Channeled through Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David’s most dyspeptic ideas about people preferring the misery of others to their own mild inconvenience came off as amusing rather than misanthropic; through David, Seinfeld‘s what’s-the-deal riffs became piercing insights, not trivia. And few roles have been so perfectly cast and complemented as Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the sharp-tongued Elaine, Michael Richards as gawky oddball Kramer, Jason Alexander as self-interested George, and Seinfeld as, well, Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld was a hearty soup of humor, a layered marble rye of humanity, master of its comic domain—it was real, and it was spectacular.

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