While growing up on Long Island, NY, Jerry Seinfeld had a secret. “I was never funny around my parents,” he revealed during a recent Q&A at The New Yorker Festival. “So when I told them I was going to be a comedian, [it was] my gay closet moment: ‘You don’t know this, but I’m funny.'”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Jerry’s parents, Kalman and Betty Seinfeld, were both raised as orphans, and “they didn’t get married till they were in their 40s,” Jerry said. “So they were wild dogs themselves. They didn’t fit into any normal [box].” Their response to Jerry’s comedy confession? “Oh, OK, good. Do whatever you want.”

jerry seinfeld and julia louis-dreyfus

Jerry and his Seinfeld co-star Julia. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

So he did, after brief stints waiting tables and selling light bulbs over the phone. (“It was hard finding people sitting home in the dark, going, ‘I can’t hold out much longer!'”) At 27, he made his debut on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1981. “I don’t wonder what it’s like to be an Olympic athlete and spend years on something that goes by in five minutes because I know,” he has said of the experience. “If you’re on The Tonight Show and Johnny Carson likes you, you’re in show business, and if he doesn’t, you’re not.”

Johnny loved him, and Jerry, 63, went on to co-create the classic sitcom Seinfeld with Larry David. He still keeps in touch with his co-stars, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 56, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. “I talked to her right before I came here, and she’s doing well,” he said.

As is Jerry, who had President Barack Obama guest-star on his internet series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee in 2015. “It was an absolute, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “It was out of body.” And a fitting honor for such a Master of His Domain.