For nine seasons and 180 episodes, Seinfeld was essential viewing for fans of comedy the world over. Widely considered to be the greatest network television sitcom of all time, the show also made stars of it’s principal cast, Michael Richards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander, as well as the creative duo behind the series, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.
However, like the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs and making the world’s best sitcom came at a cost.
There were tears, there were tantrums, there were moments when key cast members nearly quit, and other moments where some people ended up getting fired. Some episodes prompted widespread complaints, while others were simply scrapped before they even made it to broadcast. Strange things were also known to happen during filming, while the line between fiction and reality was blurred from the off.
There was method in the madness though, with this crazy combination of characters and scenarios ultimately combining to create something as funny today as it was back in the 1990s. Still, some of the stuff that went on away from prying eyes was astonishing.
With that said, here are the 18 Dark Behind-The-Scenes Secrets You Didn’t Know About Seinfeld.
18. The Real-Life George Costanza Sued Everybody
Larry David has long been credited as the inspiration for the character of George Costanza. However, what some Seinfeld fans may not actually realize is that the character is named after another real person: Jerry Seinfeld’s friend Mike Costanza.
He was not all that happy about it, though. He not only wrote a book called The Real Seinfeld: As Told by the Real Costanza, but also launched a $100 million lawsuit against Seinfeld and the show’s producers for violating his privacy, ruining his reputation and causing emotional distress.
“George is bald. I am bald,” Costanza told ABC News. “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.”
17. Jerry Seinfeld Made Julia Louis-Dreyfus Cry
During work on the third season of Seinfeld, when Julia Louis-Dreyfus was five months pregnant with her youngest child, Jerry Seinfeld approached his co-star with an interesting proposition.
“Hey, I have a great idea,” Seinfeld apparently began. “How about we write in this season that Elaine just gets fat?” It didn’t go down that well with Louis-Dreyfus though, who was left deeply offended at the suggestion to the point where she “burst into tears” and the idea was scrapped altogether.
Instead, Elaine spent much of the season hiding behind a series of well-placed boxes, woolly jumpers and big, thick, winter coats. The pair would go on to revisit the incident during Louis-Dreyfus’s appearance on Jerry Seinfeld’s hit web series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee with the actress admitting “it was a great idea, and we should’ve done it.”
16. One Of The Cast Got A Character Killed Off
Arguably the most contentious moment in the history of Seinfeld came with the decision to kill off George’s fiancée, Susan (Heidi Swedberg). Killing off Susan, via some poisonous envelopes, wasn’t the most shocking thing about her demise though – the shock came with the fact it may have been orchestrated by one of her castmates.
Jason Alexander confirmed as much during an appearance on the The Howard Stern Show revealing Swedberg was written out because the rest of the cast struggled working with her.
“Her instincts for doing a scene, where the comedy was, and mine were always misfiring,” he said. “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.”
Eventually Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Louis-Dreyfus began to pick up on the problem. “They go, ‘You know what? It’s f***ing impossible. It’s impossible,'” Alexander, claims. “And Julia actually said, ‘Don’t you want to just kill her?’ And Larry went, ‘Ka-bang!'” Soon enough, Swedberg was gone.
15. The Soup Nazi Was Real And Hated Seinfeld
In the episode “The Soup Nazi”, Jerry Seinfeld faces a dilemma: choose between his then-girlfriend or the vendor of a strictly run soup kitchen in New York who refused to serve her.
The “Soup Nazi” in question was based on a real person, Al Yeganeh, a famously mean and unsympathetic New York soup kitchen operator known for his strict rules with customers.
It wasn’t the first time a fictionalised version of Yeganeh had been created – a similar character features in When Harry Met Sally – but that film didn’t get Yeganeh’s goat quite as much as Seinfeld.
During an interview with CNN, Yeganeh, called 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 fired back: “No. He got fame through me. I made him famous.”
14. The Actor Playing Elaine’s Father Was A Total Psycho
Elaine’s father, Alton Benes, probably would have become a recurring character on Seinfeld were it not for the fact that the actor who played him, Reservoir Dogs actor Lawrence Tierney, ended up scaring the hell out of everybody during his time on the set.
During filming on Alton’s one and only appearance in the episode “The Jacket”, someone spotted Tienery doing something very strange while on the set of Jerry’s apartment: he stole one of the knives from Jerry’s kitchen and hid it under his jacket.
It gets weirder though; when Tierney was eventually confronted over taking the knife, he attempted to play it off as a joke by mock-stabbing Jerry Seinfeld while shrieking the score from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho at the top of his lungs.
He would never return to the show again, with co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus later labelling Tierney as a “nut-job” feature over the incident on a behind-the-scenes documentary that featured on the season two DVD.
13. Jason Alexander Threatened To Quit The Show
During Seinfeld’s third season, Larry David wrote the episode “The Pen” which saw Elaine and Jerry head to Florida together. The episode is notable for the absence of both Kramer and George.
It’s also notable for being the moment where Jason Alexander essentially threatened to quit the series altogether. Alexander lifted the lid on the incident during an interview with Access Hollywood.
“When Seinfeld started I had a very successful career in the theatre in New York which is what I thought I was going to be doing all my life,” he explained.
“So, when I was written out of an episode I came back the next week and I said to Larry, ‘Look, I get it. But if you do that again, do it permanently. If you don’t need me to be here every week … I’d just as soon go back home and do what I was doing,'” he said.
12. Michael Richards’ Cast mates Barely Knew Him During Filming
Michael Richards brought an undeniable intensity to his performance as Kramer on Seinfeld; an intensity that made the character among the show’s funniest and most popular. Richards’ unique energy mean the crew often kept hinges handy in case he destroyed any doors performing one of Kramer’s famously frantic entrances into Jerry’s apartment.
He was hilarious – but that could occasionally pose a problem to his castmates, according to Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, the author of Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything.
“When [Jason] Alexander laughed during a scene… Richards begged, ‘You can’t, please. You don’t know how hard it is for me.’ (Because the laughter meant they had to reshoot the scene.),” Armstrong said.
Richards’ intensity and immersion in the role extended beyond that though, with Armstrong adding that many of his co-stars “didn’t feel like they knew him, even later, after years on the set together.”
11. One of The Stars Was Cut From The Series
The Seinfeld pilot was notable for featuring actress Lee Garlington in the place of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as Claire, a waitress at the coffee shop regularly frequented by Jerry and George. It would end up being Garlington’s only appearance though. “[W]hen we shot the pilot, I was the girl in Seinfeld,” she told The Huffington Post. “They didn’t pick up my contract.”
There are conflicting stories as to why this happened. According to Dennis Bjorklund’s book, Seinfeld Reference: The Complete Encyclopedia with Biographies, Character Profiles & Episode Summaries, “her character was dropped to add more sex appeal to the only female supporting role.”
However, Jason Alexander told Access Hollywood Garlington was written out of the show after making several changes to her lines in Larry David’s script. Though NBC Entertainment Chief Warren Littlefield later confirmed Garlington did tweak her lines, he insisted the change was made because they needed the female character to hang out more with George and Jerry. The truth is unclear.
10. An Entire Episode Was Scrapped
Seinfeld was never afraid to push boundaries as anyone who ever saw “The Contest” can attest. However, one topic proved a little too much for the cast and crew of the hit sitcom. Jerry Seinfeld revealed as much during a Reddit Ask Me Anything session in which a fan of the show asked if there had ever been any Seinfeld plots that had to be scrapped because they “pushed the limits too far.”
Seinfeld was surprisingly forthcoming in his answer, revealing that there had once been plans to make an episode of the show, entitled “The Bet”, which tackled the tricky topic of gun ownership.
“There was one episode where Jerry bought a handgun,” he said. “And we started making it and stopped in the middle and said ‘[T]his doesn’t work.’ We did the read-through and then cancelled it. A lot of other stuff happened, but trying to make that funny ended up being no fun.”
9. NBC Executives Nearly Pulled One Episode
One episode proved a bone of contention for executives over at NBC and it wasn’t either of the ones that revolved around self-pleasure or the burning of a national flag. No, according to the New York Post, the episode that prompted the most concern from those higher up at the network was “The Chinese Restaurant”, an episode regarded by most fans as the first true classic from the show’s run.
NBC late-night boss Rick Ludwin and programming associate Jeremiah Bosgang felt differently though. Though the pair ranked among the most ardent supporters of Seinfeld, they struggled to get their heads around the idea of an episode which saw the cast waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant in real time.
In fact, they were so worried about trying to rationalize the plotless episode to NBC bosses, they genuinely considered ending production on it. Ludwin was given short-shrift by Larry David though, who insisted that the episode was “in the spirit of the show.” It stayed in place and the rest, as they say, is history.
8. Jerry Had Two Dads On The Show
Jerry Seinfeld’s dad, Morty, was actually played by two different actors on the show – though the first incarnation didn’t stick around for long. The late Phil Bruns was originally cast in the role, playing the part of Morty in only the second episode of the show, “The Stake Out”.
However, after the episode aired, creator Larry David decided to make a change. Feeling that Bruns’ performance as Morty was a little too laid back, David decided to reinvent Jerry’s dad as a grumpier, more ill-tempered character.
As a result, actor Barney Martin was brought in as Morty and went on to play the character in the second season episode “The Pony Remark”, staying on as the character for the remainder of Seinfeld’s run.
It almost got worse for Bruns though; after the show went into syndication, David was keen to reshoot Bruns’ scenes from the pilot with Martin in his place. Ultimately, this part of the plan was scrapped as Martin simply looked too old by then to appear in the pilot.
7. There Was Bad Blood Between Seinfeld And Roseanne
Away from the cameras, the Seinfeld cast found themselves embroiled in a feud with their fellow sitcom stars over on Roseanne. It all started after Julia Louis-Dreyfus unknowingly parked in Tom Arnold’s designated spot.
Arnold, who was married to Roseanne Barr and working on her hit show at the time, retaliated by leaving a pretty heated note on Louis-Dreyfus’s windscreen which read: “How stupid are you? Move your f***ing car, you a**hole!”
Larry David and Jason Alexander decided to confront Barr and Arnold over the note, which only made things worse. Having reacted badly in their initial confrontation, Barr followed that up by leaving a second, equally vile note, on Louis-Dreyfus’ windshield.
According to the New York Post, the note included “a polaroid of someone’s buttocks” alongside with a bar of soap with the C-word written in it. The Seinfeld camp opted to leave things there rather than retaliate.
6. Audiences Loved Kramer… A Little Too Much For Some People’s Liking
Michael Richards may not have made that many friends among his cast mates during filming, thanks to the immersive and intense approach he took to the character of Kramer, but he was a firm favourite with studio audiences.
That didn’t necessarily go down that well with the rest of the Seinfeld gang, though. At the height of Kramer’s popularity, the studio audience would often applaud his arrival for several sustained minutes.
It reached a point whereby his fellow actors began complaining that the pacing of certain scenes and jokes was significantly disrupted as a result of the abnormally long applause he generated upon arrival in any given episode.
In the end, studio audiences attending Seinfeld tapings were asked to refrain from clapping Kramer for so long. Though the other members of the cast might argue it was more about maintaining the comedic integrity of the show, some fans may think otherwise.
5. Some Were Scared That Louis-Dreyfus’ Career Could Be Killed By The Show
The eighth season episode “The Little Kicks” is a favourite of fans thanks to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ memorably bad dance moves. However, those awful dance movies were the source of some trepidation among the show’s writing staff, some of whom feared that they could actually end the actress’s career.
Larry David had never been a fan of the idea for the episode, which was only given the green light in the show’s eighth season, after he had left. That only added the nervous feeling on set.
“I remember walking through at rehearsal,” Seinfeld writer Spike Feresten told The Huffington Post. “[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.'”
4. The Real-Life Kramer Was Paid Peanuts For His Name
It’s common knowledge that Kramer was inspired by Larry David’s real-life neighbour, Kenny Kramer. Just like in Seinfeld, David and Kramer left the doors to their respective apartments unlocked, allowing each other to come and go as they pleased.
Originally, Jerry Seinfeld and David had wanted to call the character Kessler. However, they eventually relented and named him Kramer, despite concerns that Kenny might exploit the name.
The real Kramer only asked that the pair pay him a paltry $1,000 for use of his likeness. Though that might not seem like a lot, Kramer was able to profit from his association with the show eventually with the creation of the Kramer Reality Tour.
The Seinfeld-centric bus ride around New York has not been without some controversy though – in 2014, the New York Supreme Court threw out a $1 million lawsuit launched by Kramer against Seinfeld writer Fred Stoller after he made a series of disparaging comments about the tour in his book Maybe We’ll Have You Back: The Life of a Perennial TV Guest Star.
3. NBC Had To Apologize Over “The Puerto Rican Day”
The second-to-last episode of Seinfeld prompted widespread complaints from the Puerto Rican community and an apology from NBC. In the episode, the gang get stuck in a traffic jam caused by the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
During this time, Kramer tosses a sparkler, accidentally lighting a Puerto Rican flag in the process. He then attempts to put it out by stomping on it. Several partygoers spot this and begin chasing him. The mob begin shaking Jerry’s empty car and throw it down a stairwell with Kramer remarking ”it’s like this every day in Puerto Rico.”
The scenes were branded am ”unconscionable insult” by Manuel Mirabal, the president of the National Puerto Rican Coalition. ”It is unacceptable that the Puerto Rican flag has been used by Seinfeld as a stage prop under any circumstances,” he told the Associated Press.
2. Frank Sinatra Died While The Seinfeld Finale Was Broadcast
A little under 80 million people tuned in to see the last episode of Seinfeld, including Nancy Sinatra, who would go on to regret the decision. Her father, the legendary singer Frank Sinatra, passed away during the west coast airing of the show.
Nancy had been planning to visit her dad that evening but ended up watching Seinfeld reruns in the build-up to the broadcast of the finale. “I got so involved watching the damn show that I never got over to my dad’s” she later lamented to the Herald Journal.
Los Angeles fire chief Mike Smollen later revealed one strange development as a result of the finale’s broadcast on the same night as Sinatra’s death – there were next to no other cars on the road as the ambulance carrying the crooner made its way to hospital.
A report in Daily News read:”‘There wasn’t much traffic,’ he said, noting reports that the episode kept L.A.’s streets nearly deserted between 8 and 10 that night.”
1. Seinfeld Turned Down Crazy Money To Carry On The Show – For Crazy Reasons
As Seinfeld neared the end of its run, NBC was desperate to keep the show going and didn’t care how much it cost. At one point, the network offered Jerry Seinfeld an astonishing $5 million an episode to do a tenth series.
He was already earning $1 million an episode for Season nine though and felt he had taken the show as far as he could. But there may have been a little more to it than that.
According to a 1998 Vanity Fair cover story, the decision to end the show after nine seasons was born out of Seinfeld’s obsession with the number nine.
“Nine is cool,” Seinfeld said in the interview. “By the end, we will have done 180 shows (1+8=9). When I was thinking about quitting the show, I thought, nine. People said, ’10 — why not 10?’ But 10 is lame. Nine is my number. And then I found out that nine in numerology means completion.”
Did we forget any other dark secrets about Seinfeld? Have your say in the comment box!
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