Seinfeld was the show “about nothing,” which is basically what made it relatable and hilarious. On paper, it shouldn’t have worked, but the writers and ensemble cast captured life’s banalities so well. Many of the story lines just seemed like things that could have actually happened, and many of them really did. Here are some behind the scenes stories about Seinfeld that you might not have heard before.
1. The Pitch Meetings Could Be a Little Confusing
Two of the show writers, Spike Feresten and Andy Robin, have both admitted that they were a bit lost after their first pitch meetings with Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. Spike said that he was basically telling the two about some “weird soup guy” he went to and they just said: “That’s your first episode. You’re doing the Soup Nazi. Then they told me to get out. I was so confused.”
2. Speaking of that soup Nazi…
The actual guy he was based on wasn’t thrilled by the episode about him. After it aired Jerry went to get some soup from him in real life and (as if it could have gone any other way) he got denied. Later Jerry sent his girlfriend back to get some soup from him, which worked out fine.
3. About George’s Answering Machine Song
The Seinfeld episode where George sings on his answering machine was inspired by a real woman’s. Writer Jeff Schaffer knew a girl who had the “Greatest American Hero” song on her answering machine and they brought it up at the brainstorming meeting enough that it got written in. “For two weeks, that’s how we started every kind of brainstorming session — listening to this girl’s message. Then somebody said, ‘We’ve got to do this as a story. We’ve gotta give it to George.’” Then they called the girl and told her to watch the show.
4. The Writers Would Play In the Gilligan’s Island Set During Breaks
According to Jeff Schafer, break time sounded pretty entertaining. “So we’re all sitting around, and we decided to get like a Cushman [utility vehicle] like what traffic cops have, and we ended up buying it and getting it painted with like a big mouth and evil grin. The Radford lot used to have the old set of where ‘Gilligan’s Island’ was, so we would drive it into Gilligan’s lagoon.”
5. Elaine’s Dance Moves Were a Majorly Doubted Move
Elaine’s crazy dancing is one of the most memorable moments of her character, but initially not everyone thought it was a good idea. In fact some people thought it was a terrible idea…including Larry David. Says Spike Feresten: “I remember walking through at rehearsal. Jennifer Crittenden pulled me aside after Julia [Louis-Dreyfus] did the dance for the first time and said, ‘Are you sure about this? Are you sure you’re not ruining Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ career?’ ‘No, I’m not.’ That’s the year she won an Emmy.”
6. Audience Participation
Generally the audience doesn’t get an input in writing the show, but one person did. During “The Junior Mint” episode Jerry can’t recall the name of a woman he dated but knew it rhymed with a body part. Originally there were going to keep the name a mystery until an audience member shouted out “Dolores” which made everyone laugh, so they went with it.
7. They Often Used the Names of Real People
The writers on the show often named characters after their real life friends, just for fun. The character Bob Sacamano was only referenced throughout the show, but apparently he was a real life friend of the writer Larry Charles.
8. However, Sometimes People Didn’t Appreciate This
The character of George Costanza was modeled after Larry David himself, but named after a man named Mike Costanza who was a friend of Jerry’s. We’re not sure if they’re still friends because Mike tried to sue Jerry, David, and NBC for $100 million over defamation of character. He lost.
9. There are Plenty of Inside Jokes
Some of the jokes in Seinfeld were more for the enjoyment of the writers and were never intended to be noticed by anyone else. Andy Robin has shared that “heat pump” was one of them. “Gregg [Kavet] and I were kind of nerdy, and we just liked making sort of these obscure science-y references. We weren’t looking to get the phrase into the scripts. It just sort of worked out that way.”
10. Larry David Often Lent his Voice to the Show
Larry David not only voiced the Yankees-owner George Steinbrenner (who is a real person), but also an MTA subway announcer, Saddam Hussein, a boxing referee, and a soap opera director. Not all of his voice-over work on the show is officially credited.
11. Some of the Most Outrageous Storylines Were Real
Some of Seinfeld is funny because it’s relatable, and some of it is funny because it’s not. Take George quitting his job, regretting it, and then showing back up at the office like nothing had happened. That would never happen in real life, right? Wrong. Larry David actually did that when he worked on Saturday Night Live.
12. The J. Peterman Catalogue is Real
In real life the J. Peterman catalogue is only based in Kentucky, but it’s real. The show just switched the name Jacopo Peterman for the real John Peterman. Elaine’s character famously comes up with the “urban sombrero” which the fictional J. Peterman responds to with “The horror. The horror.” However, just this week the real life news broke that the real J. Peterman company is launching a campaign to sell the hat. Oh, and by the way, the actor John O’Hurley who played the fictional J. Peterman actually owns the real J. Peterman company now. It’s almost too much, and amazing. Says John: “I have resisted the many demands to offer [the hat] in the Owner’s Manual catalog because it wasn’t an authentic item. But after 20 years, maybe the Urban Sombrero has served enough time in purgatory. Maybe it has earned its authenticity. More importantly, I’m looking forward to wearing mine at our next board meeting.”
13. Kramer’s Character Was Distractingly Popular
Michael Richards killed it as Kramer, but people loved him so much that the live audience sometimes wouldn’t stop clapping for him. They literally had to ask people to reel it in because it was messing up the flow of the scenes.
14. Festivus Is Real
Well sort of. Festivus is real is the sense that the writer Dan O’Keefe’s dad made it up and actually celebrated it, but in honor of the first date he went on with his wife. Aww. It even involved a pole. “There was a pole, and an airing of grievances for sure. […] A lot of times, the stories of real life are still better than sitting there and manufacturing stories.”
15. The Junior Mint Was Originally Popcorn
In the episode where Kramer eats Junior Mints while watching a surgery, and accidentally knocks one into the patient’s open body…it was originally supposed to be popcorn. Said Andy Robin: “I was on the phone with my brother, running the story by him, and he said, ‘No, make it Junior Mints because it’s funnier.’” We have to agree.
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