Seinfeld is one of those shows that everyone has seen. Created by comedians, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, the show was on the air from 1989 to 1998. During it’s nine-year run, it garnered a huge fan base and became a cultural touchstone (who isn’t familiar with the puffy shirt? Or Festivus?).
After the show’s finale, Larry David secured a $1.7 billion syndication deal, which is why you’ll find Seinfeld on multiple networks as you flip through TV channels after work. Whether you’ve seen all 180 episodes, or just the classic 10 that seem to play every single day, here are 15 things you probably didn’t know about America’s best sitcom.
15 The show about nothing...
Seinfeld has long been referred to as the show about nothing. For some people, that's the best thing about it about it—because a show about nothing sets no expectations and demands nothing of its viewers beyond a half-hearted chuckle at its jokes. But, for others, it's the shows biggest and most important downfall. After all, who wants to invest time and attention into nothing? But, if it seems that a show about nothing would be hard to pitch, and hard for executives to justify airing, you're definitely right. It turns out that when Seinfeld was originally pitched, it was spun as a mockumentary-styled show about how a comic gets his material. It was only as the show continued to develop and progress that it became about nothing at all.
14 …that's been named the best show of all time
In 2002, four years after Seinfeld ended its nine year run, TV Guide named it the best show of all-time in an issue containing the 50 most entertaining and influential shows in American TV history. It turns out that a show about a New York City comic, his ex-girlfriend, and his best friend, and all the boring minutia of their daily lives was more defining and entertaining than it seems. That isn't the only accolade that Seinfeld, in all of its nothingness, has won. The show was also named the number one reason the '90s ruled by E!, and the second best written show of all-time by the Writers Guild of America. Several individual episodes have made it on "best TV episode" lists as well.
13 Who is George Costanza?
Jerry's best friend, George Costanza, played by actor Jason Alexander, is based off of the show's co-creator and co-writer, Larry David (and named after Jerry's real-life friend, Mike Costanza). Got that? The character, a confusing mish-mash of names and personalities, appeared in every episode but one—The Pen. Worried that he was slowly being written out of the show, Alexander confronted David with a thinly veiled threat: next time Costanza's left out, don't worry about ever writing him in again. The Constanza actor wasn't the only one threatening creators—the Constanza namesake gave the show trouble too, suing them for $100 million citing invasion of privacy, defamation of character, and emotional distress. Unlike Alexander, he lost.
12 Larry David lends his voice
Larry David has had many roles in Hollywood: stand up comedian, SNL writer, Curb Your Enthusiasm creator and actor…and un-credited voice actor in Seinfeld. He most famously lends his voice for the Yankee's owner, George Steinbrenner, whose face is never seen in any of the 16 episodes he's in. But, it was also Larry David who voiced the MTA announcer, the sportscaster who makes fun of George's sloppy sundae eating, the car thief who steals Jerry's car, Saddam Hussein in the dinner party episode, and the bystander who yells out, "Is anyone here a marine biologist?" forcing George to live up to a lie in the episode aptly named "The Marine Biologist." All together, David had upwards of 15 uncredited voice bits in the show, not including the dozens of times he stands in as a background extra.
11 It's a boy's world
The only real, consistent female character in the show is Jerry's ex-girlfriend, Elaine. Sure there is a constant string of girlfriends, dates, and waitresses, but Elaine is the only developed female character who gets any amount of real screen time to balance out all of that male energy. However, Elaine wasn't originally a piece of the show. When the test pilot was shot for the NBC executives, there was a waitress named Claire who worked at Pete's Luncheonette (also, notably, not the gang's diner!), who was envisioned as the female lead. But, when the show premiered on TV a year later, the role had been re-written and re-cast, and it was Julia Louis-Dreyfus who ended up calling Jerry and George out on their stupid male behaviors over the next nine years instead.
10 The "hipster doofus"
Kramer is probably one of the most recognized TV characters of all time. His zany antics and wild personality were scene stealers and helped him build a huge fan base of his own. In fact, at the height of his popularity, the live studio audience would get so excited and riled up that their clapping at his appearance would drone on and on, messing up the timing of the scene for the rest of the actors. Eventually, audiences had to be asked to keep the applause short so that filming could continue. And that famous sliding Kramer entrance they loved so much? After actor Michael Richards did it for the first time in episode three, he kept it up, doing it 248 more times before the series ended in 1998.
9 The J. Peterman Company
For most of the series, Elaine works as a catalogue editor at J. Peterman Company. After meeting Peterman on the sidewalk and finagling a job offer, she survives many obstacles (including stepping up to take over the catalogue after his nervous breakdown, being demoted after he returns, and two subsequent firings). The J. Peterman of the show is a fictional character, but there is a real-life J. Peterman Company and catalogue, which closely mirrors the one in Seinfeld. Making this whole TV-mirroring-real-life story even stranger, John O'Hurley, who plays the TV Peterman, now works on the board of the real J. Peterman Company. It turns out the real-life company came before the TV company, and when the catalogue made its way into the hands of the writers, they created the character Peterman based off of the feeling and voice of the catalogue. So, when the show wrapped, it seemed natural to O'Hurley to bridge the gap between the two and step into the actual business world.
8 Seinfeld's enemies
In a show where the characters and situations are based off of real life, and so closely mirror actual events and personalities, one's bound to step on a couple of toes. And Seinfeld stepped on more than a couple. There's the whole Mike Costanza/George Costanza debacle that was mentioned earlier in the list, and several other smaller feuds, but the biggest upset was the Soup Nazi. The titular antagonist from the show's most famous (or at least, most referenced) episode was actually based on a real person—Al Yeganeh, owner of Soup Kitchen International in NYC. Yeganeh didn't appreciate his national shout-out, and actually went on record saying that the episode ruined his life. When real-life Jerry stopped into his restaurant for his food a few weeks after the episode aired, Yeganeh yelled at him and kicked him out with an emphatic, "No soup for you!"
7 Those New York fashions
Seinfeld is a veritable time capsule of New York fashion from the '90s. Elaine's shapeless dresses, Jerry's white sneakers, George's patterned sweaters—it's all there. But not all of the costumes came from the Macy's at Herald Square. For example, Kramer dresses in a lot of 1960's and 1970's fashions (dated to emphasize the fact that he hasn't bought clothes in a while, and a size too big to make him appear laid-back). As the show went on, and his character's popularity surged, appropriate outfits became harder to find and the costume department began hand-making them. On the flip side, George wears a lot of trendy things, but always a size too small to emphasize his high-strung and uptight personality.
6 The scariest guest star
It’s no secret that Elaine is based off of old girlfriends of both Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. One of her biggest inspirations was Monica Yates, one of Larry David's ex-girlfriend (and daughter of writer, Richard Yates). The author is famous for his grouchy personality, and “The Jacket” episode (which aired in 1991) parodies the whole situation. But, the actor who was hired to play this version of Yates, Lawrence Tierney, was a little too similar to his inspiration. The older actor was equally gruff and scary on set—frightening the cast and crew and stealing a knife from set (which he insisted was a joke when confronted). Due to all of this, plans to keep him on as a recurring character were canned.
5 The canned episode
While there are probably thousands of (hilarious) jokes that didn't make the cut for Seinfeld, there is also one completed, casted, and rehearsed episode. Created during the second season, the episode, titled “The Bet,” shows one of the main characters (in some accounts it's Jerry and in others it's Elaine) buying a handgun—simply to prove how easily one could be attained. If this all sounds like it was conceived in poor taste to you, you wouldn’t be alone. In a Reddit AMA years later, Jerry commented on this canned episode saying, “Trying to make that funny ended up being no fun.” And surely, if this episode had been finished in 1991, it would absolutely have been pulled from syndication today.
One of the biggest cultural influences of the show was Festivus. The holiday—an alternative to Christmas—that’s both non-religious and non-commercial, makes its debut in, “The Strike.” The episode was written by Dan O’Keefe, and it turns out (unlike George’s father), he didn’t make the holiday up. The O’Keefe family had long been celebrating the holiday. While the holiday didn’t have a set date (in the show, it’s always the 23rd of December), in an interview, Daniel said he never really knew when it was going to happen, until he got home from school and there would be weird decorations and old French music playing. Today, multiple states actually put up a Festivus pole and people genuinely follow the traditions and feasting set up in the show.
3 The Seinfeld numerology
With such a solid, loyal fan base, Seinfeld could have easily carried on for another season or two, while maintaining its extraordinarily high ratings. But when the ninth cycle came around, Jerry was adamant that it would be the shows last season. Why? It had to do with his superstitions surrounding the number nine. A lot of the major dates in his life (birthday, first talk show appearance, the Seinfeld premier date etc.) add up to exactly nine. He explained in a Vanity Fair interview that "nine is [his] number," and always has been. Making his superstitions even more justifiable, he goes on to say that "...I found out that nine in numerology means completion." And while two more years of the show's dark humor would have been wonderful, it seems sort of perfect that it ended for such a neurotic reason that's completely in step with the rest of the show.
2 Everything comes full circle
One of Seinfeld's best tropes is its circular story telling. If you've ever felt like you've heard that joke from George, or that conversation between Jerry and Elaine before, it's probably because you have. The writers—and particularly Larry David who had a strict "no hugging, no learning" policy for the show (meaning that all personal growth lessons and sentimentality were to be completely avoided in relation to the show)—love starting and ending episodes the same way (because when things go in a circle no one, or nothing, is moving forward). This whole idea is one of the main reasons they used Jerry's stand up act at the beginning and ending of every episode for the first seven seasons. It's also why the show starts and ends with the exact same conversation (using the exact same lines): Jerry talking to George about his shirt buttons.
1 The big, big finale
After a 180-episode run, Seinfeld came to an end in 1998. The last episode was watched by approximately 80 million viewers, making it the third most watched finale of all time (after Cheers and M*A*S*H). The finale was such a major event, that NBC aired it on a 35 by 40-foot screen in Times Square, much to Mayor Giuliani's chagrin. But, the episode(s) themselves provoked a very mixed opinion amongst audiences and critics alike. The finale feels like every other episode of the show—there's no emotional ending, no smooth wrapping up of relationships, or a parting lesson. As the credits begin, Jerry, Kramer, George, and Elaine sit in a prison holding cell. The lack of "true" ending made some fans (including Bill O'Reilley) hate how the show ended, while others loved that it stayed true to its voice through the last seconds. Whatever camp you're in, you have to acknowledge the impressive feats of the Seinfeld finale.