Oh, I’m percolating, Jerry. I’m telling you, I have never felt so fertile. I’m mossy, Jerry. My brain is mossy. Listen to this idea…
Upon recently watching ‘The Friar’s Club’ I came to the conclusion that though Kramer is the series main punchline creator, a character able to turn any situation into a comedic one by mere body tick or spasm (or similarly given his eccentric nature able to frame an otherwise droll conversation uniquely, see “Fungi”) and thus fills virtually every episode with several hilarious moments, that Season 7’s ‘The Friar’s Club’ is my definitive Cosmo Kramer episode. If one needed to distill the essence of Michael Richards’ wonderful creation to a scant 22 minutes, this is the episode I’d reach for as it contains, at least once, each of Kramer’s common laugh inducing devices. (It’s extra important when one considers the episodes’ other plot lines too; Elaine is stuck in the tedium of a coworker who may or may not be deaf to skirt work responsibility while Jerry and George are attempting to become “the Gatsby’s” by successfully having their relationships sync up so they can double date the rest of their lives and thus maximize their time together as best friends. Without Kramer’s herculean comedic high jinks, the episode would be in the bottom forty or so of the show.)
First there is his desire to needlessly invent or concoct outlandish business ideas. No doubt a writers trick used to show how a man could live such as he does without anything resembling regular, steady employment. Kramer must view the world as one long string of hustles, each one more inventive if he’s ever to see the big payday that can enable him to truly coast. In ‘The Friar’s Club’ there is the idea of a “restaurant that only serves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches” (which he’d call “P B and J’s”) to which Jerry—rather sublimely deadpan—responds “I think you need more sleep” that echoes his earlier forays into aspiring restaurantership with Poppy on a “make your own pie” pizzeria. He’d have other money making schemes (my personal favorite is the invention of the male brassiere he dubs “the bro”), but surely the definitive Kramer episode needs one such foray, and ‘The Friar’s Club’ does.
Then there is the crazy idea built around a new living arrangement to lead a more elevated and experienced life. He’d previously tried denying himself nothing but fresh food as a means to cure a particularly nasty kidney stone, then there were ill-fated ideas to build Egyptian pharaoh like steps all over his apartment, countless sexual meanderings (where he led converted lesbians, nuns, and really anyone else into his bed via his ‘kavorka’ driven charms), to altering his life so that he didn’t have to curtail his time in the shower. There are several more, each one as hilarious and often as disastrous as the last (a particularly successful one is how he attempts to elevate himself to the role of author, and even successfully pens a “coffee table book about coffee tables” while a particularly disastrous one is his attempt at moving to LA to become an actor and thus move out from under Jerry’s shadow) and Kramer’s antics in ‘The Friar’s Club’ are built entirely around one such idea; he’s read that the “master” Leonardo de Vinci only slept “twenty minutes every three hours”, which he then concludes would free up countless additional time (“Now, that works out to two and a half extra days, that I’m awake per week, every week. Which means, if I life to be eighty, I will have lived the equivalent of a hundred and five years”) to accomplish everything he has “in his hopper” of ideas.
Obviously this is an idea fraught with error; sure, it is a recognized lifestyle that has been done by many (generally called polyphasic sleep and used by individuals who can actually control their busy schedules and/or don’t have to spend hours in a profession every day [the military has experimented with it for soldiers in the field for example]), but in the hands of a layabout like Kramer who doesn’t know how to properly ease into such a sudden change, he’s doomed to a catastrophic sleep deprived crash. There are humorous foreshadowing signs, first he dozes off in a borrowed sports jacket only to find himself awake in a pile of garbage (this after he wakes Jerry at 4 in the morning bored out of his mind after only a few days), to growing hostile while being suddenly awoken after he’s fallen asleep standing in Jerry’s kitchen. Nothing can prepare us for the real rock bottom though: Kramer falls so soundly asleep on this girlfriend while making out that she takes him for dead and calls some of her Italian-American wise-guy friends to dispose of his body (apparently she has another boyfriend who she doesn’t want to become aware of Kramer’s existence) by dumping him into the Hudson River in a large potato sack. The sudden icy chill awakens him from his catatonic slumber to which he wraps up the episode by alerting the authorities. Sleeping less than three hours a day (two hours and forty minutes to be exact, if we believe he’s executed the outline to the tee that he laid out earlier to Jerry) for someone of Kramer’s lax lifestyle is a funny idea just in theory, and in the hands of Seinfeld‘s writers, it becomes the quintessential episode of their most manic creation, Cosmo Kramer.