Thursday, July 19, 2012

SEINFELD - Season 5, Episode 16 - The Stand-In

“The Stand-In”

First Script Read:  February 10, 1994
Filmed: Tuesday, February 15, 1994
Aired: 9:00pm, February 24, 1994
Nielsen rating: 17
Audience share: 24
Directed: Tom Cherones
Writer: Larry David

This is the first appearance of Kramer's friend and fellow actor, Mickey. His storyline, in which he takes Kramer's advice to put lifts into his shoes and thus incurs the wrath of his fellow little people stand-ins, is the most memorable part of this episode. Mickey, played by Danny Woodburn, is a memorable character. His temper and intensity, as well as the contrast and interplay with the gangly Kramer, makes for good comedy. But the character does raise the question of what parts actors of small stature should accept and play. The truth is Mickey is funnier because Woodburn is a little person, just as Newman is funnier because Wayne Knight was overweight. It's funny watching Mickey angrily tackle Kramer, who is three times his size. It's funny because Kramer is three times Mickey's size. Seinfeld is a better gig for Woodburn than working in a circus sideshow, but is the "Mickey" character still on that same spectrum? In both cases he is entertaining by making his body into a spectacle. But maybe this twinge of uncertainty only exists because of the history of exploitation in American popular culture, from little people to ethnic minorities. If little people had never been in a circus sideshow (or on Jackass), would it be wrong for Seinfeld to use Woodburn's physical characteristics as comic fodder? If blacks had never been mistreated for their race, would it be wrong for a black actor to be cast in a role that plays on certain traits of black culture (i.e. stereotypes)? I guess I'm still not sure. I do hope and believe we can laugh at Woodburn in Seinfeld without considering him half a man.

Again, Mickey is the best part of this episode. Elsewhere, Larry David's script tries to juggle a few too many auxiliary characters. There are too many casual friends of Jerry in this episode. There is Al Netchie who sees Jerry and George on the bus and goes on to tell George's girlfriend she should stay away from George because he is afraid of commitment. George, about to break up with her, sticks it out to stick it to Netchie. There is Fulton, Jerry's sick friend who Jerry twice tries to cheer up. The first time Jerry bombs his hospital gig. At the end of the episode he makes Fulton laugh so hard he passes out and, perhaps, dies. There is also Pachyderm, an intriguingly nicknamed friend who is never shown but is often spoken of in reference to a funny event when he dropped two pieces of pizza. And there is Phil Titola, who, on a date with Elaine set up by Jerry, takes his penis out of his pants WELL before Elaine is expecting it to appear.

Other than Elaine's memorable "he took it out" discussion with Jerry, the episode is a relative mess because of all these characters. Larry David can get away with a handful of people popping in and out of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but it falls flat on Seinfeld. The extra six or seven minutes to flesh out characters helps. In the faster-paced Seinfeld, its easy for the audience to get lost.

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