My Seinfeld Year author and "jerky guy" Fred Stoller talks comedy, Seinfeld, and how close Larry David is to his character on Curb [Interview]

For any fan of comedy (and who ain't?), the notion of being a staff writer on legendary and groundbreaking (and tack on all the laudatory adjectives here) Seinfeld is unimaginably cool.

Fred Stoller, a writer and actor most famous for guest starring as the "jerky guy" on sitcoms such as Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Seinfeld itself, got to live out this dream for one rollercoaster of a year. He's recounted the tale in an Amazon Single called My Seinfeld Year, which has shot up to the top of the Amazon Kindle sales charts.

In an e-mail interview, Fred tells us what Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David are like in real life,  how growing up in Brooklyn helped to shape his comedic influences, and what it was like to deal with a fellow Seinfeld staffer, a "pathological liar" code-named "Perry."

I read in the Wall Street Journal that you wrote your way into the Seinfeld gig by way of a spec script ("involving George going to a police sketch artist to visualize what a particular blind date was going to look like," which is brilliant, by the way).

I've always been fascinated by the spec script writing process i.e. writing an entire script for a popular TV show -- with the hope of landing a writing position -- that very likely will never get produced. Can you talk a little bit about how you get into the mode of writing an episode for a show you don't (yet) work for?

Thanks, yes, that actually happened. Someone had a blind date for me, but I wouldn't meet her for months, so I thought I wish I knew a police composite artist so I'd know what she looked like. I never did meet her by the way. Never had the date. Not sure why that was.  

For the spec, I watched several episodes and from someone got a script to learn the format of it. Like I said in the book, it was hard to motivate myself to write something I knew would not be produced, I wasn't going that route, but I knew people would kill to have Larry David read their Seinfeld, so I had to do it.

Tell us a little bit about this "Perry" character.

Perry pretended to be my mentor, but needed someone vulnerable like me to bring him down along with him in his fear and misery. He was a pathological liar, making up stories about his family to garner sympathy from other producers. He's like my "You're so Vain" song, a secret, but many who have worked with him have figured out who he is.

Larry David in person: how close is he to the guy we see on Curb and in most television appearances? Can you give us a percentage?

Larry on Curb is a bit exaggerated, but those are all things he thinks and wishes he could scream out at people. But it does stem from him. So I suppose in real life he has maybe 44% more restraint.

My impression of Jerry Seinfeld -- and the documentary Comedian helped solidify this -- is of a deeply serious and hardworking comedian. Assuming that's correct, how did his work ethic vibe with those around him? Did it cause any conflict, or were people gung ho to follow him into battle week in and week out?

Jerry has an incredible work ethic, but there were never any conflicts because of that. No one slacked. Everyone did the best that they could, but some had better social skills meshing in than others.

Where did you grow up and how did you end up going into a career as a writer and actor?

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. I fell into stand-up comedy because early on I knew the real world wasn't for me, I was overwhelmed by everything and didn't think I had the capacity to function in that real world. I hung out at comedy clubs, eventually breaking into sitcoms doing guest star parts. Being an actor there's lots of downtime, so writing helps me try to have a little control and give me something more productive to do than waiting and hoping to try to fit into someone else's puzzle.

Tell us about a few of your comedy influences.

I was influenced by Steve Martin and Woody Allen, who created a unique persona and then branched out and utilized that persona in other venues.

What comedies on television do you think are truly hilarious and great right now?

I love Louie. He's great because he's not annoying or a snarky hipster. He invited something so utterly unique.

You've now written an e-book, My Seinfeld Year, that has hit number one on the Amazon Kindle charts. What's next for you?

I have some other ideas for Singles, plus people have been asking to read a buffed up version of the book; they want to hear more about my childhood, etc., and I actually do have that ready.

I also wrote an independent feature film, Fred & Vinnie. that's been winning awards at festivals, and hopefully it'll be available on Video on Demand soon.

I also did several episodes of my web series, The Gate Show, where I play a clueless security guard at a studio lot who thinks he's hosting his own talk show. I hope to do more episodes of that also.

By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

About the author

Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at]-tvgeekarmy.com 

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