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Jerry Seinfeld's New Stream of Comedy Consciousness

The comedian’s latest special hits Netflix Tuesday as he forges ahead by looking back

Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David wanted nothing to do with sentiment when they created "Seinfeld" nearly 30 years ago.

Their rule, one as inviolable as respecting "the vault": "No hugging, no learning."

There's apparently no danger of David straying from the code when "Curb Your Enthusiasm" returns to HBO Oct. 1, after a six-year hiatus.

But there are signs that Seinfeld, even if he'll never let us see any odd, salty discharge fill his eyes, is willing to indulge in some nostalgia.

His latest comedy special, "Jerry Before Seinfeld," debuts Tuesday on Netflix, poised to mine new laughs by looking back at old times.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Since “Seinfeld” ended nearly two decades ago with a final act of cynicism, the comedian, who got married at 45 and became a first-time father a year later, has sprinkled his stand-up act with domestic humor.

Lines, like his dubbing bouncy tents “portable insane asylums for children,” aren't the kind of soft cliché Seinfeld avoided on his sitcom as much as an extension of his sharp observational humor.

He's both a purveyor and student of comedy, as evidenced by his web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” The show is headed to Netflix, where Seinfeld becomes the elder statesman of a growing comedy lineup that includes Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman and Louis CK.

In Seinfeld’s new special, he returns to The Comedy Strip in New York to revisit his early days on the stage and his life before show business. “We grew up like wild dogs in the 60s — no helmets, no seat belts, no restraints,” he notes in a clip.

At age 63, he’s not living in the past as much as working to become a stronger stand-up storyteller with an act anchored in everyday life and its passages, like his comedy hero, Bill Cosby.

Last month, Seinfeld spurred controversy when he told Norm Macdonald that Cosby remains the “biggest comedian of all time,” even amid the sickening sexual assault allegations tainting the once-beloved entertainer. Strangely enough, Seinfeld gained more attention in June when he refused a hug from pop star Kesha.

His public no-hugging rule remains in effect. But Jerry Seinfeld clearly knows that great comedians never stop learning.

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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