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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

By now, you might have heard Jerry Seinfeld is back, and he stars in the new animated feature. The movie includes scenes like this one with Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock as two hapless insects stuck to a car windshield just as the wiper blades turn on.

(Soundbite of movie, "Bee Movie")

Mr. CHRIS ROCK (Actor): (Mooseblood the mosquito) Uh-oh(ph).

Mr. JERRY SEINFELD (Actor): (As Barry B. Benson) What is that?

Mr. ROCK: (Mooseblood the mosquito) Oh no, the wiper - triple blades.

Mr. SEINFELD: (As Barry B. Benson) Triple blades?

Mr. ROCK: (Mooseblood the mosquito) Jump out. It's your only chance, bee. Why does everything has to be so (unintelligible)? How much do you people need to see?

MONTAGNE: Okay, we got a hold of the comedian in his Manhattan office to talk about the new animation. It's called "Bee Movie."

Jerry Seinfeld, welcome.

Mr. SEINFELD: Thank you. It's nice to be here, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So you play Barry B. Benson.

Mr. SEINFELD: Yes.

MONTAGNE: A bee. He's graduated from college, not yet ready to settle for the life of the worker bee in a hive. You know, give us a little taste of Barry's world.

Mr. SEINFELD: Well, you know, it's actually a pretty fantastic place. He has a car. He has friends. It's a very vibrant cosmopolitan environment. But the only downside is they only have one industry. And it's the only job opportunities that there are for bees. As we know, they don't really do anything else but make honey.

MONTAGNE: Mm-hmm. And so there's a moment of which though, you know, it's a turning point for the plot.

Mr. SEINFELD: There's a moment when he realizes I can't just sign on for this without finding out a little bit more about what's going on in the world.

MONTAGNE: Hmm.

Mr. SEINFELD: I mean if you were told we have a great job for you, but it will be the only job you ever have, you might get a little antsy.

(Soundbite of movie, "Bee Movie")

Mr. SEINFELD: (As Barry B. Benson) You know, Dad, the more I think about it, maybe the honey field just isn't right for me.

Mr. BARRY LEVINSON (Actor): (As Martin Benson) And you were thinking of what, making balloon animals? That's a bad job for a guy with a stinger.

Mr. SEINFELD: (As Barry B. Benson) Well, no.

Mr. LEVINSON: (As Martin Benson) Shut it. Your son is not sure if he wants to go in to honey.

Ms. KATHY BATES (Actress): (As Janet Benson) Oh, Barry, you are so funny sometimes.

Mr. SEINFELD: (As Barry B. Benson) I'm not trying to be funny.

Mr. LEVINSON: (As Martin Benson) You're not funny. You're going in to honey. Our son the stirrer.

Ms. BATES: (As Janet Benson) You're going to be a stirrer?

MONTAGNE: So nine years - I think it's been nine years since "Seinfeld" ended.

Mr. SEINFELD: Right. Yes, May 14, 1998, was the last episode.

MONTAGNE: And you are returning to screen as a bee.

Mr. SEINFELD: As a bee, yes. You've done your research well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: But why wait eight years and end up as bee?

Mr. SEINFELD: Well because, I'll you this, the real answer is nine years of television, 180 episodes, 90 hours of airtime, live action filming - I really just gotten my feel of it. But this was like, you know, a whole new sandbox or different technology and different toys. And, you know, having no restrictions visually or, you know, cinematically. It just was such a new medium to me that it got me excited. And when - you can't do a good work if you're not excited I believe.

MONTAGNE: Now I gathered that you were a quite - well, you paid a lot of attention to the details on this movie.

Mr. SEINFELD: Mm-hmm.

MONTAGNE: I mean, obsessive, I don't mean that's a negative, but that…

Mr. SEINFELD: Maybe I would never take it as a negative.

MONTAGNE: You - yeah, when it came…

Mr. SEINFELD: You forgot compulsive.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: But that you know you were willing and did indeed act out the entire script for the animators?

Mr. SEINFELD: Every day. Every line that they had to animate I would actually -whether it was my line or somebody else's line. I would get up in front of them and act the whole thing out because they usually just have to make it up out of pure imagination. I say, no, do it like this. So we really kind of taught each other.

And then they would animate it, and then I would I watch it. And I would send them back to do it over and over and over until it was exactly what I thought was the funny facial expression or gesture that was right for the line. I don't know exactly what they do, but I know it takes them forever until they've done it. It's like (unintelligible) same, instead having the eyebrows go down, have them go up. You wait like four days for that.

MONTAGNE: So the bee's face, Barry's face…

Mr. SEINFELD: Mm-hmm, yeah.

MONTAGNE: Doesn't have to be exactly your face, although it has to have a quality of your face.

Mr. SEINFELD: Yes, it has to have a quality. It took us a long time to get it and, you know, also to figure out what are they going to wear. I like the idea that they are very into fashion, but it's only in the black and yellow palette and no pants.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: How much of it turned out to be adlibbing?

Mr. SEINFELD: Quite a bit. I would say maybe 10 or 20 percent of stuff that we made up on the fly as we were recording. And, you know, I always had like a blueprint of what I wanted to see in the bee. And then we would record the lines throughout of the script, and then I would say, okay, let's just do it without the script.

That's the one great - another great thing about animation is you can do the scene innumerable times, whereas in film, you're lucky to get two or three takes. You can do 20 takes in animation.

MONTAGNE: Can you remember an example of a moment when you found yourself adlibbing or you found…

Mr. SEINFELD: Well the whole scene with Chris. Well, first of all, I had just called him in the night before. And he said what are you doing tomorrow? I said I have to record some stuff for the "Bee Movie," why don't you come down, and we'll make up something. So he came into the studio, and we made up this character of him as a mosquito. And then I just interviewed him as the mosquito. And all of his answers are in the movie. You know, that was a lot of fun.

MONTAGNE: You know, we had been figuring out that - the last time you talked to NPR, as far as we can tell, was 20 years ago.

Mr. SEINFELD: I know.

MONTAGNE: On FRESH AIR.

Mr. SEINFELD: That's right.

MONTAGNE: Yeah, and we'd like to play you something that you told Terry Gross 20 years ago.

Mr. SEINFELD: All right.

MONTAGNE: About comedy, that was a couple of years before America entered the Seinfeldian universe.

(Soundbite of archived Terry Gross' FRESH AIR interview with Jerry Seinfeld on Fresh Air)

Mr. SEINFELD: I think the idea of a comedian is someone that you relate to. I think comedy star is almost an oxymoron. You don't look up to comedians like you look at Madonna or, you know, Elvis or people like that. There, you know, those are people from other planets.

Comedians are people that you go - people come to me, and talk to me they just use my first name or they even won't introduce themselves, they just start talking, and that's how you know your - it's working.

MONTAGNE: So, Jerry.

Mr. SEINFELD: Yes.

MONTAGNE: How do you stay in touch now that you're as big as Madonna?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SEINFELD: You know what? I walk down the same street today that I'm sure I walked down that day. I just walked on Columbus Avenue, and I would say at this point, you know, my life is very similar.

I go by the bus stop where I used to wait to take the cross-town bus, to go to the Eastside and perform at Catch A Rising Star and The Comic Strip. And so I don't know, I think that helps me in someway just remember that the - it's all the same thing. We're all just - what did Lenny Bruce used to say, we're all just another schmuck.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. SEINFELD: Thank you, Renee, it was a pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Jerry Seinfeld's new animation "Bee Movie" opens Friday. If you can't wait you can see clips at npr.org. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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