Jerry Seinfeld live review – crotchety comic is still at the top of his game

<span>Jerry Seinfeld on stage in 2016. He is touring Australia for the first time since 2017.</span><span>Photograph: Greg Allen/Invision/AP</span>
Jerry Seinfeld on stage in 2016. He is touring Australia for the first time since 2017.Photograph: Greg Allen/Invision/AP

“What else is annoying in the world today, besides everything?” asks Jerry Seinfeld, about 10 minutes into the Australian premiere of his new standup show at Perth’s RAC Arena. In classic “Jerry” form, he’s staring out into the abyss, shoulders raised and face scrunched in bemusement.

This throwaway line could easily be the catch cry for Seinfeld’s sardonic brand of comedy, which parodies the minutiae of daily life. “I hate tea,” he rants, later in the evening. “I hate it! Tea does not understand how hard life is! All these names … darjeeling, chamomile, jasmine. What am I, in a whorehouse on the Bayou?”

Touring Australia for the first time since 2017, the 70-year-old New Yorker is at his crotchety, playful best, donning a slick black suit and charging through vast comedic terrain – from the morbid irony of the Titan submersible, to the woes of modern technology and the business of life and death (read: hospitals and cemeteries).

According to the diehard fans sitting next to me, he rehashes a couple of old jokes but that doesn’t seem to stifle the laughs erupting from the 15,000-strong audience.

“I can’t believe I’m in Perth, Australia,” he bellows, as he runs across the stage, arms flailing in the air. “Perth is so cute, it’s short for perfect.” And Taylor Swift skipped Western Australia, he points out, so we should be grateful for his presence.

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A lot has changed since Seinfeld was last on Australian soil. He wrote and directed a film about pop tarts (more on that later). “Seinfeld and chill” became a thing. He has been heckled by pro-Palestinian protesters: the night after this show, in Sydney, a protester is removed for shouting. “We have a genius, ladies and gentlemen,” Seinfeld told the audience. “He’s solved the Middle East!” And he has claimed “the extreme left and PC crap” is ruining comedy. But despite an increased police presence outside, his 70-minute set was frictionless, with no rants about wokeness in sight.

At the beginning of the evening he delivers a diatribe on smartphones, streaming and artificial intelligence, which offers some hysterical if not philosophical barbs on how technology is ruling us. “Do the phone thing. Do it!” he screeches as thousands in the audience scramble to take a photo of him, before telling us we look like a bunch of parents holding up toddlers to get a better view of the stage. “Your job is now to help your phone experience its life,” he says.

Seinfeld also laments the way streaming has atomised entertainment, unlike in the free-to-air days when his “show about nothing” was at the apex of US popular culture. The audience doubles over when he tells us that Friends was NBC’s attempt to recreate Seinfeld with attractive people.

It starts to feel a little “older comedian bemoans changing times” after a while but the hilarity doesn’t wane. Seinfeld’s brilliance lies in his ability to extract fresh, unexpected angles from the most ordinary subjects. Much to the delight of the primarily middle-aged audience, he shares his disdain for helicopter parenting. Like many of his jokes, it devolves further into absurdity and ends with him imitating his children’s elaborate bedtime routine, which he likens to “a royal coronation silver jubilee centennial”.

The set concludes with a routine about the failed voyage of the Titan submersible, some classic his and hers observations about marriage to his wife, Jesse, and a re-enactment his childhood love for pop tarts in a blatant plug for his new film, Unfrosted. We exit the arena to the film’s theme song, which feels a little as though he might be fulfilling a promotional obligation to Netflix. But hey, when you’re a multimillion-dollar comic in your 70s, perhaps you’re less precious about that kind of stuff.

Seinfeld has said that comedy is a “binary outcome event”: the audience either laughs or they don’t. Nothing else matters. If tonight’s boisterous crowd is anything to go by, he is still at the top of his game.

  • Jerry Seinfeld is touring Australia until 23 June, then New Zealand 24-26 June