I was invited to a very exclusive dinner party last Tuesday.
Jerry Seinfeld, Elaine, George and Kramer were all there.
It was a taping of an episode of NBC's "Seinfeld," which revolved around the Fab Four preparing to attend a dinner party at a friend's house.
I had to get there an hour before the 6:30 p.m. start. That's because entrance to a taping of "Seinfeld" may be the hottest ticket in town. It is sold out for the remainder of the season.
An impatient man who got his ticket from an agent created a scene. He felt the line he was in was less prestigious than the other line, and complained to the man in charge of seating. His irritation, which went on for an amusing 30 minutes, clearly embarrassed his wife. The whole scene was straight out of a "Seinfeld" episode.
But life often seems like a "Seinfeld" episode these days.
The show's popularity hinges on its writers' skill in dealing with familiar situations. As a result, it has become one of America's favorites.
Once seated inside Stage 9, the crowd of about 300 was entertained by a band. We sat on three sets of bleachers that are each about 10 yards across. The seats have cushions, which is fortunate. Tapings can last three or four hours.
To fill the time during breaks needed to move to the different sets and reload the cameras, a warm-up comedian named Pat entertained the crowd by answering questions.
"You are a graced audience," Pat said. "This is the first filming of 1994. It's a good ticket."
To get us in the mood, highlights of previous episodes were shown on one of the four overhead televisions.
Then Seinfeld was introduced. He immediately put his foot in his mouth.
"Hello, young fella," Seinfeld said to an 8-year-old girl in the audience, who corrected him.
"Any time, you're going to get it right about 50-50," Seinfeld said.
He did about five minutes of stand-up. His routine about the annoying habit that airplane pilots have of giving passengers a description of the route was on a recent episode, but there was some fresh material. Then he asked for questions.
"Do you pay (to fly)?" someone asked.
"Yes, I pay. But if there are extra cookies, I get them," Seinfeld cracked.
His five minutes up, it was time to chat with Pat again. He told us not to clap when the actors made their appearances. It seems the applause had grown so loud during tapings -- especially for Kramer's entrance -- that the actors would lose their rhythm.
There were four sets in front of us -- Jerry's apartment, a liquor store, a bakery and a newsstand.
Hmm. No evidence of the apartment of the couple giving the dinner party.
"Seinfeld" is supposed to be about "nothing." But nothing could be further from the truth this night.
This episode -- which will air Feb. 3 -- is about everything. It is about George's new, warm Gore-Tex coat, which makes him look like the Michelin man. It is about black-and-white cookies and race relations, the Penthouse Forum and sexual relations, and dinner party etiquette.
The big issue: Do invited guests have to bring wine and dessert to a dinner party?
It appeared to be very funny. I say appeared to be, because the rhythm of the taping made it tough to tell.
There were 28 scenes, most of which had to be filmed twice. Occasionally, a line was changed. A Lyle Lovett-Julia Roberts joke was dropped after it didn't get a big laugh.
Several scenes had been shot previously, without an audience. The cast re-enacted them so the audience understood what was going on, and the laughs were recorded for the soundtrack.
"This scene was shot in a car outside, but now you have to add your imagination," explained Pat. "Jerry's couch is actually a car."
Jerry's stand-up routine -- which plays at the beginning and end of the episode -- is filmed one Monday a month.
"It's a cheap date," Pat explained. "And it's not as hard to get into as this."
During a break, an audience member was confused by a joke about a dessert.
"What is a Ring Ding?" she asked. More confusion came later when Jerry and Elaine go to the bakery. "What is a bobka?" he asked.
"You people are pastry ignorant," cracked Pat.
At 7:35 p.m. -- at a break an hour into the filming -- the 8-year-old got applause by asking Pat, "Is Kramer going to get his own show?" (Not yet.)
There is an obvious fascination with Kramer. Later, someone asked: "Do they add any extra hair to Kramer's hair?" (No.)
During another break, a trade was proposed and relayed by Pat.
"Does anyone on the stage want to trade their 'Seinfeld' jacket for a Mickey Mouse watch that plays two songs?"
No takers. But another proposal.
"There is a gentleman who wants to trade an 8-year-old for a 'Seinfeld' jacket," said Pat.
Pat was starting to be as irritating as an airline pilot.
Shortly after 8 p.m., an audience member was worried that the heat would get to Jason Alexander, who was wearing that jacket.
"I have a little man in there, just blowing," Alexander explained.
At 8:45 p.m., the 8-year-old who loves Kramer fell asleep. Fittingly, the taping ended at 9 o'clock, which is "Seinfeld" time on Thursdays.
The audience was starved, which prompted someone to ask Jerry what happens to the bread and pastries in the bakery set.
"The bread is going to a mission for the homeless," explained Seinfeld, pausing for applause. "That's the name of a new TV series -- 'The Homeless.' "