The theme song. Normally, I don't like instrumentals. I prefer music with words. I can relate to music with words. I can understand music with words. I can sing along to music with words. I can't do anything with music without words. I'd just listen to it wondering why there aren't any words.
But the "Seinfeld" theme was different. It didn't need lyrics to fit the mood of the show. It didn't need much at all. It just needed that distinctive slap bass sound — and a wide assortment of mouth pops and tongue clicks. It worked.
The reason why the theme is so memorable to me is that it saved me when I was working on a project for English class in 10th grade. The assignment was to write a paper that offered step-by-step instructions on how to do something. Anything. It was up to the student. How to tie a tie. How to pack a suitcase. How to fold a sweater. Whatever the student knew how to do, and do well, that was to serve as the basis for the project.
And the student had to demonstrate it in front of the entire class, for three minutes.
A couple of days before the paper was due, I was having a difficult time coming up with a skill I could effectively explain to the class. I didn't know how to tie a tie. I didn't know how to pack a suitcase. And I had a habit of throwing my sweaters on the floor as soon as I was done wearing them.
I did have skills, but none that fit the assignment. I had a decent jump shot, but we didn't have a basketball hoop in the classroom. I knew how to get all three whistles in Super Mario Bros. 3, but it would take three minutes just to blow into the cartridge to get it to work. I was one of the best, if not the best, in the school at the V-sit reach, but I couldn't teach that skill. It was just a gift I had.
I was brainstorming ideas with a friend at his house when it occurred to me: Why don't I just do an impression? I was pretty good at impressions. I had a list of characters that I had nailed: Kermit the Frog, Barney from "The Simpsons," Dr. Nick Riviera from "The Simpsons." (Honestly, it was all the same voice.) But how do you explain how to say, in that quirky, animated Dr. Nick kind of way, "Hi, everybody"?
And then it hit me: I can do the "Seinfeld" theme. So easy. Anyone can make popping sounds with their lips and click their tongue. I could skip the bass part and focus solely on the pops and the clicks. Brilliant idea. It would really make the presentation ... pop.
I went home, turned on my computer, opened WordPerfect and typed out a 1 1/2-page paper on how to perform the "Seinfeld" theme, with the mouth as the only instrument. Regrettably, I no longer have the paper, but as best as I can remember, it went something along the lines of this:
1. Tightly press your lips together.
2. Separate your lips, making a popping sound while doing so.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.
4. Lift your tongue and crash it down with all your might against the bottom of your mouth, creating a clicking sound.
And so on.
At the end of the paper I added a pixelated graphic of the "Seinfeld" logo that I borrowed from a "Seinfeld" clip art program I had. (I told you it was my favorite TV show.)
I can only imagine what my teacher's reaction was when she first read the paper. She either really admired my passion for "Seinfeld," thought I must not have taken the project seriously at all, or some combination of the two.
I delivered my presentation a few days after handing in the paper. I was not a confident person by any means, but for whatever reason I felt very sure of myself when I walked to the front of that class. I stood there, head held high, and I showed 25 students how to play the "Seinfeld" theme with their mouth. Most of them hadn't known what was coming, and if you were to ask them about it today they probably still wouldn't be able to describe what it was they saw (and heard).
There was a sense of dumbfounded curiosity, if there is such a thing, in the room as I carefully listed each step, exactly as I'd written it in the paper. I had the students' undivided attention. They wanted more.
I'll never forget the grand finale, when I put it all together and did the entire theme for them. It killed. The applause ... it was loud, it was sustained, it was incredible. I received high fives from several male classmates as I walked back to my desk. The next kid, who had to show us how to tie a tie? He didn't stand a chance with me as his lead-in.
I should probably mention at this point that I had a massive crush on a girl who happened to be in this class. I don't know for sure what she thought of the presentation, but I have a pretty good idea what she thought because, riding the emotional high of my "Seinfeld" theme performance, I decided to ask her out later that week. She said no.
I was disappointed at the time, of course, but with the benefit of hindsight I completely get it now. Not every teenage girl is looking for a boy who's proficient at making popping and clicking sounds.
But you know who liked them? My English teacher. She gave me an A. I got an A for re-creating the strange noises in a theme song for a popular sitcom. If you were to ask me what I'm most proud of in life, it's that.
So that's my fondest "Seinfeld" memory.