Hey, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. But still, isn’t watching something as old and out of it as SEINFELD way beyond the call of duty? (What? You remember it as great? And you still trust your brain?)
by Steven Shehori
Few things in this life are more subjective than humor. That said, Seinfeld receives near-universal acclaim as one of television’s greatest comedies. In fact, a noted 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll crowned it the best sitcom ever. And when 60 Minutes andVanity Fair elect to join forces, you know the world of polling isn’t dicking around.
Taking these results at face value, one can’t help but wonder: if Seinfeld is TV’s funniest sitcom, what in turn is the funniest joke from TV’s funniest sitcom? And would this joke then, by sheer elimination, be the funniest line ever uttered in a situation comedy? A case could certainly be argued as such. But oh, the number of gags to sift though.
Some quick arithmetic: the average multi-camera sitcom delivers three laugh lines per minute. Multiply this by 22, the average sitcom episode length in minutes. Then multiply this by 176, the number of 22-minute Seinfeld episodes minus the pair of two-part clip shows we won’t count. This gives us 11,616 jokes. You know, give or take.
By default, one of these jokes must be the funniest, be it by razor-thin margin or toppling landslide. But which one? And which characteristics would make it stand head and shoulders above the competitors? With the scientific method as my co-pilot, I was determined to stick the landing on this potential Hindenburg of a head-scratcher.
The experiment: binge-watch all nine seasons of Seinfeld: Elaine-deficient pilot to prison-soaked finale. Whichever line would elicit the hardest, loudest, and lengthiest laugh would be named Seinfeld’s funniest joke, and by way of the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll results, the funniest joke in sitcom history.
Unlike their Best Sitcom poll, the Funniest Joke experiment would be performed unilaterally; one man’s singular experience. Would such an approach in any way compromise the veracity of these results? Pffft — Galileo was but one man, yet look at the buttload of things that dude objectively proved. Eppur si muove, amigos.
Anyhow, I set to work on this Sisyphean task. And after an accumulated 66 hours of viewing, I had my answer. Here’s the tale of the tape: