Speak Easy: Jason Alexander

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It’s not what he’s known for, but Jason Alexander began his acting career on stage. Here he talks about returning to those roots for a trio of shows with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, as well as the short, stocky, slow-witted bald man he can’t seem to shake.

How do you classify these shows? I don’t think what I’m doing up there looks like a Pops show. I don’t want it to be A Stodgy Evening with the Symphony Hall. There are a lot of laughs. A variety show, I expect dancing girls and magicians—so I don’t think it’s that. The evening is focused on theater music, and the connective material between songs are stories that I think have a fair amount of humor in them. There’s a general “evening with” feeling.

Why was a Pops orchestra the best medium for that? I love musical theater. There is a thrill to singing great songs with a large orchestra. Most of the time you’re doing it in a Broadway show, which means you’re doing eight shows a week for six months to a year. That’s taxing. This is all the joy of doing that and none of the downside.

I assume it’s a different rush being on stage versus on screen? It is a very different rush. The place I get the most gratification day-to-day as an actor is when I’m performing live. There’s no safety net. It is a very pure kind of performance. There is a certain joy to having complete control of your own work.

Regardless of what you’re doing, you will always be immediately referenced as “George Costanza from Seinfeld.” Does that annoy you? Annoy is the wrong word. George has become, for me, a portal in life. It opens many more doors than it closes. It’s a strange thing. I tend to think of acting as an incredibly selfish career choice—no one needs an actor—but to have done something like Seinfeld, it has touched so many people for so long. It is more than a TV show for them. It’s a phenomenon I can only be grateful for. I am fully aware that the world thinks, Oh, that’s George. But it is because of Seinfeld that I get to do the Cincinnati Pops. It is the thing that puts me on the marquee.

Jason Alexander: An Evening of Comedy and Song, March 4–6, Music Hall, cincinnatisymphony.org

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