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Decatur's John Taggart shoots Jerry Seinfeld's Emmy-nominated 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee'

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Friday, September 16, 2016

Jerry Seinfeld is going to attend the Emmy Awards ceremony Sunday for the first time in a couple of decades. Why? His Crackle online-only show "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" was nominated for outstanding variety talk show.

The show - which features Seinfeld literally driving around in vintage vehicles and gabbing with comics at coffee shops - is distinctly different from its competitors, which all late night talk shows led by John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Maher and James Corden.

Seinfeld's director of photography is Decatur resident John Taggart. He spends several weeks a year (mostly in Los Angeles and New York) shooting the show with Seinfeld.

"We've had a great time working these past five seasons," said Taggart, who joined the show partway through. "It's something he really enjoys. He loves cars. He loves spending time with comedians. He would never have the time to spend three or four hours with some of these folks. It would never happen in real life."

Among the comics featured over the first seven seasons include Amy Schumer, Steve Martin, Steve Harvey, Will Ferrell, David Letterman and Jay Leno.

Taggart helps make the show look as cinematic as possible. He'll spend several hours with Seinfeld just taking beauty shots of whatever classic car Seinfeld picks for the episode. He'll also film painstakingly detailed moments of coffee being poured and ground as set-up shots while the comics gab and drink.

"I bring a lot of technology to the show," Taggart said. "I try different cameras. I use a camera drone. We use these little stabilizing cameras. I sit in a mini-van. He can drive next to me. I can smoothly go from the wheel up to his face. Stabilization has come a long way. I wanted to take this little Internet show and really bring some sort of stylized aspects to it."

Taggart says anything that happens on the show is not a bit. When the Ferrari broke down during Schumer's taping, he said that was 100 percent unscripted. "Some of these older cars have trouble," he said. "It's part of the story."

They said they shoot several hours using four cameras and trim it down to 18 minutes. "Jerry is involved in the edit," Taggart said. "He watches every single frame we shoot. It's what's so great to see Jerry and his work ethic and watching him sculpt these pieces like a stand-up act."

How did they get Barack Obama involved?

Taggart said an executive producer Tammy Johnston had done presidential debates and had connections to the White House. "It was quite a thrill," he said. "It was a very natural conversation. It was funny for me to walk into the Oval Office. We had no rehearsal. We talked about Jerry knocking on the window and he really did it."

He said it was the idea of the Secret Service to have Obama drive the 1963 Corvette Stingray around the South Lawn. (For security reasons, they couldn't let Obama just drive around D.C.) "The Secret Service was a little nervous because he hadn't driven in awhile," Taggart said. Fortunately, the president was able to stay off the lawn.

Taggart ran a production company with his wife during the 1990s, helping work with several early MTV shows such as "Cribs." After they had kids, they downsized and shut down the company. Over the years, he has done a lot of sporting events such as NBC's Olympic team and CBS Sports. Between Seinfeld shoots, he is a day player on various films shot in Atlanta.

He and his family came to Atlanta about five years ago and he loves Decatur. He said he is trying to convince Seinfeld to shoot an episode or two in this city since so much TV and film production happens here. (Jeff Foxworthy, anybody? How about Melissa McCarthy? She's always in town shooting something.). Top of his own wish list? Bill Murray.

Taggart isn't sure how many more seasons Seinfeld will do. "I've joked, 'Will you run out of classic cars or comedians first?' "

He said so far, Seinfeld is still enjoying it too much. And while he isn't expected to win Sunday, he will don a tux and sit in the audience and await the results.

The Emmy's air Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.