The crowd filing in for the Smart Financial Centre's Jerry Seinfeld opening was surprisingly well dressed. (Photo by Chris Baldwin.)
As soon as Jerry Seinfeld takes the stage, he addresses the elephant in the room. Namely, why the hell is Jerry Seinfeld in Sugar Land?
“Oh my God, Sugar Land, Texas!” Seinfeld screams for openers. “I don’t believe it. The very first show ever in the Smart Financial Centre. What a feeling! What a moment! What a life we’re leading here in Sugar Land!
“Why are you laughing at that. That worries me.”
They built it — and Jerry came. For a lot of money. The richest comedian of all time opens the new $84 million Smart Financial Centre as only he can over the weekend — with two sold-out shows that seem more like validations. Let’s face it, at this point no matter what Seinfeld says the people are going to laugh. He resides in his own stratosphere of comedic superstardom — and just saying you saw Jerry is enough for many people.
Seinfeld is a made man. And the people show their respect. This very well may be the best-dressed crowd for a comedy show in recent human history. More than 50 percent of the guys seem to be in suit jackets and many of the women come in dresses.
People get dressed up for Jerry and this new venue’s opening. It takes on a big event feel — with Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blaring over the loudspeakers before the show begins and Seinfeld’s opening act takes the stage. The fact that song’s a New York Yankees victory anthem and Seinfeld’s a diehard Mets fan likely does not go unnoticed by the comedian, but he comes out in a good mood regardless.
He is in Sugar Land after all.
“I got a phone call, ‘Do you want to come out to Sugar Land, Texas, to a place that’s never existed before for no reason whatsoever?’ ” Seinfeld cracks. “God damn right I do. Where is it?”
Seinfeld does not make any Texas or red-state jokes (that’s not his style, he’s never going political). But he is clearly amused to be in Sugar Land, Texas. The two Houston-area Saturday night shows (7 p.m. and 10 p.m.) conclude a whirlwind trip to Texas for Seinfeld. He performed in Austin the night before — and will be back on the road this Thursday in Minneapolis.
But the brevity of the visit does not stop Seinfeld from getting unrequested “great restaurant” recommendations (part of what he riffs on). And it does not prevent him from training a little of his observational humor right on the new arena.
“Smart Financial Centre,” Seinfeld muses at one point. “Why not capitalize the s in smart? Doesn’t seem that smart to me.” (The arena signage puts the smart financial centre lower case in an attempt to be artistic.)
“You want my money, but you can’t spell? OK fine, here’s a thousand dollars.”
This gleaming new, distinctive purple-lighted, lighted fountains spraying in the courtyard, 6,451-seat arena is a public-private partnership between the City of Sugar Land and Ace SL, the new company of Gary Becker of the legendary Houston concert promoter Becker family. The SF Centre is just one of five ultra-ambitious projects that Sugar Land’s city leaders envision will completely transform it from a suburb of Houston into a major city in its own right. The Skeeters’ minor league baseball stadium, a cultural arts center and a recently revealed new conference center and hotel — which will be built right down the street from the new arena eventually — round out the city-changing roster.
On opening night a who’s who of Sugar Land politicians turn out, but more people care about the parking situation (the $15 public parking lots clear in a reasonable timeframe after the first show and as long as you do not wait to get right on one of the US-59 ramps and take a side route around that predictable bottleneck — Highway 6 is a good alternate — you are not stuck in traffic forever).
For openers, it’s hard to complain. The venue has a big-time feel, everything works and people walk away happy.
Seinfeld could have said anything and got laughs. And if you’ve seen him perform in the last two years, his act includes several tent pole bits that haven’t changed much (particularly on his kids and the crazy elaborate bedtime rituals of today). But he still brings it for Sugar Land.
His diatribe on Sucks and Great being much closer together on the spectrum than many realize slices through any clutter with sharp, biting flair. “You go to a baseball game, have a hot dog,” Seinfeld notes. “The hot dog is cold. The bun is not toasted. The vendor is an ex-con on a work-release program.
“You love that hot dog every single time! Does it suck? Yes! Is it great? Yes! That’s how close they are.”
The 62-year-old Seinfeld also shows how underrated his physical comedy is. Seinfeld rules the stage — on this night, a simple setup of one microphone, one black stool and one glass of water — with full-on body gestures and contortions that drive home points almost as much as his words.
Seinfeld may not be Bruce Springsteen, but he works up a sweat during a 70-something minute set like this one.
Of course, the sometime Master of His Domain himself would joke that this is all just an elaborate way to fill time — the gaps in life as Seinfeld calls it. “People say life is too short,” Seinfeld says. “I say it’s way too long.”
Needless to say, Seinfeld is not buying the hype — on any of it.
“This is a meaningless, bogus, non-necessary, hyped up non-special event that a lot of people worked very hard to put together just to fill some time,” Seinfeld deadpans of his night in Sugar Land.
Even the men who made this night possible — three generations of Beckers (Gary, his 84-year-old father Allen, his college-age son), Sugar Land mayor Joe Zimmerman and all the other movers and shakers — probably cannot help but smile in the crowd at this one.
Sugar Land’s arrived. Jerry Freaking Seinfeld is dissing it. Who would have ever thought they’d see the day?
Editor’s note: For more on the Smart Financial Centre, read our exclusive insider’s look at the new arena.