I have been watching Jerry Seinfeld´s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee since it was first on. From the beginning I liked the concept and most importantly, the way it was done.
The first thing I thought was “Mr. Seinfeld is probably right. We like coffee, we like cars, and comedians are funny. So, what´s not to love?”.
But many doubted. It was online, it was long, it was kind of weird (albeit, it was my kind of weird), and there was no real script. It was the ultimate show about nothing in particular with people who didn´t exactly know what they were doing there.
So the coffee bit was essential. Coffee, even more than cars, was the tree from which Seinfeld and friends could hang branches to leap around.
The initial response you heard on the grapevine was that it wasn´t going to work. I have been around enough internet specialists and executives to know that their view is that the average attention span of an internet viewer is about 5 minutes. So an online show of between 15 and 25 minutes was just not going to make it.
And yes ladies and gentlemen, do not be surprised. The people who feed us the virtual information we voraciously eat like Soilent Green think we are all internet dodos. It seems we generally have the attention span of a fly as well as the need to touch and move things around like chimpanzees.
But there is where Seinfeld and Co. hit the right note. They provided us, simians of the information age, with a tree and branches! And we all just jumped at the opportunity of enjoying ourselves before someone came along with the need for us to move along.
And so, six seasons on, we are still hanging around. Doing a bit of a “hoo hoo haa haa” while clinching to a banana peel and enjoying some friendly banter.
In the last episode of December 2015, Jerry had a very special guest: President Barack Obama. I urge you to watch this episode in the same way I urge you to watch all episodes. This one is surprisingly fresh and uncomfortably relaxed, and on top of that, it hit a right note at a time when I was in the middle of writing my last Blog article.
Tower of Power – the title of this article – is also the name of a painting of mine from early 2015. It is made in acrylic, inks, and oil based paints on canvas, and it is only 50cm wide by 70cm in height (not very large), but very powerful and intense. It is dedicated to the great R&B, Soul and Jazz band of the same name, from California, which has been around for more than 50 years and which has survived many changes in its composition.
And it is not only a great band (and a pretty powerful painting), it is also a way of referring to that ivory tower, or that isolated presidential palace to which so many people aspire, harnessed by money, political clout, or even circumstantial public support. It is same place that once clinched, they usually don´t want to leave.
The tower – my tower – is chaotic, energetic, a little unstable, and reminiscent of Babel´s, with an orange –furious- sky behind.
“Power tends to corrupt, while absolute power corrupts absolutely”, so says the famous quote from John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, KCVO, DL. Or as you probably know him, Bob (or most likely, Lord Acton). He also said that “Great men are almost always bad men”.
President Obama refers very candidly, in his coffee laden chat with Jerry Seinfeld, to how nutty many world politicians get after holding on to power for too long.
Watching Obama with Seinfeld, and even admitting his “Well, I´m a cool President” line (you´ll see it in the full versión of the show), one cannot escape thinking that we are in the presence of one of the most powerful men in the world (in fact, these are two very powerful men chatting with each other).
So in light of Lord Acton´s phrase, would he qualify as bad, but charming? Or is it, as he says, that he may have saved himself -for now- from the perils of power just because he loves his job? And does this make him a good gage of what surrounds him?
Well, be it as it may, Obama´s explicit mention of world leaders who have “simply lost it” must have sent shivers down the spine of many seemingly powerful, self-conscious, mirror loving politicians the world over – both current and former -. It is uncomfortably funny to watch as well.
The truth is that, no matter where you live in the world, you can probably think of many examples. I was born in Argentina and we have a long history of nuts at the helm. But don´t be too hasty to laugh. This is something all nations share. I lived in several countries around the world and I can think of many politicians who qualify in this league. Power seems to have a tendency to corrupt no matter where you were born, how smart or pretty you are, or how well you talk or look on TV.
On the positive side, sooner or later, we pass through these self-centered eccentrics and thugs, just like we pass any painful gall bladder stone, and we go on living (and peeing) with joy.
And as long as we are going to go on living –and peeing-, I would sugest that good music be always present. Here is then a great concert from Tower of Power, an impressive and powerful band, playing live in Lugano (Switzerland) in 2010.
Until our next coffee, leap and jump.
©2016 by Ignacio Alperin Bruvera