When Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David initially conceived their show Seinfeld, they wanted to make a sitcom that showed how a standup comedian wrote his material based on events in his personal life. It was a simple premise that set up nine years of analyzing the minutiae of daily life.
But the Jerry Seinfeld on the show is very different from the Jerry Seinfeld in real life. He’s a fictionalized version of the real guy, but the character suits a number of time-tested comedy tropes: the straight man, the voice of reason, and the guy who things work out for when they fail for everyone else. Here are the 10 Funniest Jerry Seinfeld Quotes.
10 “That is one magic loogie.”
Jerry Seinfeld brilliantly delivers this whole speech about the “magic loogie” theory in the style of Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone’s JFK.
“Newman, Kramer, if you’ll indulge me. According to your story, Keith passes you and starts walking up the ramp. Then, you say, you were struck on the right temple. The spit then proceeds to ricochet off the temple, striking Newman between the third and fourth rib. The spit then came off the rib turned and hit Newman in the right wrist, causing him to drop his baseball cap. The spit then splashed off the wrist, pauses – in mid-air, mind you – makes a left turn and lands on Newman’s left thigh. That is one magic loogie.”
9 “Who is this?”
Seinfeld coined dozens of catchphrases and terms over its nine seasons, and one of the funniest and also least acknowledged is: “Who is this?” It’s a sarcastic response for when someone calls you in a panic.
George will call Jerry to tell him he’s trapped under his desk, his boss is in his office, and he needs to call in a bomb threat to Yankee Stadium to give him a chance to escape, and with a big grin, Jerry will just say, “Who is this?” And then if he calls back later in more of a panic, he’ll say, “Uncle Leo?”
8 “You know how to take the reservation; you just don’t know how to hold the reservation.”
Jerry’s encounter at the rental car place is reminiscent of a number of real-world encounters in which corporate policies have screwed people over. Jerry says, “I don’t understand. Do you have my reservation?” The rental car clerk says, “We have your reservation, we just ran out of cars.” Confused, Jerry says, “But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.”
“I think I know why we have reservations.” “I don’t think you do. You see, you know how to take the reservation; you just don’t know how to hold the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them.”
7 “He’s a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie.”
This classic quote both takes a jab at Newman and paraphrases Winston Churchill. Churchill once said, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”
When Newman’s actions started to confuse Jerry and Elaine, the latter suggested that maybe there was more to Newman than meets the eye: “Maybe he’s an enigma – a mystery wrapped in a riddle.” Jerry quickly shuts down this theory with a perfectly delivered one-liner: “No, he’s a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie.”
6 “Artistic integrity? Where did you come up with that? You’re not artistic and you have no integrity.”
The whole meta-sitcom plot in season 4 of Seinfeld changed the face of comedy forever. The story arc in which Jerry and George work on a sitcom pilot based on Jerry’s standup was such a self-aware jab at the show itself and at the television industry as a whole.
As Jerry points out a number of times, the situation he and George are in is a dream for hundreds of people, and about five people a year get the opportunities they’re getting, and it doesn’t look very good when George acts ungrateful about the deals or turns down the money because it’s not as much as they’re paying Ted Danson.
5 “Shut up, you old bag!”
“The Rye” is one of the wackiest episodes Seinfeld ever did. It started with the highly anticipated meeting of George’s parents and Susan’s parents, but the story didn’t really kick off until George’s father Frank took back a loaf of bread they’d brought to be served with dinner.
George tried to get a rye back into Susan’s parents’ apartment, so they wouldn’t know Frank was so petty that he actually stole back the bread they didn’t serve, and he hit obstacles at every turn. Jerry ended up having to mug an old lady to get the bakery’s last rye from her.
4 “Count me in on this.” “You? You’ll be out before we get the check.”
There’s a good reason why “The Contest” is considered to be not only the best episode of Seinfeld, but maybe the best episode of television ever, and that is its ingenious writing. Larry David wrote the episode and didn’t use the actual word to describe what we know they’re all talking about.
When they’re sitting in Monk’s Café at the beginning of the episode, George tells the story of his mother catching him in the act, the group agrees to the contest, and Kramer asks to be a part of it, Jerry quips, “You? You’ll be out before we get the check.”
3 “Oh, I guess you don’t want people calling you at home? Well, now you know how I feel.”
Everyone hates getting bothered at home by telemarketers. In some cases, we’ll just hang up or tell them we’re not interested. But it is a huge pain to have dinner or a conversation interrupted by a cold-caller who wants to offer you some long-distance package or something else you have no interest in.
Unfortunately, most of us can’t deliver a perfect shutdown like Jerry Seinfeld can. He tells the telemarketer, “Oh, gee, I can’t talk right now. Why don’t you give me your home number and I’ll call you later?” The telemarketer says, “I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to do that.” Jerry says, “Oh, I guess you don’t want people calling you at home? Well, now you know how I feel.”
2 “And you wanna be my latex salesman?”
If there’s one thing that gives Jerry Seinfeld joy, it’s screwing with his friends when they’re in a frantic panic to see through a scheme. In this case, George had told the woman at the unemployment office that he’d interviewed for a job as a latex salesman at Vandelay Industries, and then gave her the number for Jerry’s apartment. So, George rushed over there to tell Jerry to answer the phone, “Vandelay Industries.”
Unfortunately, Kramer answered the phone while George was in the bathroom and told them it wasn’t really a business, but rather just an apartment. George tumbles out of the bathroom with his pants around his ankles and Jerry asks, “And you wanna be my latex salesman?”
1 “But I don’t wanna be a pirate!”
A lot of Seinfeld fans rank “The Puffy Shirt” among their favorite episodes. The low-talker and the hand model storyline and the Bryant Gumbel appearance and, of course, the titular ridiculous puffy shirt have made it one of the show’s definitive installments.
If you don’t know Seinfeld or you don’t get the show’s humor, watch “The Puffy Shirt” for a prime example. “But I don’t wanna be a pirate!” has become an iconic quote from the episode, and it’s hard to explain exactly why. It might be because, for a second, it infantilizes Jerry. Suddenly, for a brief moment, this grown man becomes a child.