.There are no facts (except in science), only our individual interpretation of an event. The lens through which we’re seeing the story is what makes it interesting. Your voice, your point of view makes it unique – and original. And that’s what you need to own and embrace.

That’s how Jerry Seinfeld turned a show about nothing into the most successful half hour comedy in television history.

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