WASHINGTON – In what he joked was a “new low” for the Smithsonian Institution,comedian Jerry Seinfeld gave the National Museum of American History the iconic “puffy shirt” Thursday.
“This might be the first joke inducted into the Smithsonian Institution,” said Seinfeld,star and co-creator of the popular syndicated television show that bore his name,during a ceremony in the museum's Behring Center. He said he couldn't be happier to have his name plastered all over the event.
NBC premiered “Seinfeld” episode No. 66,“The Puffy Shirt,” at the beginning of the show's fifth season. Fans will remember that Jerry unwittingly agreed to wear a silly looking pirate-like shirt designed by Kramer's “low-talker” girlfriend on the “Today” show. In the show,Jerry,unable to hear what she said,agreed while trying to be polite.
Grinning for most of the donation ceremony,Seinfeld said the Smithsonian represents the opposite of his personal life philosophy,which is “just throw everything out.” Wondering aloud how his career as comedian landed him at the Smithsonian,Seinfeld split the world of museum exhibits into two categories: garbage and pre-garbage.
The crowd laughed uproariously when Seinfeld mocked people who want their possessions buried with them when they die.
“Good for them,” he said,in a manner reminiscent of his stand-up routine. “Take your crap with you. We don't want it.”
The puffy shirt and the episode's original script,written by co-creator Larry David,will appear beginning Wednesday along with Judy Garland's ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” and Jim Henson's lime green Kermit the Frog puppet in the museum's “Icons of Pop Culture” collection. The collection of more than 6,000 objects includes Archie and Edith Bunker's chairs.
“We tell the story of America through this museum,” said Director Brent D. Glass. He said he is proud to recognize popular entertainment's significant role in American history,particularly in the context of the museum's more traditional collections of drama,dance and song.
Curator Dwight Blocker Bowers said situation comedy,like the “Seinfeld” series,finds its laughs in scenes that ring true in everyday life. He said the museum staff wanted to display an item from the show that made audiences laugh at the “bizarrely familiar.”
Bowers said sometimes “Seinfeld” seemed more surreal than real,using the show's familiar catchphrases,such as “yada,yada,yada” – rather than icons like the puffy shirt – as examples of how the show has pervaded the public dialogue from its 1989 to1998 run and beyond.
After one more Smithsonian joke,Seinfeld signed the paper that made the puffy shirt official museum property. He said astronaut Neil Armstrong's toothbrush is on display,but only as a loan.
“Neil,give ‘em the brush,” Seinfeld said,before thanking the museum staff for including him in the world's largest collection of pre-garbage.