When Carliss Chatman was growing up near Hobby Airport in Houston, her parents wouldn’t let her watch Seinfeld, at least during most of the sitcom's prime time run 1989-98. “It was on too late … and probably a lot of other reasons,” she recalls. Chatman got hooked on Seinfeld while attending Lamar High School, graduating in 1997, and forever since.
Chatman is a certified Seinfeld nerd (join the club) and like the rest of us, she’s seen every episode over and over 100 times and can recite entire scripts. Today she’s a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.
On Wednesday, July 15, though, she will be a visiting guest lecturer, with the title of "Serenit E. Now Foundation Chair of Business Law and Ethics," at Yada Yada Law School, a “fake college where real law professors teach classes about nothing for charity,” according to the Yada Yada catalog.
You can stream Chatman’s lecture live at 11 am here, or catch it later that night on YouTube.
Yada Yada Law School started as a joke between law professors on Twitter. Then professors began presenting online lectures, using Seinfeld clips and anecdotes to illustrate law principles. Soon the college, as phony as Vandelay Industries on Seinfeld, was written up in national law reviews. The “tuition” is free to watch. At the end of each lecture, there’s a web address where students can send charitable donations. So far, the classes about nothing, about the show about nothing, have raised about $12,000 for COVID-19 relief efforts in New York City.
“Yada Yada Law School is just for entertainment,” Chatman says. “I teach real law school and I have real topics. I like to use Seinfeld clips and references in my lectures in addition to real case studies. For example, to discuss business partnerships I’ll use a clip from Elaine’s muffin top company, to talk about corporations I’ll use Kramer’s Kramerica company to determine if that qualifies as a corporation. I’ll use the episode about the stock tip to talk about securities. Seinfeld is fertile ground for teaching about business and ethics.
“The only part I find sad is, many times I’ll quote something from Seinfeld, and the students have no idea what I’m talking about. They’ve never seen or even heard of the show. For many of them, Seinfeld had already left the air by the time they were born. That’s a little scary for me. Then I'll show them clips from the show and they'll laugh, they get it,” she says.
Chatman went to Duke University after Lamar High School and earned her law degree at the University of Texas. She’s smart. Chatman practiced commercial law in Houston for 11 years before becoming a law professor at Stetson University and Northern Illinois University, now at Washington and Lee University.
“My favorite Seinfeld episode is Festivus. My friends and I celebrate Festivus every year. We meet for a long lunch and we have our airing of grievances. Seinfeld is my favorite show ever, but I love Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO, too. My friends say I’m the Larry David of our circle. I don’t know how to take that. I think it’s because I don’t have a filter. I’m always getting into Larry David situations. I want Larry David to keep making that show forever.”
Pet of the Week
Name: Electra, like the title character in ancient Greek tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides. We're getting pretty highbrow with these dogs' names lately. I don't know how much longer I can keep up.
Birthdate: July 1, 2017. I'm in the prime of my life, ain't nothing gonna stop me now (Glennis Grace).
Ethnicity: I'm an American Staffordshire mix girly-girl. I'm a medium sized pooch, about 40 pounds of adorable. The staff at CAP says I'm very friendly, sweet and curious. So hide the treats or keep them up high. I like to play with other dogs, but to play it safe, if you already have a pup, bring him to Citizens for Animal Protection when you check me out. And I do mean check me out —as in get me outta here! I'm spayed and housebroken and know several dog tricks, if you're into that.
Come and get me: To bring me home, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, all adoptions are half-price this summer thanks to West Houston Subaru.