25 Facts About Seinfeld

Hulton Archive, Getty Images Plus
Hulton Archive, Getty Images Plus

Though Seinfeld has famously earned the reputation of being a “show about nothing,” the idea behind the series—which premiered on July 5, 1989—was anything but. Here are 25 things you might not know about the legendary sitcom on its 30th anniversary.

1. It began as a one-off television special.

The original concept for Seinfeld wasn’t for an ongoing series, but a one-off, 90-minute special titled "Stand Up that was set to run for one night only in Saturday Night Live’s time slot.

2. It was never pitched as "a show about nothing."

During a 2014 Reddit AMA, Jerry Seinfeld admitted that both he and co-creator Larry David were surprised by how Seinfeld earned its “show about nothing” moniker: "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,’” Seinfeld explained. "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."

3. Kramer was originally Kessler.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, and Jerry Seinfeld in a scene from 'Seinfeld'
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the pilot episode, Kramer is called Kessler, as the real Kramer—Larry David’s former neighbor, Kenny Kramer—was hesitant to let his name be used for the show. Eventually, the “real” Kramer relented. Though he says he was paid just $1000 for the use of his name in the series, Kramer has since profited in other ways, namely with his Kramer’s Reality Tour bus tour (which is now in its 22nd year).

4. Jerry Seinfeld wanted Jake Johannsen to play George.

Though it’s hard to imagine Seinfeld without Jason Alexander as George Costanza, Seinfeld admitted that Alexander was not his first choice for the part. In an interview with Access Hollywood, Seinfeld said that he “begged” fellow comedian Jake Johannsen to take the part, but Johannsen refused.

5. The rumors that Steve Buscemi auditioned to play George are not true.

For years it was rumored that Steve Buscemi was one of many soon-to-be-successful actors who unsuccessfully auditioned for Seinfeld (David Alan Grier was also in the mix, as was David Letterman’s bandleader Paul Shaffer, who said in his autobiography that his resemblance to Larry David—upon whom George is based—was what made him of interest to the show’s creators). But on a 2015 episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Buscemi addressed the rumor in his typical good-natured way: “I never did [the audition] and I don’t know how to correct it because I don’t know how the Internet works."

6. Jason Alexander didn't think the show had a chance.

Jason Alexander loved the script for Seinfeld, which is what made him question the show's potential to be successful. “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,” Alexander told Deseret News in 1992. “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.’”

7. There was one episode where Alexander didn't make an appearance, and he wasn't happy about it.

A still from 'Seinfeld'
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In all of Seinfeld’s 172 episodes, there’s only one in which Alexander doesn’t appear—the season three episode, “The Pen,” which has Jerry and Elaine visiting Jerry’s parents in Florida (and Jerry getting an astronaut pen from their neighbor). Nervous that being written out of the episode meant that he could be written out of the show, Alexander warned Larry David that “if you do it again, do it permanently.”

8. The real George Costanza sued for $100 million.

Like Kramer, George Costanza was (partially) named after a real person: Jerry’s former friend Michael Costanza, who sued Seinfeld, David, and NBC for $100 million, claiming that the series had violated his privacy. The court sided with the show’s creators, who have always maintained that George is based on co-creator Larry David. In his book, The Real Seinfeld (As Told by the Real Costanza), Costanza noted: “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.”

9. Julia Louis-Dreyfus wasn't aware of the pilot episode until 2004.

Originally, the main female character was supposed to be Claire, a waitress at the coffee shop who would offer Jerry and George advice with their coffee. “[W]hen we shot the pilot, I was the girl in Seinfeld,” Lee Garlington, the actress who played Claire in the pilot, told HuffPo. “They didn't pick up my contract.” There are differing accounts as to why this happened. Jason Alexander said it was because Garlington rewrote all of her lines; while Seinfeld confirmed that she did indeed give Larry David a rewrite, he swears that that’s not the reason she was replaced, saying they just needed “a character who was a little more involved.”

In a making-of documentary on the season one DVD, Julia Louis-Dreyfus admits that she wasn’t even aware of the pilot until 2004—and has no plans to watch it. Garlington can relate: “I think I watched two episodes in 10 years just because I had friends on it or something,” she said. “It didn't bother me the first five years. [Laughs] But the second five years drove me nuts. I don't know why.”

10. Rosie O'Donnell auditioned to play Elaine.

Rosie O’Donnell auditioned for the part of Elaine at the behest of Larry David; the two were old friends, having come up on the standup comedy scene together. Mariska Hargitay, Patricia Heaton, Amy Yasbeck, and Megan Mullally were also among the other actresses considered for the part.

11. Elaine's dad really did scare the hell out of the cast.

In the series, Elaine’s father is a noted author, Alton Benes. The character was based on Revolutionary Road novelist Richard Yates, the father of Larry David’s own ex, Monica Yates (who really did intimidate David). In the series, Alton was played by legendary tough guy Lawrence Tierney (who played Joe in Reservoir Dogs) in the season two episode “The Jacket” (which was based on David’s real night out with Yates). Though it was intended to be a recurring role, Tierney—like his on-screen counterpart—really did terrify the cast, particularly when Seinfeld discovered that he had stolen a butcher knife from the set, and hid it under his jacket. “Lawrence Tierney scared the living crap out of all of us,” Alexander admitted. And so, Alton Benes made just a single appearance on the show.

12. There was a strict "no hugging, no learning" policy.

Larry David made sure that the cast and crew were aware of his “no hugging, no learning” motto for the show, which meant that they should avoid any sort of sentimentality or situations that would force the characters to change or grow. “A lot of people don't understand that Seinfeld is a dark show,” David said. “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.”

13. The real Soup Nazi says the show ruined his life.

Al Yeganeh, the real soup store owner upon whom The Soup Nazi is based, was not pleased with his depiction in the series, as is evident from the CNN interview above, where he calls Seinfeld “a clown” whose use of “the N word—the Nazi word—is disgraceful.” When the interviewer countered that “you’re famous because of him,” Yeganeh insisted “No. He got fame through me. I made him famous.” Unsurprisingly, Seinfeld was banned from Yeganeh’s restaurant (which didn’t stop the comedian from making a surprise appearance when the soup stall reopened in 2010).

14. The Farrelly brothers wrote an episode.

Two years before Dumb & Dumber made them two of Hollywood’s reigning kings of comedy, Peter and Bobby Farrelly wrote an episode of Seinfeld. The There’s Something About Mary co-creators wrote “The Virgin” in season four, in which Jerry dates Marla the virgin (Frasier’s Jane Leeves) and Elaine attempts to give her an education in sex in the 1990s.

15. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (sort of) got Susan killed off.

Nearly 20 years after Susan Ross, George’s fiancée, was killed off in the seventh season, Jason Alexander revealed what prompted that particularly morbid storyline. In an interview with Howard Stern, Alexander admitted that, “I couldn't figure out how to play off of [Heidi Swedberg]. 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.” Then it was Louis-Dreyfus’s turn to share some scenes with Hedberg. “They go, 'You know what? It's f***ing impossible. It's impossible,'" Alexander continued. "And Julia actually said, 'Don't you want to just kill her?' And Larry went, 'Ka-bang!'" And that was that.

16. There's an abandoned episode called "The Bet."

Though it may have seemed as if no topic was off-limits for Seinfeld’s creators (remember "The Contest"?), an episode that revolved around the ease with which one could buy a handgun was eventually dumped. Titled “The Bet,” it was written for the show’s second season; “We started making it and stopped in the middle and said ‘this doesn't work,’” Seinfeld said during an AMA. “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.”

17. A Miller Brewing executive was fired for discussing "The Junior Mint" episode with a female co-worker.

It’s the episode where Jerry can’t remember his girlfriend’s name, but knows that it rhymes with a female body part. After discussing the episode with a female colleague, Jerold Mackenzie, then an executive at Milwaukee’s Miller Brewing, was fired for sexual harassment. Mackenzie, in turn, counter-sued—and was awarded $26.6 million. (A verdict which was overturned on appeal.)

18. The writers thought Elaine's dance moves might kill Louis-Dreyfus's career.

Seinfeld writer Spike Feresten told HuffPo that Larry David was not a fan of the eighth season episode “The Little Kicks,” in which Elaine ... dances (for lack of a better term). He only got approval on the storyline after David had left, but then became concerned that it might be a big mistake.

“I remember walking through at rehearsal,” Feresten said. “[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.” Sweet, fancy Moses!

19. The backwards episode was inspired by Harold Pinter.

Season 9’s backwards episode, “The Betrayal,” is based on a Harold Pinter play of the same name, which utilizes a similarly nonlinear narrative device. And also explains why Sue-Ellen Mishkie’s fiancé's name is Pinter.

20. There was a Jackie Stiles spinoff in the works.

Back in 1999, more than a year after the Seinfeld finale had aired, the media was abuzz with what would be the series’s first spinoff: The Jackie Chiles Show. Phil Morris, who made a handful of appearances on the series as a fast-talking, Johnnie Cochran-like lawyer, was working with Seinfeld and David on the pitch, which would find him as the sole black lawyer in an all-white firm. At some point, plans apparently fell apart.

21. George Steinbrenner actually filmed some scenes for the show.

During George’s tenure with the Yankees organization, legendary team owner George Steinbrenner was a recurring character … except we never saw his face and he was voiced by Larry David. But Steinbrenner proved to be a good sport when he agreed to film some scenes for the show, in which he proposes that he and Elaine attend George’s wedding together. Unfortunately, the cameo never aired.

22. Seinfeld turned down $110 million for season 10.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. But when Seinfeld turned down the chance to earn $5 million per episode—a grand total of $110 million—to come back for a tenth season, the network finally got that he wasn’t kidding around.

23. Numerology played a part in the show's conclusion.

Seinfeld has made no secret about his love of the number nine. In an interview with Vanity Fair about the show’s end, he explained that part of the reason for his decision to end at nine seasons was because: “Nine is cool. When I was thinking about quitting the show, I thought, nine. People said, 'Ten—why not 10?' But 10 is lame. Nine is my number. And then I found out that nine in numerology means completion.”

24. The series begins and ends with buttons.

It might take binge-watching the series to realize that the very first conversation Jerry and George have in the pilot (which you can see in the clip above) and their last conversation in the finale are about a poorly-placed button, and are almost verbatim.

25. Seinfeld doesn't like "The Alternate Side."

When asked about his least favorite episode of the series on Watch What Happens: Live, Seinfeld admitted that it was “The Alternate Side,” in which Jerry’s car is stolen, George blocks traffic during a Woody Allen film shoot, and Kramer gets fired before he ever gets to utter his now-famous line: “These pretzels are making me thirsty!” His favorite show moment? “George pulling out the golf ball at the end of the marine biologist episode,” he told Uproxx. "That’s my favorite moment from the entire series.”

10 People Who Have Misplaced Their Oscars

Jeff Bridges accepts the Best Actor Oscar for Crazy Heart during the 82nd Annual Academy Awards in 2010.
Jeff Bridges accepts the Best Actor Oscar for Crazy Heart during the 82nd Annual Academy Awards in 2010.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Winning an Oscar is, for most people, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Unless you're Walt Disney, who won 22. Nevertheless, owning a little gold guy is such a rarity that you'd think their owners would be a little more careful with them. Now, not all of these losses are the winners' fault—but some of them certainly are (we're looking at you, Colin Firth).

1. Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie with her Oscar in 2000.
HO/AMPAS

At the 2000 Academy Awards ceremony, after Angelina Jolie planted a kiss on her brother and made the world collectively squirm, she went onstage and collected a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Lisa in Girl, Interrupted. She later presented the trophy to her mother, Marcheline Bertrand. The statuette may have been boxed up and put into storage when Marcheline died in 2007, but it hasn't yet surfaced. "I didn't actually lose it," Jolie said, "but nobody knows where it is at the moment."

2. Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg with her Oscar.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

In 2002, Whoopi Goldberg sent her Ghost Best Supporting Actress Oscar back to the Academy to have it cleaned and detailed, because apparently you can do that. The Academy then sent the Oscar on to R.S. Owens Co. of Chicago, the company that manufactures the trophies. When it arrived in the Windy City, however, the package was empty. It appeared that someone had opened the UPS package, removed the Oscar, then neatly sealed it all back up and sent it on its way. It was later found in a trash can at an airport in Ontario, California. The Oscar was returned to the Academy, who returned it to Whoopi without cleaning it. "Oscar will never leave my house again," Goldberg said.

3. Olympia Dukakis

Olympia Dukakis with an Oscar statue.
Steven Henry/Getty Images

When Olympia Dukakis's Moonstruck Oscar was stolen from her home in 1989, she called the Academy to see if it could be replaced. "For $78," they said, and she agreed that it seemed like a fair price. It was the only thing taken from the house.

4. Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando in 1957.
Keystone/Getty Images

"I don't know what happened to the Oscar they gave me for On the Waterfront," Marlon Brando wrote in his autobiography. "Somewhere in the passage of time it disappeared." He also didn't know what happened to the Oscar that he had Sacheen Littlefeather accept for him in 1973. "The Motion Picture Academy may have sent it to me, but if it did, I don't know where it is now."

5. Jeff Bridges

Actor Jeff Bridges, winner of Best Actor award for
Jeff Bridges, winner of the Best Actor Oscar for Crazy Heart, poses in the press room at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards on March 7, 2010.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

In 2010, Hollywood legend Jeff Bridges won his first-ever Oscar for his portrayal of alcoholic country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, but it was already missing by the time next year's ceremony rolled around, when he was nominated yet again for his role in the Coen brothers's True Grit

When asked about his year-old statuette, Bridges admitted that "It's been in a few places since last year but I haven’t seen it for a while now." Finding the MIA Oscar seemed even more urgent when Bridges lost the 2011 Best Actor Oscar to Colin Firth for The King's Speech. "I'm hoping it will turn up, especially now that I haven't won a spare," Bridges said. "But Colin deserves it. I just hope he looks after it better." 

6. Colin Firth

Colin Firth with his Oscar in 2011.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Perhaps Jeff Bridges secretly cursed Colin Firth as he said those aforementioned words, because Firth nearly left his new trophy on a toilet tank the very night he received it. After a night of cocktails at the Oscar after-parties in 2011, Firth allegedly had to be chased down by a bathroom attendant, who had found the eight-pound statuette in the bathroom stall. Notice we said allegedly: Shortly after those reports surfaced, Firth's rep issued a statement saying the "story is completely untrue. Though it did give us a good laugh."

7. Matt Damon

Actor Matt Damon in 1999
Brenda Chase/Hulton Archive

When newbie writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck took home Oscars for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998, it was one of those amazing Academy Award moments. Now, though, Damon isn't sure where his award went. "I know it ended up at my apartment in New York, but unfortunately, we had a flood when one of the sprinklers went off when my wife and I were out of town and that was the last I saw of it," Damon said in 2007.

8. Margaret O'Brien

Child actress Margaret O'Brien.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1945, 7-year-old Margaret O'Brien was presented with a Juvenile Academy Award for being the outstanding child actress of the year. About 10 years later, the O'Briens' maid took the award home to polish it, as she had done before, but never returned. The missing Oscar was forgotten about when O'Brien's mother died shortly thereafter, and when Margaret finally remembered to call the maid, the number had been disconnected. She ended up receiving a replacement from the Academy.

There's a happy ending to this story, though. In 1995, a couple of guys were picking their way through a flea market when they happened upon the Oscar. They put it up for auction, which is when word got back to the Academy that the missing trophy had resurfaced. The guys who found the Oscar pulled it from auction and presented it, in person, to Margaret O'Brien. "I'll never give it to anyone to polish again," she said.

9. Bing Crosby

Barry Fitzgerald (left) holds his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor while American actor Bing Crosby holds his Oscar for Best Actor, both for their roles in Going My Way; 1945.
Barry Fitzgerald (left) holds his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor while American actor Bing Crosby holds his Oscar for Best Actor, both for their roles in Going My Way; 1945.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For years, Bing Crosby's Oscar for 1944's Going My Way had been on display at his alma mater, Gonzaga University. In 1972, students walked into the school's library to find that the 13-inch statuette had been replaced with a 3-inch Mickey Mouse figurine instead. A week later, the award was found, unharmed, in the university chapel. "I wanted to make people laugh," the anonymous thief later told the school newspaper.

10. Hattie McDaniel

A publicity still from 1939's Gone with the Wind; at the 1940 Academy Awards, Hattie McDaniel (left) won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and Vivien Leigh (right) won Best Actress. Olivia de Havilland (center) was also nominated for Best Supporting A
A publicity still from 1939's Gone with the Wind; at the 1940 Academy Awards, Hattie McDaniel (left) won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and Vivien Leigh (right) won Best Actress. Olivia de Havilland (center) was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Hattie McDaniel, famous for her Supporting Actress win as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, donated her Best Actress Oscar to Howard University. It was displayed in the fine arts complex for a time, but went missing sometime in the 1960s. No one seems to know exactly when or how, but there are rumors that the Oscar was unceremoniously dumped into the Potomac by students angered by racial stereotypes such as the one she portrayed in the film.

The Most Successful Entertainment Production in History Might Just Surprise You

Goran Jakus Photography/iStock via Getty Images
Goran Jakus Photography/iStock via Getty Images

Last year, Marvel Studios capped off an unprecedented run of success with Avengers: Endgame, a movie promoted as the culmination of over 10 years of storytelling. The film made $2.8 billion, unseating 2009’s Avatar and knocking 1997’s Titanic down to third place. With nearly $3 billion in ticket sales, you would think Endgame would count as the most successful entertainment production of all time—be it a single movie, book, album, or video game.

It isn’t.

While it earned a staggering amount of money, Endgame is hobbled by the fact that theatrical runs last just a few weeks or months. To really roll in the dough, it helps to have a combination of high ticket prices and a show that runs almost in perpetuity. That’s why it’s another Disney production, the Broadway adaption of The Lion King, that can make a credible claim to being the most financially rewarding entertainment effort of all time. Since debuting in 1997, the stage show has grossed $9.1 billion. (The 1994 film, 2019 live action remake, and merchandising aren’t included in that total. If they were, the number rises to $11.6 billion.)

A theater sign for 'The Lion King' is pictured in New York City in March 2003
Mario Tama, Getty Images

The musical, adapted by Julie Taymor, follows the story of the animated original, with lion cub Simba learning to accept his role as king of the Serengeti Plains. It’s estimated the show has been mounted 25 times globally in nine different languages, with more than 100 million people purchasing a ticket to see it.

Does that make Endgame a distant second? Not quite. Another long-running musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, has grossed more than $6 billion since its 1988 debut. The 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto 5 cleared $6 billion in 2018. And if one were to account for inflation, 1939’s Gone with the Wind made $3.44 billion.

The Lion King does have one asterisk, however. If inflation is taken into consideration, then 1978’s arcade classic Space Invaders comes out the winner. The popular coin-op game—which was later ported over to the Atari 2600—was a smash hit. By 1983, it had made $3.8 billion. Accounting for inflation, it earned $13.9 billion. What’s even more impressive is that unlike big-ticket movies and stage shows, Space Invaders did it one quarter at a time.

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