For a show about nothing, Seinfeld sure amounted to a whole lot of something. Not only does the 1989-98 NBC sitcom rank at or near the top on many lists of the top TV shows of all time, but so many actors who appeared on the show were able to use it as a springboard to more success. And some (a few in particular, as you’ll see) used it as a springboard to slightly stranger things. A couple more, sadly, are no longer with us.
Jerry Seinfeld himself, of course, has become a near-billionaire thanks to the show and remains in the public eye just as much as he wants to. Find out more of what he and his co-stars have been up to since the show ended, from Puddy to Peterman, Costanza parents to Seinfeld parents, and more.
Let’s take a look at Where are they now? The cast of Seinfeld.
14. PATRICK WARBURTON (DAVID PUDDY)
Patrick Warburton’s David Puddy, first appearing in season six, was a man of few words, but when he did speak it was deep-voiced and straight to the point, no matter how odd his point might have been. When Elaine, his girlfriend, was worried she’d go to hell for not being religious, he simply said, “I’m not the one going to hell.” Warburton’s squinty-eyed performance was perfect, and it has led to a ton of work since.
He quickly jumped to a recurring role on NewsRadio in 1998 and played the lead character in the short-lived live action The Tick series in 2001-02, and he was a regular on the 2003-06 sitcom Less than Perfect. But his most notable role has been as Jeff for seven seasons on Rules of Engagement. But that’s not even mentioning his copious voice work on various animated series, from his regular role as Joe Swanson on Family Guy to Kim Possible. His new NBC series, Crowded, premiered last year, and next up he’ll star as author Lemony Snicket in the Netflix series A Series of Unfortunate Events.
13. JOHN O’HURLEY (J. PETERMAN)
That voice. Seinfeld was home to so many character actors with distinctive voices: you could just hear a breath from John O’Hurley, Warburton and Estelle Harris and know exactly who they were. We first saw O’Hurley, with his booming, melodramatic voice, as fashion maven J. Peterman in the sixth season. As Elaine’s boss at the J. Peterman catalogue, he showed eccentric taste in decades-old cake and overreacted to poppy seeds, claiming he, too, “once fell under the spell of opium.”
O’Hurley has been just about everywhere since his 20 episodes of Seinfeld. You almost can’t turn on a TV without seeing him or, more likely, hearing his voice. Not surprisingly, he does a lot of cartoon voice work, including SpongeBob, Scooby-Doo and Phineas and Ferb. As an actor he’s appeared on the soap All My Children (2011), among many others. But as himself, he was runner-up on the first season of Dancing with the Stars, then won a subsequent rematch. As a host, he helmed the classic game show Family Feud from 2006-10, and you can see him every year since 2002 co-hosting the National Dog Show telecast.
12. LEN LESSER (UNCLE LEO)
Uncle Leo, Jerry’s mother’s brother, as played by Len Lesser, was the epitome of the crotchety uncle, overly proud of his middle-management son and overly sensitive to just about anything that could be remotely interpreted as a social faux pas – not the least of which being not saying, “Hello.”
Following the role in which he equated being a good uncle with telling Jerry he had beautiful penmanship as a child, Lesser continued to get a ton of character work, just as he had since 1949. He popped up on nine episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond, showed up on ER and last appeared on Castle in 2009. Sadly, he succumbed to a battle with pneumonia and cancer in 2011, passing away at age 88.
11. BARNEY MARTIN (MORTY SEINFELD)
Everybody’s favorite retired raincoat salesman and inventor of the beltless trenchcoat, Morty Seinfeld (Jerry’s dad) was played by Barney Martin in 20 episodes. Although he wasn’t the original. In Morty’s first appearance in the second episode of the series, he was portrayed by Phil Burns. Morty did not suffer fools, especially fools named Jack Klompus.
Martin’s career goes way back to the 50s, as a stand-in for Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners and working as a character actor constantly over five decades. After Seinfeld, though, he was fairly quiet. Unfortunately, he battled lung cancer and passed away in 2005 at the age of 82.
10. LIZ SHERIDAN (HELEN SEINFELD)
Not much phased Helen Seinfeld, Jerry’s mom on the show. She kept pretty cool, for the most part, as played by Liz Sheridan, unless her son was caught making out during Schindler’s List. When she wasn’t visiting Jerry in New York, she was just chilling in Florida at the Del Boca Vista retirement complex, dealing with Klompus and his silly controversies.
Sheridan was the consummate character actress through the late ’70s and ’80s until scoring the role of Helen Seinfeld, appearing 21 times on the show. Since then, she’s been fairly quiet on the acting front, scoring the occasional guest spot on TV shows. But she hasn’t been quiet altogether: in 2000 she published a memoir called Dizzy & Jimmy: My Life with James Dean: A Love Story. In it, she claims she and the immortal heartthrob were each other’s first loves. And on screen there has been one notable appearance, when she starred in a love scene with Andy Griffith in the 2009 film Play the Game, when she was 80 and he was 83. She’s still with us thankfully, at age 87.
9. ESTELLE HARRIS (ESTELLE COSTANZA)
If you’ve seen one episode of Seinfeld with Estelle Harris playing George’s orange-haired mom Estelle, chances are you can hear her screaming voice in your head right now. And it’s simultaneously giving you a headache and cracking you up, shouting, “I’m not taking advice from some girl from Long Island!”
Since her last scream of maternal disappointment on the show, Harris has worked a lot as a guest star in film and TV, including a recurring role on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and as a series regular on the 12-episode web series Greetings from Home in 2012. But it’s her voice work – not surprisingly, considering that screechy, powerful voice – that’s stood out. While her voice has been featured in many animated series, her most high profile job has been as Mrs. Potato Head in Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 — and she’ll reprise the role again in 2018’s Toy Story 4.
8. HEIDI SWEDBERG (SUSAN ROSS)
We just have to say, keep reading to the end – the best is yet to come. Actress Heidi Swedberg first appeared as NBC executive Susan Ross during the fourth season of Seinfeld, and parlayed what seemed like a minor role into a long-term guest spot as George’s fiancee, appearing in 28 episodes. That is, before George accidentally killed her off thanks to his cheap, toxic wedding invitation envelopes.
She continued to be a working character actor, making guest appearances on everything from ER to Wizards of Waverly Place. That is, until about 2010, and that’s where this story gets good. As a child living in Hawaii, she played ukulele, and got serious about it again in the late 2000’s. Now she plays ukulele in not one but two bands: Heidi Swedberg and the Sukey Jump Band and the Smoking Jackets. Yes, this is for real.
7. JERRY STILLER (FRANK COSTANZA)
Who would’ve thought in the ’60s and ’70s, when Jerry Stiller starred with his wife Anne Meara in the comedy duo Stiller & Meara, that he’d go on to introduce the fake holiday Festivus to the world? Not to mention achieving even more fame as one half of the fictional comedy team of Frank and Estelle Costanza, who proved that the couple who yells together (loudly, and in everybody’s faces) stays together.
The father of Ben Stiller continued his late-career surge immediately after Seinfeld, playing another iconic crotchety sitcom dad, Arthur Spooner, on The King of Queens for nearly 200 episodes. He’s made a ton of guest spots since then in TV and film, but arguably his most high-profile role since The King of Queens was his role in his son’s Zoolander films as stuck-in-the-70s agent Maury Ballstein. Though his beloved wife passed away last year, Stiller is still making people laugh, and will turn 89 in June.
6. WAYNE KNIGHT (NEWMAN)
By far the most frequent guest star on Seinfeld, with 45 appearances as Jerry’s arch-nemesis and irritating mailman Newman, character actor Wayne Knight got plenty of work before the show, but the popularity of the character seriously spiked his workload after the show ended. He quickly became a semi-regular on 3rd Rock from the Sun as Officer Don. From there, he’s made approximately one million guest appearances on everything from That 70’s Show to CSI to Hot in Cleveland. Okay, we’re exaggerating, but he’s made a lot of guest appearances.
Knight has also been an in-demand voice talent, with a key role in Toy Story 2 and as a series regular on Xiaolin Showdown, among dozens of others. He’s even done some theater work, most recently playing Santa in the Broadway production of Elf: The Musical in 2012. His most recent screen success was playing former professional bowler and internet salesman Haskell Lutz on TV Land’s The Exes, which lasted four seasons (2011-15). While he was victim of an internet death hoax in 2014, he is in fact alive and well, happily married with a young son.
5. MICHAEL RICHARDS (COSMO KRAMER)
More than any of the four main cast members, Michael Richards has had trouble getting his feet planted firmly anywhere in film or television. Part of the reason is typecasting: nobody can see him as anything but the lanky, wiry-haired, bumbling, fumbling, hare-brained next-door neighbor, Cosmo Kramer. He was just too good and the character was so one-of-a-kind. The other reason surely has something to do with his unfortunate caught-on-video racial outbursts while taking a stab at stand-up comedy in 2006.
There were a couple of very unsuccessful attempts at starring in a sitcom. He was the first of the main cast to attempt to headline a sitcom, with 2000’s seven-episode The Michael Richards Show, and he was a regular on the Kirstie Alley TV Land vehicle Kirstie in 2013-14, but it was done after one 12-episode season. Most recently, his buddy Jerry Seinfeld handed him an amusing role as grey-wigged Crackle president Dick Corcoran in a short on his web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
4. JASON ALEXANDER (GEORGE COSTANZA)
After playing a character as iconic as George Costanza for nine seasons, it’s not surprising that Jason Alexander has had trouble convincing viewers to believe him as another character on a regular basis. He’s tried over the years, but nothing has quite stuck. We can imagine him shouting, Costanza-like, “Jason is getting upset!”
He tried starring in short-lived series like Bob Patterson (2001, nine episodes), and Listen Up (2004-05, 22 episodes), but they just didn’t get over the hump. To his credit, though, he’s carved a nice little niche for himself as a voice artist and guest star. Currently, he’s got a recurring role on Fox’s The Grinder, as the producer of the show-within-the-show, always trying to pull Rob Lowe’s character back into the Hollywood world he’s trying to escape.
3. LARRY DAVID (CO-CREATOR, GEORGE STEINBRENNER)
No, Larry David could never be considered part of the cast of Seinfeld, per se, but he was so integral to the show that we had to include him on this list. He, of course, co-created the show with Jerry Seinfeld and wrote 62 episodes, including classics (but aren’t they all classics?) like “The Contest.” He occasionally cameoed on the show as a character in a B-movie Jerry watches, as Frank Costanza’s cape-wearing lawyer, and he regularly provided the voice of George’s boss and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
But back then, Larry David wasn’t a household name. He was just the behind the scenes guy on Seinfeld. Then, in 1999 he starred in the HBO special Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm, which turned into the long-running, critically acclaimed, mostly-improvised series Curb Your Enthusiasm the following year. He plays himself, as a lovable loser who always seems to say and do the wrong thing, and it’s easy to see how the George Costanza character was based on him. The seventh season hilariously largely focused on a Seinfeld reunion, bringing back all four members of the regular cast and even showing new scenes on the Seinfeld set. Curb hasn’t aired a new season since the eighth in 2011, with no current plans in place for season 8.
Lately, David has made waves as an over-the-top version of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live, a persona that’s not all that different from the one he portrays on Curb.
2. JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS (ELAINE BENES)
It’s a shame about Julia Louis-Dreyfus, isn’t it? The way she completely dropped off the Earth after Seinfeld, never to win another Emmy. “Get out!” as her character, Elaine Benes, would say. This is all a lie, of course. Arguably, nobody in the cast has been more successful with projects unrelated to the show than the enormously talented woman who played the high-banged, friend-pushing ex-girlfriend of Jerry. She earned one Emmy along with six other nominations for her work in the role.
The one main actor who didn’t appear in the pilot, Louis-Dreyfus leaped from Seinfeld to star in the short-lived series Watching Ellie, where each episode played out in real time. Following that, she had a recurring role on Arrested Development as a blind-but-not-really-blind lawyer and occasionally popped up on buddy Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm as herself.
In 2006, she shot the first of 88 episodes of the underrated sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine, which netted her another Emmy and four other noms. After its cancellation, it took just two years for her to reappear on HBO’s Veep in 2012, as a cranky Vice President of the United States and, later, President of the United States. She’s still cranking out top-notch TV there, two more Emmys and five seasons in (the fifth season just premiered on April 24).
1. JERRY SEINFELD (JERRY SEINFELD)
Back in 1989, before the premiere of Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld was a successful touring stand-up comic, known for his appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. But the show, of course, boosted him to mega-stardom. Once the series ended, he almost immediately embarked on a sold-out stand-up tour and recorded an HBO special called I’m Telling You This for the Last Time, in which he essentially purged all his old material.
With a net worth of over $800 million, Seinfeld lives and breathes stand-up comedy, and has often seemed content to do little more than that and go to Mets games – and good on him. However, he did write and star in the moderately successful animated film Bee Movie in 2007, and he occasionally does guest spots on friends’ shows. But his biggest project since Seinfeld has been his web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The concept there is pretty self-explanatory: it combines his love of classic cars with his love of stand-up comedy and his love of coffee, although he occasionally welcomes guests outside of the comedy world – most notably President Barack Obama. Its seventh season finished earlier this year.
Which Seinfeld stars do you want to see more of? Will the long-awaited reunion ever happen? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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