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Porsche - Seriously fun driving

Seriously fun driving

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Two men, one aim: Having a lot of fun in one of the oldest Porsche 356/2 vehicles.

When comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno get together, fun is guaranteed. If a Porsche 356/2 from the very first season is involved as well, the show will be superb. And you can enjoy it all on the Internet.

Seldom has anyone expressed his passion for a Porsche in so drastic yet affectionate a way. While the camera pans gently over the aluminum chassis and your eye is drawn to the details of a strange but somehow familiar world, a voice begins speaking from offstage: “I call this car my flying saucer …” The “I” is Jerry Seinfeld, one of the United States’ greatest comedians, and the “saucer” is a Porsche 356/2, the 40th of the 52 sports cars built in the Austrian town of Gmünd back in the early days of the company.

The comparison with a UFO expresses not only a lot of love but also a certain degree of truth. As this primordial Porsche glides along the streets of southern California, Seinfeld waits for the impression to sink in before remarking, “Can you imagine the effect this car must have had back in 1949?!” The point of his profession is to have fun. But Seinfeld’s entertainment has always included a kernel of truth, as was the case in his famous sitcom.

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Comedians in Cars Getting Coffeeis now in its sixth season online, and the series has long since acquired cult status. The episodes are freely available. Their charm lies in their absence of scripting.

A lot of laughs and a lot of wisdom: that is the general principle also found in Seinfeld’s enthusiasm for cars. Following his career in television, he discovered the Internet. “I’d done shows so long that I told myself that if I launch something new, then it has to be completely different,” says the 61-year-old comedian. He adds another condition: “And it also has to have something to do with cars.” This promise led to Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee—a Web comedy now in its sixth season. The principle is always the same. Seinfeld invites another comedian to take a brief spin in a vintage car that always ends up at a coffee shop—as if there were nowhere else in the world to go. “I love the freedom of the Internet; we can do anything we want,” he says. Certainly the public wants it, having streamed the show nearly 100 million times. A Porsche enthusiast, Seinfeld got the idea while watching the legendary BBC series TopGear. “I wanted to do something where the cars are actually driven,” he says. With a very special educational twist: “I like reminding people of cars they have forgotten.”

The show is about talking and driving, but Seinfeld is always at the wheel. “We tried it a few times the other way around,” he says. “The others could also drive and talk at the same time, but they were concentrating so hard that it wasn’t very funny.” Having fun is the point of driving for Seinfeld, and for that matter the point of life in general.

In fact, that might be the key to the success of his career. “I was never obsessed with the need to be successful,” he remarks. Success for him is based on three things: “Talent, smarts, and—most important of all—belief in yourself.” There are evident parallels here to the sports-car company he so admires. And whenever he lets those cars from his extensive private collection out onto the Web platform (in addition to the coupe from Gmünd he has used a 911 Carrera RS from 1973 and a 718 RSK Spyder from 1959), he notes yet again that “they feel very similar to the Porsches of today.”

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This small series of lightweight metal coupes was made by hand. The engine was moved back behind the rear axle.

Out of respect for the car, he does not wear sunglasses on the drive, and sunglasses are off-limits to Jay Leno, as well. “Otherwise, we won’t make an authentic impression!” Leno, who is a fellow car buff, loves the unspoiled quality of the 356/2. He plays with the simple operating knobs (“satellite navigation?”) and knocks on the aluminum console. They laugh a lot on this drive, and talk a lot.

There is no set screenplay. “Nothing is scripted, we just start driving.” And the driving leads to dialogue. This approach promptly created an entirely new format: “a talk show on wheels.” The first episodes were still an experiment, and after ten of them Seinfeld was sure that “they would interest someone or other.” The old hand at television discovered the magic of digital media. “Isn’t it great that people can just stick me and my cars in their pocket and take us out whenever they want?”

He loves the 356/2, and his pronunciation of “Gmünd” is nearly that of a native. He always gets a kick out of the special license plate—and everything else as well. “It’s probably the most historical Porsche there ever was. I’ve had the car for seventeen years, and I’m still driving it.” Each episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which has featured such luminaries as Sarah Jessica Parker, Alec Baldwin, and David Letterman in the passenger seat, takes about three and a half hours to shoot. The idea that the drive leads to a cup of coffee also has something to do with respect for automobiles. “I didn’t want to create some out-of-touch symbolism; instead, I wanted to capture a very routine event, an enjoyable moment in the day.”

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“It’s really not fair to compare any other car to a Porsche. It’s the philosophy that thrills me more than anything else about it.”

So viewers learn a lot about coffee and cars, but also about comedy stars—usually more than they had previously seen or read. This is because the charm of these clips, which generally last 15 to 20 minutes, also lies in the warm interaction between the two stars. The novel approach has disproved the warning from all the Web experts beforehand that these days films in the digital world don’t have a chance beyond the five-minute mark. What’s important is the quality of the conversation, for which both the comedy and the car communities have a keen sense. Seinfeld’s other key to success is that the show always keeps moving because everyone knows all along where it will end up—with a cup of coffee.

In addition to the freedom that Seinfeld enjoys on the Internet, he also insists that there not be any type of live audience, even though he is otherwise very happy to interact with one. It is a necessary measure to preserve the show’s format. “You can only get into these crazy, constantly changing, and often deep conversations when you don’t have an audience. When comedians have an audience, they quickly fall into that role.”

As one of America’s funniest people, Jerry Seinfeld immediately stops joking when it comes to cars, and especially to Porsches. Asked about his favorite car, he refuses to answer—out of respect for the other makes that appear on the show. What thrills him about the brand is not just the driving experience, but above all the philosophy. “It’s not fair to compare any other car to a Porsche.”

www.comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com

By Elmar Brümmer
Photos by Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

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The low drag values of the 356/2 laid the foundation for Porsche’s commitment to racing.

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Seinfeld’s cars are clearly well cared for. The 356/2 is in excellent shape too.

Jay Leno

Son of a Scottish mother and an Italian-American father, James Douglas Muir Leno began his career as a stand-up comedian in small New York comedy clubs. He quickly attracted the attention of tele­vision producers, and often appeared as a guest on NBC’s Tonight Show. The network then had him succeed Johnny Carson in 1992. Leno remained the host of the oldest continuing late-night show until 2009, and returned to the studio from 2010 to 2014. Now 65, he indulges his passion for cars and motorcycles, as can be seen on www.nbc.com/jay-lenos-garage.

Jerry Seinfeld

Raised in Brooklyn, Jerry Seinfeld’s path also took him from New York’s comedy clubs to NBC’s Tonight Show. Following successful guest appearances, he wrote a script in 1989 for a sitcom about four friends in a big city, which NBC broadcast under the title Seinfeld. He himself plays a comedian in it, of course. The show ran for nine seasons until 1998, and reruns of what is the most successful sitcom in U.S. television history can be seen to this day. At 61, Seinfeld works as a producer and possesses one of the largest private collections of Porsche vehicles.