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Video: ‘Nut’ behind ‘Letters’ revealed

  1. Transcript of: ‘Nut’ behind ‘Letters’ revealed

    MATT LAUER, co-host: The book "Letters from a Nut" debuted nearly 15 years ago. It featured all kinds of bizarre letters to businesses around the world and was written by someone called Ted L. Nancy . Hm. Now the fourth book in the series is out, "All New Letters from a Nut," but the author's true identity has remained a mystery until today. Jerry Seinfeld writes the forewords. He's here along with Ted L. Nancy , whose real name is...

    Mr. JERRY SEINFELD: Barry Marder .

    LAUER: Guys, nice to see you. That's it.

    Mr. SEINFELD: That's it.

    LAUER: Thanks very much. We're done. See you guys later.

    Mr. SEINFELD: We're done. Right.

    Mr. BARRY MARDER: Thank you guys very much.

    Mr. SEINFELD: A lot of people thought it was Matt for many years. A lot of people thought...

    LAUER: No, no. A lot of people thought it was you.

    Mr. MARDER: Yeah.

    Mr. SEINFELD: Yeah, people did think it was me. We started this as really kind of a joke for ourselves, just to see if, you know, people would be interested in this. But the books took off, and it was weird. They just became a best-sellers, and then people started trying to take credit for who was doing it.

    LAUER: Is that why you're revealing the identity?

    Mr. SEINFELD: Yes.

    LAUER: Because otherwise the mystery is a pretty good gig. I mean...

    Mr. SEINFELD: It was a good gig.

    LAUER: It's a marketing tool.

    Mr. SEINFELD: Yeah. But we though, how can we get on with Matt Lauer ? What do we do ?

    Mr. MARDER: Is there any way, what can we do?

    Mr. SEINFELD: What can we do?

    LAUER: So what do we need to know about Barry Marder ? Barry , you're a comedian, right?

    Mr. MARDER: Yes, sir.

    LAUER: You write a lot. What else do we need to know about you?

    Mr. MARDER: I used to work for Jerry on " Seinfeld ," writing.

    Mr. SEINFELD: He used to help me write the standup on " Seinfeld ."

    Mr. MARDER: Right.

    Mr. SEINFELD: And -- but he's the guy who really created this whole -- he's written all the letters, he created the character. And the people -- there's a lot of people on the Internet that are claiming credit for it, and that started to bother us.

    LAUER: And the letters are crazy, but what's even crazier is that the people you write them to actually take the time, a lot...

    Mr. SEINFELD: They respond.

    LAUER: ...and they respond to them, which is nuts.

    Mr. SEINFELD: Yeah.

    Mr. MARDER: Yeah.

    LAUER: Let's get an example so people know what we're talking about.

    Mr. SEINFELD: All right. Here's one. OK.

    LAUER: Read a letter for us.

    Mr. SEINFELD: This is a letter written to the Bar Harbor Hotel in Bar Harbor , Maine .

    LAUER: Right.

    Mr. SEINFELD: You've been to Bar Harbor many times.

    LAUER: Oh.

    Mr. SEINFELD: "Dear Bar Harbor Hotel , I am wondering if you found a pair of rubber gorilla feet I left in your men's room. These are low-land gorilla feet with bunches of hair on them. I was probably distracted when I needed to use the tissue dispenser from another stall. I became confused and dazed. I believe I left my feet in your hotel men's room. Sincerely, Ted L. Nancy . P.S. You have great bread."

    LAUER: And they responded, right?

    Mr. SEINFELD: And they -- and they write back.

    Mr. MARDER: They responded, right.

    Mr. SEINFELD: "Dear Mr. Nancy , I'm sorry to tell you, we did not have any rubber gorilla feet turned in. Hope you found them."

    LAUER: You should've remained anonymous. You definitely should have.

    Mr. MARDER: Right.

    LAUER: Read me another one. You've got one, too.

    Mr. MARDER: I had written to a shoe company. I was trying to get, you know, shoes that looked like bananas. So I wrote, 'I am in the process of opening Banannies in 16 malls. This is nanny wear that is bright yellow like a banana.'

    Mr. SEINFELD: So this is for nannies to wear shoes that look like bananas.

    LAUER: Right.

    Mr. MARDER: "You will know that a nanny is in the room when she is dressed from head to toe in bright yellow and you go, oh, it must be the nanny, she looks like a banana. Could be some green on top." And then they asked me to send them an example. So I sent them -- this is the easy on the heels and the slip-ons. That's the Devonshire .

    Mr. MARDER: The different types of banana footwear.

    LAUER: It's like making crank calls, but writing the letters.

    Mr. MARDER: Yeah.

    Mr. SEINFELD: But he's gotten responses from the king of Tonga .

    Mr. MARDER: Wait, I'm not finished with this one.

    Mr. SEINFELD: The Prince of Wales .

    Mr. MARDER: Hey, hey, hey. It's my thing. And then I wrote them back actually, you know, and I wrote, "Thank you for answering me on my banannie shoes," which they didn't even bother to answer me. I just kept going with it.

    LAUER: Yeah.

    Mr. MARDER: "I now have waiter-melons. This is uniforms for the waiter industry that are bright red with black seeds on them like a watermelon. You'll know that a waiter is in the room when he is dressed from head to toe that looks like a watermelon. You go, oh, it must be the waiter. He looks like a watermelon. Possibly some green on the top." And then Alan Marder did these. These are the watermelon shoes, the waiter-melons.

    LAUER: But now that you've revealed yourself, is this over? I mean, is that it, the end of the books?

    Mr. SEINFELD: No.

    Mr. MARDER: Well, I don't think so. What do you think?

    Mr. SEINFELD: Well, we've -- we may have to change it a little bit.

    LAUER: Yeah.

    Mr. SEINFELD: But...

    Mr. MARDER: Another name, maybe...

    Mr. SEINFELD: ...we just wanted people to know who the -- because so many people think it's me.

    LAUER: Right.

    Mr. SEINFELD: And he's done so much work on it, I really wanted the public to know this is the guy that has created the whole thing.

    Mr. MARDER: And the kids read these, the kids read these.

    LAUER: Barry Marder , there's the name.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/24/2010 10:29:28 AM ET 2010-09-24T14:29:28

The trouble with writing a series of best-selling humor books under a pseudonym is that people come out of the woodwork claiming authorship.

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And when Jerry Seinfeld writes the forewords to your books, it gets even worse — folks begin to believe Jerry is actually the author.

That’s the pickle Seinfeld’s friend and collaborator Barry Marder found himself in with his hit series of “Letters From a Nut” books, in which Marder, under the nom de plume Ted L. Nancy, writes gag correspondence to companies and dignitaries, and receives oh-so-serious responses.

With the publishing of a fourth book, “All New Letters From a Nut,” Marder revealed his true face to the public while appearing live on TODAY Friday alongside his partner-in-crime Seinfeld.

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Speaking with Matt Lauer, Seinfeld said he wanted to dispel speculation that he — or anyone else other than Marder — was actually Ted L. Nancy. “People did think it was me,” Seinfeld told Lauer. “We started this as really kind of a joke for ourselves, just to see if people would be interested in this. But the books took off. And then people tried to take credit for who was doing it.

“So many people think it’s me, and he’s done so much work on it. I really want the public to know this is the guy that has created the whole thing.”

Related: Is Jerry Seinfeld the Ted L. Nancy ‘Nut’?

Marder, who helped pen Seinfeld’s stand-up performances on his sitcom and also co-wrote his 2007 animated film “Bee Movie,” hatched his idea back in 1995: He started writing crank letters and e-mails to companies, governments and heads of state and waiting for a reply. The ensuing correspondence became the basis for his first book. In its foreword, Seinfeld claimed he found the letters by chance and had no knowledge of who Ted L. Nancy was.

That book and its two sequels sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and while “All New Letters From a Nut” still bears the Ted L. Nancy name, Seinfeld is now helping Marder reveal his true face to the public.

It Books, Getty Images
“Letters From a Nut” author Ted L. Nancy is not the alter ego of Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld revealed.

The new entry, the first “Letters From a Nut” book in 10 years, ups the ante in tomfoolery. For example: Marder, as Nancy, writes to an Amsterdam hotel requesting a room for his 300 hamsters as he prepares to stage the play “Hamsterdam.” He e-mails a portable toilet company to place a large order for his firm, alternately called “Papa’s Johns,” “Elton’s Johns” and “Nincompoops.”

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As Marder read Lauer a letter he had written to a company proposing a new product called “Ba-Nanny Shoes” — bright yellow, banana-shaped shoes for nannies to wear — and “Waiter-Melons,” watermelon-shaped shoes for waiters — it was clear Seinfeld gets a big kick out of his pal and business partner.

And he wanted to make sure no one else would take credit anymore. “He is the guy who really created [the books],” Seinfeld said. “He’s written all the letters, he created the character. There’s a lot of people on the Internet claiming credit for it, and that started to bother us.”

But, Lauer asked, now that the cat is out of the bag, can Marder ever go back to being Ted L. Nancy?

Seinfeld admitted, “Well, we may have to change it a little bit,” if there’s a fifth book in the series.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: All New Letters from a Nut

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  1. A book called "Letters From a Nut" made its debut 13 years ago. "All New Letters From a Nut" continues that tradition. The premise is simple: The author writes absurd letters to customer service departments and waits for equally amusing response. An excerpt. (Broadway Books) Back to slideshow navigation
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