Seinfeld was the biggest sitcom of the 1990s – it smashed the TV ratings and turned co-creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David into multi-millionaires. The ‘show about nothing’ followed the lives of Jerry, George Costanza, Elaine Benes and Cosmo Kramer as they deal with everyday minutiae in their own unique way. Seinfeld has spawned some classic comedy quotes and characters along the way, from ‘yada yada’ to the Soup Nazi!
In the article below, we’ve taken a look at 25 fascinating facts you didn’t know about Seinfeld. Find out which actor reacted extremely badly to being written out of an episode, plus we reveal the real reason behind Susan Ross’ disappearance from the show. Get your Jujyfruits ready and sit back and relax with a ‘Serenity Now!’ as you scroll down this epic list of Seinfeld trivia… enjoy!
25. ‘Claire the waitress’ was supposed to be the lead female character in the show
Can you imagine Seinfeld without Elaine Benes? Well that’s nearly what happened until executives decided to shake things up after the pilot was aired! Elaine was never supposed to feature in the series at all, and instead Seinfeld and David invented the character of ‘Claire the waitress’ (pictured below) who was going to be the main female presence in Seinfeld.
However, executives wanted to see a stronger female lead in the series. David and Seinfeld also realised that the waitress in your local diner probably isn’t going to hang out in your apartment too – so the character of Elaine Benes was created! Megan Mullaly nearly got the role, but in the end Julia Louis-Dreyfus managed to win the part due to her development deal with Warner Bros.
24. “The Parking Garage” ending was unintentional
“The Parking Garage” was yet another groundbreaking episode of Seinfeld which saw the plot of the show revolve around the four friends struggling to find their parked car for half an hour! After they finally find the vehicle right at the end of the show, fans will remember that Kramer gets behind the wheel and turns the ignition…only for the engine to stall. Apparently this was completely unplanned, and they only found out during filming that the car wouldn’t start!
Instead instant comedy gold was created… Louis-Dreyfus once explained: “It was like God had actually given us a better ending to the script. We were laughing so damn hard that if you watch the episode, you can see — I think it’s Jason and me in the back seat, and our heads are bobbing, trying to stop our hysterical laughter, trying to keep it under control while the camera’s running.”
23. Elaine’s father was supposed to be a recurring character
Lawrence Tierney stole the show (or at least one episode) as Alton Benes, Elaine’s war veteran father who is also a best-selling novelist. If you thought Jason Alexander and Jerry Seinfeld were doing a brilliant job of acting scared of Alton on-screen…that’s because in reality the actors were genuinely terrified of Tierney!
Apparently Tierney was a bizarre character on set – he stole a fake knife from Jerry’s apartment, and pretended to stab Seinfeld while shrieking the infamous score from Psycho. Everyone later admitted that Tierney scared them to death – and he was never seen again.
22. Jerry Seinfeld’s obsession with the number nine seeped into the show
In reality, Jerry Seinfeld has an obsession with the number nine. And this can be seen in the way Seinfeld was run – for example, the show originally came on the air at 9pm every week, and it also premiered in 1989.
The comedian has always had a special fondness for the number, and when it came time to think about wrapping up Seinfeld he settled on nine seasons, rather than ten. By end of the show, 180 episodes had been aired – 1+8=9. Spooky!
21. Kenny Kramer was paid $1,000 for Seinfeld to use his name
The character of Cosmo Kramer is very loosely based on Larry David’s real-life neighbour, Kenny Kramer. Kramer is now one of the most iconic comedy characters in sitcom history, but did you know that real-life Kramer was only paid $1,000 for use of his name.
Kenny has been quite the entrepreneur though – he set up a ‘Kramer Reality Tour’ which charged people to ride around New York looking at various Seinfeld locations. David and Seinfeld later parodied this in an episode which sees Kramer trying to run a hapless bus tour around the city. Interestingly, Kramer was originally going to be called ‘Kessler’ until they managed to acquire the rights to Kramer’s name.
20. George Costanza’s wardrobe was always one size too small for Jason Alexander
Everybody who has watched Seinfeld will remember how particular George was about his wardrobe. He famously revealed to Jerry before their trip to Los Angeles that he wears clothes which closely reflect his mood – in one scene he is wearing an outfit which he labels “Mountain Mist”. And that’s not the only fun fact about George’s clothing…
Jason Alexander’s clothing was always one size too small – this was done deliberately by the costume department in order to make George look a) perpetually annoyed and b) a bit of a style fail On the other hand, Michael Richards’ clothing as Kramer was always one size too big in order to make him look casual, relaxed and pretty darn cool.
19. Jason Alexander once confronted Larry David about writing him out of an episode
“George is gettin’ upset!” Only Jerry Seinfeld has appeared in every single episode of Seinfeld, so you’d think Alexander might have understood being left out once.
But when George didn’t appear in a third season episode entitled “The Pen”, Alexander started to worry that his character was becoming irrelevant. He worried that Seinfeld and David were planning on writing him out entirely. Alexander promptly marched up to Larry David and said, “Larry, if you do it again, do it permanently.” Costanza was never missing from an episode of Seinfeld again.
18. Most of the cast members had no comedic chemistry with the actress who played Susan Ross
Susan Ross was George’s ill-fated fiancée who famously died after licking the poison glue from some cheap envelopes (chosen by George, of course). Ross was actually killed off because none of the other cast members could work with actress Heidi Swedberg’s comedic timing.
Alexander once explained: “Her instincts for doing a scene, where the comedy was, and mine were always misfiring. And she would do something, and I would go, ‘OK, I see what she’s going to do — I’m going to adjust to her.’ And I’d adjust, and then it would change. Eventually Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Louis-Dreyfus began to pick up on the problem. “They go, ‘You know what? It’s f***ing impossible. It’s impossible,'” Alexander, claims. “And Julia actually said, ‘Don’t you want to just kill her?’ And Larry went, ‘Ka-bang!'”
17. Jerry Seinfeld once made Julia Louis-Dreyfus cry
Seinfeld and Louis-Dreyfus are extremely close in reality. But Seinfeld once managed to make his female co-star cry during the third season of Seinfeld. Why? A very ill-advised pitch from Jerry caused Louis-Dreyfus to break down in tears. Louis-Dreyfus was five months pregnant when Seinfeld said: “Hey, I have a great idea. How about we write in this season that Elaine just gets fat?” Not a great thing to say to a pregnant woman, Jerry!
Julia promptly burst into tears and the idea was quickly binned. However, the actress later admitted on an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee that “it was a great idea, and we should’ve done it.”
16. “The Soup Nazi” was based on a real person
The Soup Nazi is one of the most popular characters on Seinfeld. But did you know that he was based on a real person? Al Yeganeh was a famously rude soup kitchen operator based in NYC who had a set of rules very similar to that of the Soup Nazi.
And it appears that Yeganeh didn’t take to his unflattering portrayal in Seinfeld very kindly at all… He told CNN that Seinfeld was a “clown” who use of the N word “the Nazi word—is disgraceful.” He also claimed that he had made Jerry Seinfeld famous, not the other way around. Funnily enough, a portrayal of Yeganeh was also included in When Harry Met Sally, but this didn’t annoy the soup vendor quite as much.
15. It was never really pitched as a “show about nothing”
The bizarre storylines in Seinfeld, which usually centred around trivial problems like restaurant reservations and phone messages, earned the series the infamous title of the “show about nothing”. The phrase became so famous that David and Seinfeld even addressed the nickname in the season when Jerry and George pitch a pilot to NBC executives.
However, despite the fact that many fans believe otherwise, Seinfeld was never actually pitched as a “show about nothing”. Seinfeld himself revealed: “The pitch for the show, the real pitch, when Larry and I went to NBC in 1988, was we want to show how a comedian gets his material. The show about nothing was just a joke in an episode many years later, and Larry and I to this day are surprised that it caught on as a way that people describe the show, because to us it’s the opposite of that.”
14. Steve Buscemi auditioned for the part of George
Steve Buscemi is a renowned character actor known for his excellent performances in movies such as Fargo and Reservoir Dogs. But did you know that he once auditioned for the part of funny man George Costanza?!
He wasn’t the only future success to read for the role either – David Alan Grier was also in the running, as was David Letterman’s bandleader Paul Shaffer. Jason Alexander certainly wasn’t Seinfeld’s first choice to play George. Instead the comedian begged his friend and fellow stand-up comic Jake Johannsen to star in the show – but Johannsen refused. We wonder how he feels about that decision now?!
13. Jason Alexander thought the show would be a flop
When Jason Alexander received the first ever script for Seinfeld – he loved it. But the actor wasn’t convinced that the show would be a success. Alexander explained back in 1992: “From the moment I saw the script I thought it would be the most brilliant thing I’d ever be part of, and that it would not run for even a day.
Because the audience for this show is me, and I don’t watch TV … But I don’t think anyone is more surprised by the success of [Seinfeld] than we are, because we thought, ‘Oh, we’ll amuse ourselves, and that’ll be it. We’ll have a videotape at the end of it that we could play at parties.” Alexander couldn’t have predicted just how wrong he would be! Thanks to his portrayal of George, Alexander is currently estimated to be worth around $50 million.
12. The real-life ‘Costanza’ sued Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David
Although Seinfeld and David have always maintained that George Costanza is loosely based on Larry David himself, some people don’t see it that way. In fact, Jerry Seinfeld’s former friend Michael Costanza sued Seinfeld, David and NBC for $100 million, claiming that his likeness was used in the show.
Thankfully the court sided with Seinfeld and David, but that hasn’t stopped Costanza from claiming that he is the basis for the infamous comedy character. He even wrote a book about the issue entitled The Real Seinfeld (As Told by the Real Costanza). In it he does point out more than a few connections between the two Costanzas: “George is bald. I am bald. George is stocky. I am stocky. George and I both went to Queens College with Jerry. George’s high-school teacher nicknamed him ‘Can’t stand ya.’ So did mine. George had a thing about bathrooms and parking spaces. So do I.”
11. Larry David enforced a strict “no hugging, no learning” policy
It’s no secret that the Seinfeld gang do some pretty terrible things throughout the show – and somewhat refreshingly, none of them ever seems to show any remorse about their actions. This is because writer-producer Larry David had a very strict “no hugging, no learning” motto for the show that he made sure everybody would adhere to without exception.
The rule basically meant that, unlike a lot of other American programmes on the air, none of the characters would change or grow in any way. David once stated: “A lot of people don’t understand that Seinfeld is a dark show. If you examine the premises, terrible things happen to people. They lose jobs; somebody breaks up with a stroke victim; somebody’s told they need a nose job. That’s my sensibility.”
10. The Farrelly Brothers wrote one of Seinfeld’s most popular episodes
Nowadays the Farrelly brothers are better known for hit films such as Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. But before they started churning out road trip comedy hits, the Farrelly brothers started off writing for television. As well as a couple of other projects, the brothers were signed on to write an episode of Seinfeld in the early 90s.
In fact, most people don’t realise that the Farrelly brothers are directly responsible for one of Seinfeld’s most popular episodes. Peter and Bobby wrote the season four episode “The Virgin'”, in which Jerry finds out that he is dating ‘Marla the virgin’, a British woman who redesigns closet spaces for her clients.
9. There’s only one abandoned episode…about guns
In the 90s and 2000s, it often felt as though no topic was off-limits in one of the biggest sitcoms of all time. Viewers tuned in weekly to watch the gang enter masturbation contests with each other, or laugh as Elaine dumped a stroke victim and Kramer morphs into a disabled person. However, Jerry and co. discarded one episode of Seinfeld entitled “The Bet” because they felt that it wasn’t funny. The episode centred around guns – specifically Jerry and Elaine make a bet with each other to see whether one of them could buy a handgun.
Seinfeld recalled: “We started making it and stopped in the middle and said ‘this doesn’t work’.We did the read-through and then canceled it. A lot of other stuff happened, but trying to make that funny ended up being no fun.” The episode was replaced with “The Phone Message” instead – a classic Seinfeld caper!
8. Jackie Chiles was supposed to get his own spin-off show
Jackie Chiles was one of the most popular Seinfeld recurring characters amongst fans. He was Kramer’s fast-talking lawyer whose lawsuits were constantly being hampered by his goofy client, much to Chiles’ annoyance.
Actor Phil Morris brought the part to life with a hilarious spoof portrayal of OJ Simpson’s infamous lawyer Johnnie Cochran. The character became so popular that Morris, Seinfeld and David began talks to write a Seinfeld spin-off centred solely around Chiles. The show would have seen Chiles trying to get to the top as the sole black lawyer in an all-white law firm. Sadly the pilot never ended up getting made – which is a shame because we would have loved to have seen that show!
7. Jerry’s least favourite episode is “The Alternate Side”
Jerry Seinfeld was once grilled about his least favourite episode during an appearance on Watch What Happens: Live. The actor and stand-up revealed that he really dislikes “The Alternate Side”, which features George trying frantically to move all of the cars in Jerry’s block. The episode also sees Jerry’s car get stolen and even introduces the infamous line by Kramer: “These pretzels are making me thirsty!” Unfortunately Seinfeld just wasn’t a fan of that particular episode. So what is Jerry’s favourite show from the series?
Apparently it’s “The Marine Biologist”. In particular, Seinfeld loves that moment when George pulls out the Titleist from his jacket: “George pulling out the golf ball at the end of the marine biologist episode. That’s my favourite moment from the entire series.”
6. George Steinbrenner actually filmed some scenes for Seinfeld but they were never aired
Fans of Seinfeld will know that George Steinbrenner (then-real life owner of the New York Yankees baseball team) looms large over much of the series, particularly when George (Costanza, that is) starts work at the Yankees. Rumour has it that Steinbrenner wasn’t too pleased with his initial portrayal in the sitcom.
Most of the time, Steinbrenner is played by Larry David – we only see the back of his head and flailing arms as he babbles in near-jibberish to George and Mr. Wilhelm, amongst many others. But in the end, the Yankees owner saw the funny side of the portrayal and even filmed a cameo appearance himself. In one scene, Steinbrenner can be seen asking Elaine if she wants to go to George’s wedding with him. Unfortunately, the cameo was cut from the final episode.
5. People thought that “The Little Kicks” would destroy Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ career
Seinfeld writer Spike Feresten is the man responsible for bringing Elaine’s horrendous dancing to the small screen. He had originally pitched the idea to David and it was rejected – but Feresten managed to get those ‘little kicks’ into the eighth season episode of the same name (once David had left the series).
However, during filming, Feresten himself became worried that the whole thing had been a big mistake. Feresten explained: “I remember walking through at rehearsal. [Writer-producer] Jennifer Crittenden pulled me aside after Julia did the dance for the first time and said, ‘Are you sure about this? Are you sure you’re not ruining Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s career?’ ‘No, I’m not.’ That’s the year she won an Emmy.”
4. Jerry Seinfeld turned down $110 million for season 10
It’s no secret that Jerry Seinfeld is a very rich man. His earnings from Seinfeld have turned him into a multi-millionaire. But he could have had even more money in his bank account if he had agreed to write a tenth season of the show.
Rumour has it that network executives offered Seinfeld a whopping $5 million per episode for a tenth season, which would have come to $110 million over all. However, Seinfeld turned it down, and executives finally got the message that it was time for their money-making machine to come to an end. Seinfeld is currently worth $950 million, while his co-creator Larry David is estimated to be worth $400 million.
3. Rosie O’Donnell auditioned for the role of Elaine
There were plenty of actresses who auditioned for the role of Elaine, including Mariska Hargitay, Megan Mullally, Patricia Heaton and Amy Yasbeck. None of them were successful and the part eventually went to comedy genius Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
However, did you also know that none other than Rosie O’Donnell also read for the part of Elaine? O’Donnell is good friends with Larry David – the pair started doing the stand-up scene together at the same time and he managed to persuade O’Donnell to audition for the role. Things could have turned out very differently indeed – imagine O’Donnell as Elaine and Steve Buscemi as George!
2. “The Rye” episode was based on a real event
“The Rye” is a classic episode which sees George’s parents stealing back a loaf of rye they took to a dinner party. George is then forced to sneak a new rye back into his in-laws’ house so that they don’t get offended by the thievery. Of course, nothing goes to plan and George is eventually caught in the act by Susan and her parents.
Unbelievably, this plot was based on a real-life incident – a friend of writer Carol Leifer experienced the rye theft first hand. Leifer explained: “I have a friend from high school who said she had a great Seinfeld idea. She said, ‘We had a dinner party the other night and these people brought a bread to serve at the dinner and I forgot to put the bread out and I noticed at the end of the night they took the bread home.’ Leifer immediately took the idea to David, who loved it – and “The Rye” was born! Fun fact: did you know that “The Contest” and “The Phone Message” were also directly based on things that happened to Larry David?!
1. The series begins and ends with practically the same dialogue
Seinfeld comes full circle in the end. After nine seasons, most people had probably forgotten that the series ends in exactly the same way it started – with a conversation about buttons.
In both the pilot and the finale, Jerry and George are sitting together and talking about a poorly-placed button on a jacket. In the finale, the dialogue is almost exactly the same as the pilot.