Part of what made Seinfeld so special is that a lot of the characters and storylines in the show were taken from the writers’ real-life experiences. This helped to keep the show fresh and original, because life is a better writer than anyone.
Other sitcoms will use the same tired tropes to tell you the same tired stories you’ve seen a million times before, but the writers of Seinfeld kept things outside the box by taking something funny or interesting that happened in real life that they’d never seen on TV before and putting it on TV. Here are 10 Seinfeld Characters And Their Real-Life Counterparts.
10 Morty Seinfeld
Although Morty Seinfeld is Jerry’s dad in the show, he’s not actually based on Jerry Seinfeld’s real-life father. Instead, he took his name and characterization from Larry David’s dad, Morty David. The real Morty was similarly a retiree living in Florida who argued with his son whenever it came to paying a check, obsessed over the rules of tipping, and had a career in the men’s clothing business.
Larry David’s actual father would later be played by the brilliant Shelley Berman (prior to his tragic passing) in his HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm, although the character’s name was Nat David, not Morty.
9 George Costanza
When Jerry Seinfeld was approached by NBC about developing a sitcom, he recruited fellow comic Larry David to help him write it. Obviously, Jerry Seinfeld based the character of Jerry Seinfeld on himself. David wasn’t interested in appearing in the show himself, but there was a character based on him: George Costanza, Jerry’s frugal, deceitful, insecure best friend.
Many of George’s storylines – from showing up to work on Monday after quitting on Friday and pretending it never happened to sneaking into a girl’s apartment to erase a message from the answering machine to the infamous domain-mastering contest – were based on real-life experiences from David’s life.
8 J. Peterman
In the season 6 finale, Elaine got a job writing for the J. Peterman catalogue and she remained with the company until the end of the series. John O’Hurley played a satirical version of J. Peterman, based not on the real guy, but on the overly dramatic and descriptive writing style of the catalogue.
To avoid confusion with the real Peterman, whose name is John Peterman, the fictionalized version played by O’Hurley was named Jacopo Peterman. The actor based Peterman’s distinctive, theatrical manner of speaking on “‘40s radio drama, combined with a bit of a bad [CBS News journalist] Charles Kuralt.”
7 George Steinbrenner
Larry David often made cameos in episodes of Seinfeld. He played Frank Costanza’s caped lawyer and he was the original voice of Newman before his character was expanded and Wayne Knight was cast. But his largest role was the voice of George Steinbrenner, George’s boss at the New York Yankees.
We only ever saw him from behind, and David didn’t play his physical appearance, only his voice (so he was basically Seinfeld’s Darth Vader). The TV Steinbrenner is portrayed as a bumbling buffoon who endlessly rambles until whoever he’s talking to just leaves the room and he’s left talking to himself. In real life, he’s a very respected figure in the worlds of baseball and business for his work with the actual Yankees.
6 Jerry Seinfeld
Obviously, the character Jerry Seinfeld is based on the comedian, writer, actor, co-creator, and executive producer Jerry Seinfeld. However, there are some differences in how they’re characterized. In real life, thanks to the sitcom and countless late-night appearances, Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most famous comedians in the world.
In the show, however, he’s known only as a “minor celebrity.” He hardly gets recognized by people and plays the clubs as opposed to theaters and stadiums. Jerry is the only character who appeared in every single episode of the show and was often depicted as the “straight man” in his wacky group of friends.
5 The Soup Nazi
“The Soup Nazi” is one of the most iconic episodes in Seinfeld’s entire nine-season run. It’s about a chef who owns a soup stand and, if you don’t follow his strict rules, he yells out, “No soup for you!” and refuses to serve you. Naturally, he clashes with Jerry, George, and Elaine on separate occasions.
The character was based on a similarly strict soup stand proprietor who the writers often encountered on their lunch breaks. In the show, the Soup Nazi is called Yev Kassem, but in real life, his name was Al Yeganeh. Yeganeh was furious with his portrayal on the show and banned Jerry Seinfeld from his soup stand because of it.
4 Elaine Benes
Elaine was based on a few real-life people from the lives of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. She was partly based on Monica Yates, who David used to date. They remained good friends after they broke up, just like Jerry and Elaine. Yates is the daughter of author Richard Yates, which explains why Elaine’s father played by Lawrence Tierney was depicted as a famed author.
Elaine was named after Jerry Seinfeld’s friend Elayne Boosler, a fellow comedian, and was also written as similar to Susan McNabb, who was Seinfeld’s girlfriend when the series began. Comedian and writer Carol Liefer, a friend and ex-girlfriend of Seinfeld’s, wrote for the show and is often incorrectly dubbed “the real Elaine,” although when she wrote for the show, she based a lot of Elaine’s storylines on her own life.
3 The Sniffing Accountant
Remember the episode “The Sniffing Accountant?” Jerry, Kramer, and Newman give all their money to an accountant whose sniffing has them suspecting he’s a drug addict. Well, he was based on a real-life accountant who Jerry Seinfeld hired.
The comedian explained, “My accountant, whose name I won’t mention (not that he doesn’t deserve the infamy) stole, I think, fifty thousand dollars from me, and snorted it up his nose...[I] just gave him an envelope of cash, and never saw it again. And I used to talk about that guy and how much I hated him, so he became the Sniffing Accountant. That was some measure of revenge.”
2 Jackie Chiles
Kramer’s lawyer Jackie Chiles is a pretty thinly veiled parody of Johnnie Cochran, who represented O.J. Simpson in the most highly publicized trial of the ‘90s. Jackie was played by Phil Morris, who was even in talks at one point to star in a spin-off series focusing on the character, but it never materialized.
Morris always played Jackie Chiles with the same fast-talking and undeniable charisma that made Cochran a celebrity. Kramer’s “hot coffee” case was based on a real court case in which a woman suffered terrible burns from a McDonald’s coffee, but the real Cochran wasn’t involved in that case.
1 Cosmo Kramer
When he was a struggling comedian in New York, Larry David actually lived across the hall from a guy named Kenny Kramer. The real Kramer used to come into Larry’s apartment, help himself to the food in Larry’s fridge, and conjure up insane get-rich-quick schemes.
Kenny Kramer almost didn’t let Larry use his name for the show and they changed it to Kessler, but it just didn’t sound right. The real Kramer even set up a tour bus where he charges people to hear the real stories behind Seinfeld episodes – just like TV Kramer did when he sold his anecdotes to J. Peterman.